Early Life and Education
In 1958, when Olsen was 15 years old and struggling at a London grammar school, his art teacher Jack Elvin asked “…of course you are going to art school, Olsen?”. Elvin arranged an interview between Olsen and a friend who taught at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in Peckham. Armed with “one big watercolour painting, some scribbly drawings, and absolutely no idea what I was doing” Olsen was accepted at one of the finest art schools in the UK.
Camberwell’s staff of working artists included several prominent names from the British art world, including Euan Uglow, Howard Hodgkin, RB Kitaj and, of greatest influence to the young Olsen, Frank Auerbach.
“I would creep into Auerbach’s classes and listen to his talks on painting and drawing and what he thought about a life dedicated to this work. It was amazing to me and set a fire in my mind somewhere.”