by Gillian Crowley –
During the COVID-19 lockdown, those in the arts have had to be creative to stay afloat. Odette Laroche, owner of Laroche Gallery in Sidney, has used her ingenuity to keep working with her students via online painting classes twice a week.
Following advice from her webmaster, Odette found an online program that lets everyone in the class see each other’s paintings in real time. Odette provides a coaching critique on each one while the students are encouraged to comment constructively on each other’s work. The program allows Odette to enlarge each painting to enable remarks on technique, such as blocking in and texturing. Later she sends a written summary and suggestions to each individual. She also demonstrates painting techniques online.
One of her students noted that while in-person classes would always be best, during COVID-19, “… there is a level of comfort in creating art at home and having an online interaction with Odette and others in the class.”
An artist since her teens, Odette was initially self-taught. After moving to Vancouver Island, she enrolled in Victoria College of Art and graduated in 2002. Since then she has painted full time and established her first gallery near Sidney’s marina in 2003. In 2006 she moved the gallery to a larger space on the second floor of a building near Fairway Market in Sidney. There she displays her own work and has space to teach oil and acrylic painting to 10 to 14 people. Her own art has found homes in Canada, the U.S., Italy and Hong Kong.
When we spoke, the province was just starting to loosen its virus-related restrictions. Odette was looking forward to reopening her gallery in June and seeing her students in person again, although in smaller numbers to allow for distancing.
As an art teacher, Odette says: “My goal is to educate my students about all phases of art and help them to ‘see.’ As coach and mentor I help them find their voice.”
One student, a doctor, says: “[Odette] has the uncanny ability to look at your painting and then be able to give advice on what to do or what to add that improves the canvas immensely.”
During classes a variety of painting styles and techniques are demonstrated, from use of the palette knife for expressive, textured work to the Grisaille method which uses fine drawing in charcoals to capture a portrait or still life.
Her art students come from all walks of life and are at different stages of development as artists. One student says: “Under Odette’s guidance I’ve continued to grow as an artist. She nurtures each individual’s creative style and helps one explore new techniques and ideas.” Odette believes she has a way of seeing the whole person: “I can reach into their mind and bring something out of them with great results in their painting.”
Originally Odette planned to display her students’ work at Mary Winspear Centre this spring and at the Saanich Fair during Labour Day weekend. These events are now cancelled or modified but she is looking at other exciting public venues for her students in the fall.
Odette appreciates being able to continue to teach online. “I love art and I love people, so it’s a wonderful combination to paint myself, teach others and own a public gallery.”
For more information, visit www.odettelarocheart.com.