Tracey Hood has been with the Little Art School’s online art course for two years. During that time, we’ve seen her grow as an artist and complete some wonderful sketches and paintings that she had absolutely no idea she was capable of. But, like many of our students, the journey to embracing her artistic talent has been an interesting one.

When we first contacted Tracey for our blog, she was on a journey of a different kind. She and her eldest daughter Jenny were making their way along the ‘Camino de Santiago’, the well-trodden ‘Way of St. James’ in the beautiful Basque region of Northern Spain. This is a route walked by pilgrims since the Middle Ages but, sadly, was of particular significance to Tracey this year. She has only just lost her mum, and although she has made some amazing memories, the experience was an extremely emotional one.

However, along the way, she met wonderful people, visited lots of little villages and chapels that gave her a sense of peace, and the scenery was everything she hoped for and more. She’s spent precious time with Jenny too, who lives and works as a teacher in Seville.

Now that Tracey is home, she’s back to a life full of responsibilities, but is looking forward to Level 3 of her online art class as a welcome escape. She lives in Leicestershire and, alongside her husband Tim, runs their business, supplying powder coating for metal appliances. Her youngest daughter Katie is at college and still lives at home, while her middle daughter Kristi and partner Lei live just a ten-minute drive away, with their gorgeous two-year-old son, Walter.

At the bottom of her garden, she’s lucky enough to have a beautiful little brick-built summer house that was thoughtfully constructed by Tim. It’s the perfect place to paint, with lots of little shelves for her to keep her pots on, and a big, Belfast sink to wash her brushes. It faces the house and is shaded under some apple trees. Over the last few months, it’s been very hard to find motivation to sketch and paint, but in this lovely little space, Tracey hopes to find her inspiration again.

Growing up, Tracey didn’t have any particular inclination towards art. She didn’t study it at school, and never thought of herself as naturally gifted. But, when Katie was around 7 or 8 years old, she attended a local art class and brought home some beautiful little pastel and acrylic paintings, which really inspired her mum and prompted her to enquire about some classes for herself.

She felt comfortable learning with a simple ‘grid system’ and managed to create her own beautiful paintings. Finding that she loved to paint, she began to dabble in other mediums, including watercolour, and learned about a watercolour class for adults, held once a week in her local, village hall. Again, this class took a very structured approach, and Tracey learned a lot.

That was ten years ago, but just two years ago, Tracey was inspired to join us at the Little Art School. Since then, her skills have progressed in leaps and bounds, and in her own words, she has “learned so much more”. She’s now happy and comfortable to have her paintings hung on a wall, or to give them as a gift – her family are delighted to see her progress, noticing a huge change in her contentment and enjoyment of life.

When asked about her favourite subject, Tracey is quick to say that it’s animals. She has thoroughly enjoyed depicting them through pastels, creating vibrant colours and an intensity of expression. However, she’s become fascinated by portraits after visiting an exhibition in Milton Keynes featuring the famous English impressionist, Laura Knight. She can’t wait to tackle portraiture herself in Level 3 this year.

Just like our other students, Tracey adores receiving her materials by post. She says, “they are packaged and wrapped in such a lovely way that it makes me feel really special!” Pastels are now her favourite medium, but she still adores working in watercolour. She loves how a painting can be built with them from dark to light and loves to see her sketch marks peeping through on the canvas. Acrylics are her least favourite – she still finds them challenging!

Tracey - Donkey in pastel
Tracey - The Face sketches
Tracey - Elephant in charcoal

At only 58, Tracey still has quite a few years to work before retirement, but when she does stop, she is sure she will paint lots more. She goes on, “I still need to find the confidence to experiment on my own and would like to be more of an ‘instinctive’ painter”. But although she’s still finding her feet, she’s continually striving for improvement, and really appreciates honest feedback from Joanne and her fellow students.

Tracey loves to read the books that Joanne recommends and is determined to follow the course to the end. She looks at the paintings that she’ll be able to do by the time she’s finished and feels really inspired to see the culmination of so many skills in more complex work. She says, “It’s just amazing to feel that that will be within my grasp – it will just be a wonderful finale to the experience!”

When I ask her for some final words about her experience of the Online Course, she continues, 

“It’s quite simply it’s the best thing I’ve ever done! The course content is extremely good – it’s so precise and thorough. I’m very messy and will often do things wrong first time around, but I can correct it. I don’t feel I have to do things perfectly; the videos are brilliant; you can follow along in real time. It’s such a great way to learn!”

Tracey - pear in acrylic

It’s amazing to hear such wonderful feedback from this lovely, inspiring lady, and we hope now that Tracey has been able to access her artistic talent, she’ll be able to find some comfort in her work, and a sense of peace and fulfilment that will see her through this most difficult of times. We send her all our love and are here to support her very step of the way.