Inside Art with Christopher Hanson

cover image: detail of ‘Tristan Dreaming’ by Christopher Hanson

Christopher Hanson was the first person to complete the LARA drawing and painting programme. He spent two years at the Clapham studio before the school moved to Bermondsey, where he spent a further two years. This year his painting ‘Tristan Dreaming’ made it through to the second round of the BP Portrait Award. LARA caught up with Christopher to hear about his journey at and since LARA.

What is your favourite memory of your time at LARA?

It was in Clapham, a Christmas party in the life drawing room. It was a good time, a happy occasion. The atmosphere was good, and the people.

What do you think your LARA training gave you as an artist?

My LARA training gave me confidence as an artist. It gave me technique. It gave me the opportunity to not question my ability. I think people who attend university art courses question. When I left LARA I thought ‘that’s done – I have a technical grounding. Everyday I use the principles I learnt at LARA. Not directly, as in I don’t use sight-size anymore, except for portraits, but I still stand back – I still work from the back of the room. And then there’s the work ethic. LARA gave me the ethic to get up and paint every day.

 ‘Self Portrait’ by Christopher Hanson

Did you always want to be a painter?

I always liked art but I was muddling my way through. The decision only came when I took a degree in art. So I was searching for training but Florence was too expensive. I met James Napier, who had an idea for a new atelier. LARA hadn’t even formed at that point! We kept in contact. I was living in Clapham North at the time and when I saw James was holding life drawing in Clapham I thought I have to do this – it’s on my doorstep. At that time there were only 2 people, and no full-time course!

Did you know LARA now have 25 full-time students, and soon a London and Bristol studio with a total capacity for 46 full-time students, as well as Summer Schools, Easter Schools, Saturday School and short courses?

46! Wow!

‘Mother’ by Christopher Hanson

How did you find the transition between being an art student and a professional artist?

It was nice – someone from LARA, a part-timer, set up a studio which I joined. But it is difficult in London to have a studio and a place to live so I eventually moved and I’m now in Wolverhampton. There’s loads to learn once you’ve finished your training, particularly about how to find contacts and market yourself. I’m still learning.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given about being an artist?

Persistence. I think Giles Lester told me that. I was doing my cast drawing and he just said ‘persist with it’. I’ve just remembered that. That’s what it is – I just carried on. If you do enough work you’re going to get somewhere.

‘Tristan Dreaming’ by Christopher Hanson

Who are your inspirations?

There’s a few. Artists of Orientalism such as Jacques Majorelle. Velasquez, William-Adolphe Bougeureau, Jacques Henner, Antonio Mancini. It’s their painting style, the naturalism and the impressionism.

What are your long-term painting ambitions?

To win the BP! [laughs] Definitely. And just to be able to be successful in terms of being able to live as an artist and paint more. In the long-term I’d like to live as an artist without having to do other things, admin, teaching etc. I’m aiming to be a totally independent artist.

Christopher’s tutors were Luca Indraccolo, who currently holds short courses at LARA, and Anastasia Pollard and Giles Lester, who are current tutors on
the full-time course. This year Anastasia Pollard’s portrait ‘Corinne’ will be shown in the BP Portrait Award Exhibition. LARA wishes Christopher every success for his future prize applications and working life as an artist!

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