Artist Tom LaRock opens enrollment for fall art school, studying 17th and 19th centuries

Alongside the start of a new school year, professional artist Tom LaRock is also launching a new semester of art classes at his LaRock Art School in The Woodlands.

His fall semester of art classes begins Sept. 12 and runs through Dec. 9 at LaRock Art School at 701 Sawdust Road.

The courses are based on the modern studio method of art study developed and taught in the schools of the masters of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

“The word atelier is French for studio,” LaRock said. “The concept is small schools built on how people were trained by old masters like da Vinci or Michaelangelo.”

LaRock, who paints portraits, landscapes, flowers and more in the Realist style, is a student of the studio method.

LaRock grew up in El Paso and has enjoyed drawing and doodling since childhood.

He found, however, that when he was growing up, there weren’t many artists in El Paso, so he turned his passion to gymnastics.

It was gymnastics that brought him to Conroe in the 1970s to be the gymnastics coach for the Conroe YMCA.

At age 30, he returned to college at the University of Texas to study mechanical engineering. He then spent over 25 years as an engineer in The Woodlands area.

All the while, he always pursued artistic interests.

He retired from engineering in 2013 and started painting full time. He jokes that painting was his third career.

His son, Joshua, is also a professional artist and spent time studying in New York using the studio method.

“He was so good I had to try to figure out how to do that,” LaRock said. He said his son’s art was already very good before he went to study in New York, but studying in the studio method took his art to a new level.

They tried to solve it through video chats and workshops until Joshua finally convinced him that to get all the benefits of the workshop method, he needed to come to New York to immerse himself in it.

LaRock moved to New York for three years and studied in his son’s studio in the heart of the Flatiron District. .

“Along with the blessing of receiving art instruction and working alongside my son for three years, I received incredible exposure and training in classical methods,” he said.

In January 2016 he returned to The Woodlands to continue studying and working full time creating oil paintings in the realistic and classical style of contemporary masters and other 18th and 19th century masters.

“I enjoy realism because it allows you to really try to capture the beauty of the subject and the world as you see it and experience it,” he said.

His goal is to make his portraits as realistic as possible of the subject. The same goes for painting objects.

And he said that it starts at the base with the drawing.

“It all comes down to a solid foundation in drawing. Drawing is 75% of what makes a good artist,” he said. In the studio method, the entire first year is devoted to the study of drawing. “When you learn to draw really, really well, you can control the medium you work with, whether it’s graphite or pastels, oils or watercolors.”

Jim Kuykendall, a student at LaRock, has been interested in art all his life. He spent over 40 years in railroad management and also served as mayor of Oak Ridge North in South Montgomery County for eight years.

After a serious car accident in 2003, Kuykendall wanted to get back to painting and started painting watercolors.

He wanted to delve deeper into oil painting and admired LaRock’s work, and soon shared space in LaRock’s studio.

“Working with Tom is really like a sharpening iron,” he said. “Being in the paint shop with him and being able to listen to him and ask him questions was just phenomenal for me.”

Kuykendall said that sometimes studying art can be likened to “drinking at a fire station.”

“Working with Tom though, he slows that down to a trickle. He’s really good at pulling me off the edge and saying, ‘Wait a minute, let’s look at it this way,'” he said. “And he’s right 100% of the time. It’s a great blessing to be able to sit in the studio with him and be a friend to him. It’s the real world learning something that matters if you want to be a serious artist.

The class fee is $370. Visit to learn more about LaRock School of Art.

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