Just a stone’s throw from the Thames, hidden amongst the half-constructed office blocks and flats that will soon dominate the skyline in regenerated Stockwell, is the tiny high-street art gallery 401 Studios. Peak behind the facade though and you’ll find a converted industrial building teaming with creativity.

4011/2 Studios, nestled just behind the high street gallery, is home to over 30 silversmiths, graphic designers, sculptors, furniture makers and artists. Amongst them is Lara Robinson (M 07-12), who sits amidst a veritable cornucopia of vibrant artworks in her own little studio space.

I loved being in the Art Schools and I certainly received a well-rounded education. The teachers helped me not only to find a passion for painting, but pushed all the pupils outside their comfort zones and to think more conceptually.

Lara Robinson (M 07-12)

“It is not quite the Art Schools at Bradfield with its vast windows and river running through but it is just as inspiring and idyllic a working space”, says the 25 year old who knows a thing or two about the art world’s most arresting settings. A far cry from the Berkshire countryside, Lara learned her craft surrounded by Renaissance Art in Florence and the spectacular architecture of Barcelona.

“I am so lucky with how my life turned out. Leaving school and deciding you want to go into the art world is terrifying but having the opportunity to train in those two cities was incredible”, says the Old Bradfieldian. Still wearing her apron from a morning’s graft and surrounded by brushes, palettes and multiple paintings at various stages of completion, Lara speaks about her time at Bradfield with fondness, crediting it as the place where her passion for art truly began.

“I loved being in the Art Schools and I certainly received a well-rounded education. The teachers helped me not only to find a passion for painting, but pushed all the pupils outside their comfort zones and to think more conceptually.”

Inspired as a youngster by her Grandpa, an architect with a passion for painting, Lara spent days out learning how to use watercolours and paint the natural surroundings. Her parents encouraged her to apply for Bradfield’s Art Scholarship when they saw one of these paintings and there is no doubt that she made the most of Bradfield’s creative and academic offering. She achieved equally high grades in her other A Level studies in Drama, Philosophy and Ethics and Business Studies, all of which gave her the life skills and thought-provoking creativity to enter into an art career.

Leaving Bradfield gave Lara her first taste of living abroad. A gap year included a ski season in Switzerland, climbing Kilimanjaro, working in schools in Tanzania and building on her Bradfieldian friendships travelling with her peers around India, South East Asia and Fiji. It was a time to experience things outside of Lara’s comfort zone.

“Living abroad you have to be open-minded so living a little bit independently at boarding school helped me to feel comfortable trying new things and being decisive when opportunities arose.”

Following a Foundation course at Oxford Brookes University the aspiring artist found herself at a crossroads for what to do next as she felt uninspired by the art courses in England.

“As an artist there is always an emphasis on working independently but I still felt the urge to keep learning. I have found that the more I learn the more new avenues to discover arise and at that point I was not ready to stop exploring.”

A chance conversation with portrait artist Nicky Philipps, who has painted The Queen among other members of the Royal Family, confirmed that studying abroad was the right thing to do. “She encouraged me to consider Florence, a place where I could learn how to paint with realism. I looked around some of the top Art Schools and instantly fell in love with the place.”

Leaving school and deciding you want to go into the art world is terrifying but having the opportunity to train in those two cities was incredible. Living abroad you have to be open-minded so living a little bit independently at boarding school helped me to feel comfortable trying new things and being decisive when opportunities arose.

Lara Robinson (M 07-12)

Lara spent two years studying at the Charles H Cecil Studios, learning the disciplined ‘Sight Size’ technique which is so integral to portraiture and still life painting, but wanted to continue evolving as a painter.

“It is a superb school and I gained a lot of great skills but I did not feel that I had the opportunities to branch out, to do something different and create my own style while I was learning.”

Quitting the Diploma was not an option so Lara began researching schools that would allow her to complete the course elsewhere. That place would be The Barcelona Academy of Art and, although the transfer meant repeating two terms, there were no regrets.

“On top of the traditional training they taught me to paint in a contemporary style, exploring still life, landscape, figurative painting and portraiture.

“I gained a deep knowledge of the essential principles handed down from the past, which gave me the freedom to express myself, carving out my own style while continuing academic training.”

Having completed her Diploma earlier this year Lara moved back to England and immediately set about carving out a career path.

She rented the studio space in which we currently sit and began experimenting with bold colours and brushstrokes after taking inspiration from the biggest names in British art including David Hockney, Phil Hale and Justin Mortimer.

“Justin’s portraits are cool and contemporary, showing off true talent while using artistic licence, which is something that I would like to do. I enjoy experimenting with expressionism and capturing the movement of people on a large scale.

“I naturally see colour quite vibrantly. I have recently been practicing on smaller projects such as painting fruit for experimentation. Several times I have found myself stopping to appreciate the variety of natural colour and beauty.”

So what is next for the fledgling artist? Still very much using her life lessons from Bradfield, Lara is taking on all manner of new opportunities.

While planning her first solo exhibition for early 2021 and taking on commissioned portrait work, she has also helped to set up the Art startup MasterPeace, a new venture combining mindfulness with creative inspiration.

“There are ten artists, of which I am one, who lead sketching, painting and calligraphy workshops, all aimed at improving personal wellbeing. Anyone can book a 90 minute class to enjoy in a lovely courtyard called Eccleston Yards in Belgravia. I’m really excited to be involved.”

The future is certainly bright for Lara and we are already looking forward to catching up with her at her first exhibition.

You can find out more about Lara’s artwork at lararobinsonart.com and the MasterPeace workshops at masterpeace.studio

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