Raffaella Somma

My Journey with the London Art College (LAC)

Art has always been a passion of mine. But I grew up at a time when parents and family would often say: “what are you wasting time with colouring-in and drawing?” or “That’s not going to earn you a living” “That’s not a proper job, how are you going to support yourself?” So I carried on treating art as a pastime, something to do if and when I had nothing else to do. Perhaps I should have been more rebellious, or perhaps I just didn’t want it bad enough to rebel, who knows?! The fact is that too soon life really did get too busy to fit it in, family, children, mortgage and so on. I know it’s nothing new, we all have to contend with real life, and the freedom to do what we want.

From time to time I’d get a sudden urge to create something, to draw, to see the colours mixing on a canvas, to smell the scent of oil paints or see the subtle transparency of watercolours grow into a winter scene. So I’ve always dipped in and out of creating artwork and that was enough. But over the last few years I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to join the LAC, firstly on the Watercolour Course and up till very recently on the Pet Portraits Course. Both have been interesting journeys, filled with learning, creativity, occasional frustrations when a piece of work would not turn out as I hoped, or at not being able to capture what I could see in my head and transfer it onto paper or canvas.

Throughout the last course, I had the opportunity to experiment with various media and techniques. From pencils to pastels, acrylics, oils and coloured pencils. I learned and practised to achieve various effects. The tutor provided personalised feedback with advice and guidance to improve on my work, how to best capture expressions and parts of different animals, the use of tone to create the sense of depth on a 2D plane. We learned how to layer colours and use different brush strokes to mimic the softness or coarseness of an animal’s fur. How white fur isn’t white at all. I think all of it made a significant difference
in the realism of my portraits. I’d also like to share a thought with anyone struggling with the idea of signing up or unsure whether to go for it or not – DO IT! – really, just DO IT! But be aware it’s an online set up, so you do need to commit and to exert some sort of self discipline, you’re not in a class, you
will not be spoon fed everything, there are elements of self managing, otherwise you’d be in a weekly or daily class but not at the same cost.

The other point I’d like to share is to try and create a space where you can work undisturbed and, even if you don’t have a lot of space, try and set yourself up with a minimum area where you can quickly access your essential materials to start working immediately, without a long set up, and where it doesn’t require an even longer “put everything away” routine. I was very reluctant to let my partner convince me to set up in the living room as I felt it would be unsightly and inconvenient for anyone else using the communal space. It was in fact a revelation. I’ve spent so many hours in my little space since my partner set it up despite my protestation. I must say, it is beautiful, I can see the sunrise from there too. I’ve attached a photo of it in the early morning light. You can see it’s not huge, but I have the essentials all around me, including a big window for good light. A good quality comfortable and adjustable chair to safeguard your back is also a must.

Lastly I’d like to extend my thanks to the tutors I’ve had the pleasure to work with, to Heather Joliffe, who’s commented and advised me through the course with her feedback after every assignment, always very promptly and with useful information. But also to all the staff in the admin team, who were extremely kind, helpful and supportive and of course the fellow artists who’ve shared artwork, commented and critiqued via the FB page and on the website and various challenges. All of this made the course such a rewarding experience.

I’m sure I’ll be signing up again in the future; I’m already looking at what courses are available and what challenges I’d like to have a go at. The itch for another learning challenge is never far away. For now thank you and happy art working!

PS this is the website I’ve created during my course, feel free to visit and have a look.

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