Online Art Course student Liz

Retirement is a huge life change, especially if you happen to retire just before a global pandemic! But last week, we sat down with our online student, Liz Tate, who is thoroughly enjoying herself – and a huge part of that enjoyment is coming from her newfound love of art.

Liz lives in Ayr, in a lovely old house near the seafront, where the outside space has been transformed by her downstairs neighbour into a little oasis of calm. With pots, flowers and plants, it’s a beautiful secret garden, complete with Buddhist flags and plenty of creative inspiration. 

Online Art Course student Liz

Prior to retirement, she worked as a tax inspector and endured a hefty commute, so finding herself at home, with plenty of time to grow every day as an artist, she describes life now as “like heaven”. Her husband jokes that their attic has been taken over by her paintings, and she admits it’s her studio now. She tries to keep things neatly labelled and tidy and it’s her own private little den. 

Liz finished work in summer 2019, just before Covid struck, and so plans for travel and other activities had to be put on hold. She took up an online yoga class, and discovered a love for open water swimming, but still had lots of time on her hands. She had seen the Little Art School on social media, but needed a flexible adult online art course, so seeing this on offer, she signed up.

She orders her course on a term-by-term basis, and loves getting her parcel delivered with all the materials. She says, “it’s so exciting – like Christmas!” She loves the way that the course is taught and is full of admiration for Joanne’s patience and inspiration as a teacher. Being able to take her time is a real joy, as she’s someone who likes to build up a painting carefully. 

Being able to learn to draw and learn to paint has been a revelation. She’d never been particularly arty – in fact she gave up art as a subject at school as early as 2nd year, after some ill-judged remarks from a teacher. She was thoroughly put off, but our course has turned that around. It focuses on building skills and self-esteem, and we really do believe that anyone can produce beautiful work.

ow, when Liz has completed a painting, and she shows it to her family and friends, they often fall silent when she shows them her work. She laughs modestly, “They genuinely can’t believe that I created my paintings in such a short space of time! In fact, when I recently showed a favourite pastel painting to a friend, she loved it so much she insisted on paying me a little bit for it!”

Art has been a wonderful new hobby for Liz in retirement, but it’s also been a godsend at a particularly difficult time for her family. Her elderly mother sadly passed away during the pandemic aged 97, having been ill for a few months. Liz’s art transported her from her grief at this horrible time, and she could lose herself into her creative flow for hours at a time.

The social side has also helped. She’s made some wonderful friends on the Facebook Group and has met many like-minded souls. As soon as lockdown was eased, a fellow student from Leicester travelled to Ayr and the two ladies met with Joanne at the Little Art School studio. They admired the light, welcoming space, shared a hug and some lunch and have been building a friendship ever since. 


Dancer in Acrylic by Liz

Liz and her husband are both retired and having married only four years ago, they’re looking forward to travelling and enjoying their newfound freedom. They’ve been to India more than 20 times already and love the Baltic States too. Her most recent trip was to Malta, where she loved the beautiful light and stunning flowers. She hopes to go back to Italy too, after a recent trip to Barga. 

She has been wondering how to capture these special memories onto canvas and says that Joanne has been very helpful with advice. She’s now planning to take a small sketchbook that will fit into her handbag, take lots of photos and videos and then gradually build up colour in her painting later. We can’t wait to see the results! 

When I asked Liz about her favourite medium, she told me right away that it was pastels. She says, “I just love how you can build up such amazing, vibrant colour and then add bold marks at the end for really effective definition”. She finds working with them such a lot of fun and has recently completed a depiction of Degas’ Ballerinas, which she loves.

She also loves working in watercolour and has recently discovered acrylics too. She’s delighted with how flexible and forgiving they can be. In terms of her favourite subject matter, it’s landscapes and she hopes that future travels will give her lots of wonderful opportunities to practice her new skills and capture some truly special scenes. 

Landscapes are a subject Liz recently admired in the Grain Exchange in Ayr – a community space where local artists showcase and sell their art. She’s been inspired by the work of Louise McBride and Susan Leishman – particularly Susan’s coastal scenes of Ayrshire. I asked her if she could see herself exhibiting one day, but she met this with a laugh, saying she has a long way to go, but can certainly appreciate the work from a new perspective.

Degas Inspired in Pastel by Liz

So, would Liz recommend our course? Of course, and very kindly says, “The very best thing about the Little Art School is the fabulous method of teaching. Joanne introduces every method of painting stage by stage and step by step. So many people say that they can’t paint, but by joining the Little Art School, I believe anyone can and would be astonished by their results. The online group is amazing too – with so much encouragement from other students!” 

Thank you so much for your time, Liz – we couldn’t be happier with your feedback, and we hope you’ll continue to thoroughly enjoy your artistic journey with us! We have a feeling that you’ll exceed all your expectations – and who knows you might be able to join other talented local artists at the Grain Exchange one day after all!

The man and boy in watercolour by Liz