On 17 July 2017, I did something incredible and terrifying. I went, by myself, on a train to London to go to the London Atelier of Representational Art (LARA) in Vauxhall to take a masterclass with Teresa Oaxaca. I'd found Teresa's work online and had watched some videos of her speaking about her work and providing demos. I love her work and she seemed really nice. She didn't seem like someone that would make my anxiety bad.
I'd promised myself as a New Year's resolution to take myself seriously as a painter. I always wanted to paint but never put the time or money into myself to do it. I'd done my MA in Art Therapy as a way to give others this gift to help them through difficult times...but somehow left myself out. 2017 was going to change that.
I'd never worked from life before. We had the most stunning model (Mankoo, who runs the Art Model Collective which, if you're in London, you must bring a sketchbook and go to.)
We completed 3 alla prima portraits in three days, the first day 3 hours, the second and third the whole 5-6 hour session.
The first day ended with me drinking beer and crying in a park. HOWEVER. I went back to my apartment and dissected the photos I took during the masterful Teresa's demo. I wrote down steps and studied how she did it. I was only self-taught with library books and an occasional, very stoned, art teacher who loved Warhol and Miro when my heart wanted Sargent and Millais.
This was new territory and, in the eternal words of Aaliyah, if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off an try again.
So, I hauled myself back to Vauxhall Studios, in with all of the full time LARA students who had been doing this for years, and I cracked on. If I embarrassed myself, oh well. These people don't go to my church.
I didn't. Teresa was amazing. I'm still, a year later, unpacking what I have learned from her over my two classes with her (I later went to paint flowers with her at the Welsh Academy of Art), and I've signed up for another course with her this September. That one is a half-body portrait from life with still life elements and the idea terrifies me, but look where taking the risk has taken me in one short year?
Let's see what she can teach me next!