From London to Los Angeles: The ESMoA Residency 2019

Oct. 9, 2019

Sara Anstis graduated from The Drawing Year in November 2018 and was awarded the Royal Drawing School residency in ESMoA, Los Angeles. Here she describes how she spent her time and the impact that this new environment had on her practice.


LA sunlight gets in between everything, bouncing off white walls and cement to arrive behind one’s eyes. The artist-in-residence studio at ESMoA diffuses this light through two huge east-facing windows. The high walls are an invitation to pull up a ladder and stop messing about with small desk-work. Over the summer and September I was able to unfurl into this space, barely filling it, and experiment with materials that had been on my mind.


The founders, Eva and Brian Sweeney, along with the team have developed ESMoA into a welcoming space dedicated to spreading an interest in art. The open studios were a great opportunity to meet local residents and artists. On Fridays a drawing workshop, Just Draw, is hosted in the entrance and sometimes in the main exhibition space. It’s an opportunity for whoever wishes to attend to test materials, take cues from the current exhibition, and loosen up drawing muscles. Having this recurring event gave rhythm to the week and I facilitated a session at the beach where we sat in the sand and drew from our surroundings.



There was an event programme coinciding with the exhibition, which during my time was Oz. A local collector of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz paraphernalia, who had lent many of the objects in the exhibition, gave an illuminating guided tour. An incredible Oz-themed drag show also activated the main space.



A memorable field trip with the staff and interns was to Craft Contemporary, a museum located at Miracle Mile. A visit to the Women’s Centre for Creative Work with Holly from ESMoA was a great introduction to the feminist community-based project. At the Getty Museum I had a very happy discovery: a whole room of 18th century pastel portraits that looked like they had been made yesterday. The shows I saw in LA, especially at Marciano Art Foundation, Jeffrey Deitch and Nonaka-Hill, introduced me to new artists and new worlds. I found new books and ideas I wouldn’t have come across in my usual contexts.


My partner visited for a few weeks during which we drove to nearby Joshua Tree where we stared at cacti, and to the Grand Canyon where we saw the sun disappear with a standing ovation from sun-worshipping tourists. The landscape and vegetation of these long highways found their way into my work and are now there to stay. The time I spent on the beaches around El Segundo put me in touch with new bodies of water and lent specific seaweeds and nets to my pastel paintings. 


Follow Sara Anstis @sara.anstis  /

To see the full Royal Drawing School residency programme click here