Jo Olive lives near the Kent Coast, as she describes it, ‘right near the edge’, close to Ramsgate. She has always lived in Kent but lives quite quietly and rurally now, enjoying life with her partner. Jo is recently retired, and spends her time between gardening, art, and home schooling her two much-loved grandsons, Oliver who is 12 and William who is 9.
It’s been a very busy retirement so far, but Jo is no stranger to being fully occupied – in fact she thrives on it! She retired last year, where she had spent a long number of years working as a local government lawyer in social housing, often spending her days in court, sorting out tricky issues such as neighbourhood disputes, breaches of tenancy and such like.
Covid made her re-evaluate her life. She felt a strong sense she had spent so long sorting out other people’s problems, that she hadn’t spent enough time on herself and her own family. She desperately wanted to get more balance in her life, so that prompted retirement, and she initially spent summer 2021 in her garden, lapping up sunshine and relaxing.
She’s always had admiration for those she sees of as naturally gifted in art, but she has never put herself in that category. She says she was never particularly good at art at school and felt quite inadequate as far as it was concerned. She clearly remembers approaching older, arty students at school, asking them to paint her a horse for her bedroom. She never dreamed she could do it herself.
Towards the end of summer 2021, she wondered if she was going to climb the walls in the winter, but while watching daytime TV she saw a feature about an online art course. She researched several to compare them and came across what she describes as ‘a quirky little website, with pastel colours and illustrations.’ On closer investigation, she saw exactly what the Little Art School was about and knew it was what she was looking for.
That day, she signed up for the whole year, ‘before I had a chance to talk myself out of it, thinking it would be better to try and fail than never to try at all.’ However, when all the art materials arrived by post, she was simply blown away. She says, ‘it was like Christmas, the materials were of such high quality, and the attention to detail amazing – right down to kitchen roll to correct little mistakes and mop up any mess!’
From the very first lesson with Joanne, she has just had the motivation to draw, and she has enjoyed every single moment. The first lesson was a pen and wash painting – an architectural study of Inverary Castle in Argyll, Scotland – and she instantly felt that she was learning all the time. By following clear, step-by-step instructions, she completed a painting she was very proud of.
From the very first lesson with Joanne, she has just had the motivation to draw, and she has enjoyed every single moment.
She still absolutely loves the course and when she returned from her holiday this summer, she signed up for Level 2. She has such lovely things to say about the Little Art School, the culture, the ethos behind the business, and the sense that the people involved are so genuine. She adds, ‘from working in Law for such a long time, I usually have a very good sense of what people are like straight away, and I just knew I had got it right with the Little Art School!’
Jo goes on to say that with the support she’s gained from Joanne and Kathleen and other students in the Facebook Group, the course is almost like an ‘extended family’ now. Everyone is supportive and encouraging, quick with a compliment and buoy each other up with confidence. She plans to take a whole year for each level: just relax, take her time, play with materials and skills, soaking up all the enjoyment she can.
Something unexpected, but very welcome has also happened. Jo has noticed an immense improvement in her mental health! She describes the course as her ‘mental health massage’
Something unexpected, but very welcome has also happened. Jo has noticed an immense improvement in her mental health! She describes the course as her ‘mental health massage’, saying, ‘it’s just so absorbing and relaxing; so achievable with a real sense of pride at the end.’ As she wisely points out, ‘if it can do that for me at my age, how amazing for young children to have a similar experience at an early stage!’
Her young grandsons just love watching her too – in fact, William will often do a lesson with her. Their wonderful grandma has copied the contents of her box and presented them both with one as a special gift, so she can ‘pass some of the Little Art School creative magic to them.’ She feels it’s such lovely, mindful, mental exercise and loves them to learn how important that is in life.
When asked what she likes to paint most, she says she loves everything, but has particularly enjoyed recent lessons painting Tobermory, Monet’s Poppy Fields, Eagle in Gouache and Castle Wakamatsu. However, she’s becoming passionate about landscapes, saying that she feels she just walks around nowadays seeing shapes, shadows and tones everywhere!
Her family and friends love her work too, and she gets so much pleasure from giving her paintings away. Many of them have ended up on walls and her daughter has Jo’s Monet’s Poppy Fields in pride of place in her home! The only downside is that she feels she must buy all the books Joanne recommends, and she loves to live in dungarees now she’s a ‘proper artist’!
What a bundle of fun and energy Jo is. It’s been amazing talking with her and hearing her passion for art shining through! At the end of our conversation, she quips, ‘I can honestly say there’s never been a moment I’ve regretted that spur of the moment decision to join the Little Art School. When I’m finished Level 6 – which I now have no doubt I will – I’ll be able to look back, give myself a high five and think, ‘Wow! I’m an artist now, I’ve done it!’’
We have absolutely no doubt you will finish Jo, you’re such an inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing your journey so far with us. We happen to think you’re already a wonderful artist, but we’ll be right there celebrating with you when you reach the finish line!
If you have enjoyed this insight into Jo’s journey so far with the Little Art School and are feeling inspired to start your own journey find out more about our Online Adult Art Course here!