At first glance, art and technology may not seem an easy fit, but it’s a pairing Sidney artist Odette Laroche and her students have embraced with beautiful results!
A life-long painter, Laroche was encouraged to pursue an art scholarship in high school, but different times and family needs made that difficult. After marrying, she explored her passion independently while raising her family, then returned to art full time in 1999. After graduating from the Victoria College of Art with renewed confidence, she began exploring new styles and diversifying her work, opening her gallery that same year.
“Most of my work is from the imagination, just responding to the canvas, unless it is a portrait,” says Laroche, who was also featured in the film I am Not an Artist.
At her gallery she soon began fielding questions from emerging artists keen to learn. As she shared her creative suggestions and technique tips, a class soon seemed the best way to share her knowledge.
First welcoming students to classes in the gallery, more recently Laroche discovered the possibilities presented by an online app, where she can discuss elements of drawing, composition, colour theory, methods of the Old Masters and more. The interactive platform also allows students to upload images of paintings they’re working on, sharing their progress with Laroche and each other.
The two-hour classes, currently Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m., are limited in size to ensure appropriate attention for each participant. Additional sessions may be added according to demand.
Sharing a love of art and passion to learn
Students range from 20-somethings to retirees, many coming to class with little artistic experience, but fuelled by a love of art and passion to learn.
“It’s become like a little family – some have been coming for eight to 10 years now because they’re learning a lot and it’s very social,” Laroche says.
Instead of having everyone paint the same image, students are encouraged to explore a subject and painting style of their choosing, with Laroche assisting each through the course of the classes. That flexibility speaks to Laroche’s own versatility as an artist, with paintings ranging from seascapes to portraits to colourful abstracts.
“I’ve always enjoyed art, and through these classes, I’ve discovered that I also love teaching – I teach what I know and I teach from the heart,” Laroche says. “I love art and I love people; it’s really the best of both worlds!”
Connecting art with art lovers
While Laroche’s gallery is currently closed to support social distancing guidelines, painting sales are available by appointment, or online, where artwork is available for 20 per cent off for a limited time. A summer exhibition is also planned. You can also catch the work of Laroche’s students in a late-May exhibition at Mary Winspear Centre, and at the Saanich Fair over Labour Day weekend.