Mixed media artist Anna Bisset has been a tutor at Wanstead House Community Association for 20 years. Here, she explains some valuable lessons she has learned
It all started by assisting Bill Porter with his watercolour classes, which were so popular, he needed an extra tutor. Bill was a member of Essex Art Club, and many of its members were in the class. When Bill retired, I took over his classes at Wanstead House and continued to teach watercolours, adding acrylics, pastels and pen and ink to the mix. There is still a thriving art community there after 20 years.
Recently, I also took over the portrait art class from Eamon Everall, who taught at Wanstead House for many years. He said the class was originally established by renowned local artist Haydn Mackey. Mackey’s great friend and student, Walter Spradbery, helped set up Bedford House Community Association in Buckhurst Hill after the Second World War. Both artists were involved with Essex Art Club, which based many of its activities at Wanstead House and still does. I feel privileged to run classes at both Wanstead House and Bedford House and to be part of their shared history.
Originally, I studied at Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, Wiltshire, where I was taught by contemporary artists, including Peter Kinley. I followed the traditional path in learning to paint. Then, unconventionally, I worked in a foundry, my family’s business, before taking an MA at the University of East London. Figurehead for Docklands, my sculpture made out of steel scrap, was placed at Poplar Dock in 1998. I also created a large-scale 3D Peace Dove for Wanstead in 2014 to mark the centenary of the First World War with Art Group Wanstead.
After my MA, I started teaching (I have worked for Redbridge Institute of Adult Education for 25 years) and then developed painting and drawing with a series of exhibitions in Suffolk. I showed my landscapes and seascapes alongside the work of photographer Paul Tucker – now my husband – and silversmiths Plenderleith. Collaborating with other artists, be they my contemporaries or my students, has become a recurring feature. I enjoy the energy that is created in a group and it gives a focus for all to work towards.
I continue to take part in exhibitions with ex-Corsham students, which is a great way of keeping in touch and continuing to support each other’s development as artists. In 2021, the Corsham Studio group came together for the E17 Art Trail, and I produced a silk-screen print, Rule of Six, for the event.
Combining the roles of artist and teacher sometimes creates opportunities for my students outside the classroom, such as at Loughton’s Lopping Art exhibition a few months ago. In 2010, we displayed students’ work at Christ Church in Wanstead when the pipe organ was renewed. In 2011, we had a display at The Corner House showing images depicting the renovation of the building. I have shown students’ work at St Mary’s Church on Overton Drive several times, visiting the church to draw with the class. Taking part helps to extend students’ skills. Vitally, the support and encouragement given by other students, as well as by the tutor, helps students to progress and enjoy their art.
Meet Anna at the Wanstead Festival, when Art Group Wanstead will be displaying its work. Visit artgroupwanstead.com