It’s not often that I’m rendered speechless, but there’s something quite magical about Anthesis Atelier and it took my breath away.

Tatyana Kulida’s studio is a cornucopia of contradictions. Its vaulted ceiling feels expansive, but the furniture arrangements create intimacy. The drawing easels are rigid and formal, the modeling table more organic. Plaster casts and drawings are shades of black and white, while the paintings are alive with colour. The ceiling is light, the walls are dark, and throughout there is a richness and warmth that invites you to linger. If it were possible to achieve artistic skill through osmosis, this is where it would happen.

Tatyana herself is delightful. Her diminutive stature belies the weight of her talent, and luckily for us Wellingtonians, she is willing to share her knowledge through weekly teaching sessions and occasional workshops.

For the Friends of Te Papa visit Tatyana detailed her own training and how she approaches her teaching today. Russian-born Tatyana studied art in the USA, but found herself struggling to express herself without the means, or methods, to do so. This led to three years’ intense study of classical/traditional drawing and painting skills at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, followed by a teaching position there.

Tatyana applies the same philosophy and methods from Florence in her own studio. Essentially, students are taken through three stages. Stage 1 has students unlearning what know, so that they can learn how to see. They look at, and study, 2D images in black and white that they meticulously recreate on paper with precision. At Stage 2, students study white plaster 3D models and they draw them onto paper, again in black and white and in 2D. They learn ‘values’. What is the light source, bright or dull? Where is the light source, direct or indirect? Is it near or far? With Stage 3 comes colour and the painting begins.

Tatyana explained that historically artists were apprenticed aged 13 or 14 and took seven years to learn from their ‘Master’. They would copy and practice using the techniques above, until they were deemed talented enough to paint some pieces of the Master’s painting. They would then produce their own work, their own ‘Masterpiece’, which if good enough, would allow them to be accepted into the Artists Guild.

Tatyana told us that although some people may have an artistic predisposition, anyone can be taught in the classical methods of drawing and painting, much like they can be taught mathematics or science. It just takes time and practice.

I think that if Tatyana was the teacher that might just be true.

Helen Pinson
Friends of Te Papa