Saturday, 25 November 2017

New art school opens

New art school opens

A NEW art school will open in Henley next month.

The Henley-on-Thames School of Art will be based at The Studio, off Hart Street.

Classes will begin in January, led by illustrator Jo Harris, of Newtown Gardens, Henley.

She has been running life drawing classes two evenings a week at Remenham village hall for the past three years. She will offer a wider choice of workshops and classes now she has found a permanent home. She rents the former offices.

Miss Harris, who was brought up in Wargrave, said: “I am so excited to have found such a perfect, central space for our school and to be opening up a place for artists and tutors to come and create.

“It was only after signing the lease that I found out that Francis Bacon used to use the space as a studio to paint in when he stayed at the Imperial Hotel in the late Fifties — such a great omen!”

Her father Michael Dillon, who died when she was four, was a member of the Royal Academy of Arts and her mother Felicity Harris is a classically trained painter.

Her stepfather Simon Harris worked in architecture and engineering and she was fascinated by the technical drawings he brought home.

Miss Harris said: “I was one of those children who was very happy sitting in a corner with a sketch pad and a pencil.”

She was educated at a boarding school in Wantage and then spent 10 years travelling in Asia before returning to Britain and working in property management.

After several years she sold her flat in London and put the money towards an illustration degree at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham.

She qualified in 2013 and decided to move to Henley as she was still in touch with childhood friends before launching her business, Boo Dillon Illustration.

She launched the life drawing classes with fellow Henley artist Emma Bruce, who she met at a Sue Ryder sale. Ms Bruce later left to focus on personal projects but the pair remain close friends.

Miss Harris said the expansion of her business was partly down to her students. She said: “I have been so inspired by the passion and skill of everyone who has come to my classes. I see them as collaborators and we’ve often discussed the idea of expanding the school and the appetite for more classes was definitely too large to ignore.”

As well as the life drawing courses, the school will teach different types of painting, screen-printing, lino cutting, book binding, mosaics, ceramics and photography.

There will also be special workshops to boost A-level art students’ portfolios and children’s workshops during school holidays.

Miss Harris said: “I’ve invited some truly incredible and talented local tutors to join the school and we’re already building a fantastic course list.

“Classes will run in the daytime, during the evenings and at weekends and they will cover such a wide range of interests, so there really is something for everyone.

“We haven’t even opened yet and the level of enthusiasm and expectation has been overwhelmingly positive — I can’t wait to get cracking in January.”

l The Studio is located down the alleyway between Romans estate agents and Henley Hearing Care and classes will begin on January 9. A launch party will be held on Friday, December 9 from 7pm to 10pm.

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