Alumna is Rising Artist

Talented artist and alumna Tessa Lyons, previously at Eggar’s school, studied BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design at College before achieving a degree in illustration at the University of Brighton. Currently combining her love of landscapes, climbing and art, she lives and is exhibiting in the Lake District. 

'Prominent Lines' is Tessa’s solo exhibition which runs from 25 January to 6 March in Heaton Cooper Studio in the beautiful village of Grasmere, a fitting space for Tessa as her work is firmly rooted in the landscape and our experience of it. To coincide with the opening of her exhibition, we caught up with Tessa about life after Alton College and her advice for students considering making a career from art. 

Image is Black Sail, Lake District in charcoal.

How did Alton College help shape your future?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Alton College. It was a great opportunity to experiment with many different techniques, learn about other artists and build confidence in making art. The teachers were inspirational and were very good at setting interesting briefs which encouraged all of this and provided good feedback throughout.  

What made you move to the North?

I decided to move up north from Brighton for a couple of reasons. Firstly because the cost of living is a lot less! I was able to afford a studio space and pay rent and dedicate time to making new artwork. Secondly, it was to be close to the Peak District for climbing and generally being outside in the landscape. The Peak is only a 20 minute drive from my house which is amazing.

What are your main inspirations in art and life? 

I have rock climbed since I was little and this has taken me to some beautiful places, I am very influenced by landscape and find our experience of it fascinating. I've also been researching a lot about Japan more recently, I find a lot of their concepts and traditions very thought provoking and inspiring.

What do you do to relax?

Rock climb! 

What advice would you give to current students considering art as a career?

I always felt like I would be most fulfilled in a creative job. I'm very happy to have the opportunity to follow this path, it's not very easy and I think if I had other responsibilities then it could be a lot trickier. Advice I would give to anyone who wanted to pursue this path as a job...

1. Lower your overheads. Find happiness in living simply, the less you need to live the more time and freedom you will have to make stuff. 

2. Be prepared to fail repeatedly. It takes a lot of time to develop work and find your voice. One of the best things about college and University is the fact that you can experiment and fail a lot. Try stuff out and if it doesn't work, try again. It takes even more time to figure out where your work fits into the world outside of these institutions. I've found that it's a similar process of repeatedly failing until things start to work.  

3. Have faith in your work. Throughout all of that, maintain a faith in your work. For me that comes from the feeling making art gives me, it makes me feel good and I think it always will do. 

4. Persistence and awareness. Know that failing is good, but keep going. Opportunities will arise you can't even imagine at the time. When repeatedly failing be aware of what works, build on that. 

5. Commit. Put as much as you can into your work. It could mean working part-time or it might mean making stuff in your bedroom in the evenings. Find where you can make space for it and commit, if you feel like you're moving forward with it then commit a bit more. It might work or it might not, better to give it a go than wonder what could have been. If you have the opportunity to try, don't be scared, the only real failure is not trying. 

What projects are you working on this year?

Illustrations for various adventure climbing based companies and institutions. For my personal work I would like to find some kind of international residency to apply to. I've also started drawing on maps and would like to pursue this a bit more as well.

Find out more about studying Art and Design at Alton College here