Three months in LA: alumna Beth Rodway reflects on her ESMoA residency experience
Drawing Year alumna Beth Rodway has just returned from a three month residency at El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA) in California. Here she describes her time there, and the difference it has made to her practice...
I applied to the ESMoA residency because I felt the environment would help me to develop my practice. Previously I have always worked in the medium of pen and ink, in monochrome. I had been feeling this pull to work in colour and a new medium for a while, but commissions had always taken priority. It was amazing to have three months to dedicate to exploring this in my artwork.
The artist-in-residence studio at ESMoA is fantastic. It sits above the gallery space, which was built in a vacant alleyway. The ceilings are high and there are huge windows that open onto a Juliet balcony so you can feel the breeze whilst working. The studio is live/work, which I loved, and it worked well with my (sometimes) nocturnal way of painting. I really enjoyed living amongst my paintings, and have brought that concept back with me to Brighton, creating a home studio here.
ESMoA holds ‘Just Draw’ classes every Friday morning in the gallery for the public. I ran some of these sessions which was a great way to meet and connect with local residents, some of whom became friends. We covered perspective, drawing from ESMoAs exhibitions and cityscapes. My confidence in teaching grew with each session.
Studying on The Drawing Year particularly helped to give me the tools and confidence to draw on location, which was an integral part of my experience on the residency. My work is focussed around modernist architecture and I’m particularly interested in Case Study Houses. These experiments in American residential architecture saw inexpensive and efficient model homes constructed as part of the post-war housing demand in 1945. Not all of the 36 designs were built, but most of those that were can be found in Los Angeles. After previously drawing from books, it was really special to visit some of these houses and appreciate them in situ.
Whilst in California I drove up the west coast to San Francisco, stopping along the way at Big Sur and Monterey to catch the seals. The landscape is so beautiful and this was a great time to reflect on what I wanted to get out of my residency. Palm Springs was also a very influential trip, although mostly too hot to leave the car! I did a self-led architecture tour there and I came away bursting with ideas and excitement to paint. The landscape in Joshua Tree is very special and is slowly making its way into my works. At the weekends I would mostly go downtown to explore the works of exciting new artists; Los Angeles is such a great place for that.
My work changed so much whilst being on residency. The first two months were spent getting used to acrylics, I initially found it challenging to keep a delicate approach and high level of detail. Nothing was working well and everything felt very clunky. I was also learning to work with colour for the first time really. Although that was exciting, it was very overwhelming! In my last month there, things started to take shape and now I’m really enjoying this new direction my practice has taken.
up, I’ve got a solo show with Wilder Gallery in December and I'm working on my first clothing collaboration, in between commissions. Things are
busy and exciting!
I always say The Drawing Year was one of the best things I ever did. It gave me the confidence to throw everything I had at being an artist and to leave the architecture world. As an alumna of the School, it also gave me the chance to apply for this residency. Thanks so much to the Royal Drawing School and ESMoA for a very special experience, I urge everyone to apply!
The ESMoA Residency 2023 is currently open for applications, the deadline is Sunday 6th November.