Modern Day Classics

Todays Oil Painting Traditionalists - Susan Hotard and Tom LaRock

January is the month of commitments. However, we don’t generally consider the commitment behind a great artist, we may assume that perhaps they have been bestowed a marvelous gift, the ability to capture the essence of life, however, an enormous amount of training, time, and discipline is involved. I spoke with two prominent artists in The Woodlands, both traditional oil painters, with two very different approaches. 

The light simply glows from Susan Hotard's paintings, a master painter of portraits and floral still life scenes, this enchanting light pulls the viewer into her work and engages us with the narrative. A daughter of two artists, Hotard first became interested in art at the age of 4, when her father, drew a pastel portrait of her, “I remember him putting white on the eye to reflect the light, I was fascinated, and promptly created 24 of my own portraits, I love reflection”.  Majoring in interior design with a BFA, from The School of Art and Architecture, Louisiana Tech, as well as studies in Italy, Hotard explains - “proposed home designs had to be created with the knowledge of the effect of light and shadows, and it’s always been an influence on my work.”  Later Hotard attended The New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts.

Working with oil paint on linen, she stands back from the easel and paints with a long brush held at arm’s length.  Hotard delights in painting her two grandchildren, she enjoys the freedom of painting in her own style which she attributes to capturing the character and mystique of her subjects.  A favorite, multiple award-winning portrait, “Sophie”, epitomizes her whole experience of painting “It just came off the brush, it was almost like I wasn’t there” she tells me about her process and being completely absorbed and focused on her work.  This evocative painting is quintessential of her impressionistic, realism style, the play of light with shadow, large, sweeping, loose brushstrokes and highlights of final sgraffito scrapings where the canvas is once again visible through the painting.

Hotard is a signature member of the Oil Painters of America, the American Impressionist Society, and the National Oil and Acrylic Society, as well as having two paintings in the Encyclopedia of Oil Painting Techniques Book. She has exhibited her work statewide and taught portrait, figure and still life workshops in Texas and her native Louisiana.

Tom LaRock began his art journey in 2013 after retiring from a mechanical engineering career and finally followed his lifelong dream to paint! Moving to New York for 3 years to study under the instruction of his son, Joshua LaRock, who ran a successful atelier in the city. Graduating from this intensive form of study, LaRock returned to Texas where he continues to work as a full-time artist and in the past few years has successfully launched his own traditional style art school, “The classical atelier was dying” he tells me, “There are very few like it in the entire state of Texas.” LaRock’s art salon offers classes which are individually tailored to the student, including full and part time courses and workshops in all aspects of classical drawing and painting, from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Fundamentals of this classical, realistic, method of learning include perspective, composition, design and human anatomy. The atelier is located at 701 Sawdust Road, 77380, class details are available online.

LaRock is also a prolific painter, working on commissioned work as well as his own practice, painting landscapes, still life pieces and portraits. When beginning a landscape, he will initially work outdoors, en plein air, this immersive style of painting incites the feeling for the finished piece. He paints a series of studies from which he takes his final compositions, which are created in his studio, the results are gloriously detailed with a romantic, idyllic atmosphere, commissions of special places capture the ambiance of their memory.   LaRock’s finely painted still life works are inspired by 17th century Dutch and Flemish artists, he works with oil paint on Belgian linen and occasionally aluminum, which he prepares with a ground to accept the paint.  

“The purpose of my work is to represent to the viewer the beauty, wonder and glory of Gods creations” LaRock states.

Both artists are represented by the newly opened Tartaglia Gallery. Owner, Danna Tartaglia, enjoys representing “artists who work in academic and traditional styles”. An experienced gallerist, previously located in California, she decided to return to her Texas roots during the pandemic and drove for 5 days across the country with her cat to come home!

An artist herself, Tartaglia advises emerging artists to “Let your own personality develop in your art practice, and not to be too influenced by what everyone else is doing".

Tartaglia Fine Art Gallery is located at 26106 Oak Ridge Drive, 77380.

The results are gloriously detailed with a romantic, idyllic atmosphere.

“It just came off the brush, it was almost like I wasn’t there” 

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