Discovering a passion for painting at The Art Pod

Pat Searle from Lee-on-the-Solent, who has been a member of The Art Pod for two years.   Picture: Sarah Standing (170076-1321)
Pat Searle from Lee-on-the-Solent, who has been a member of The Art Pod for two years. Picture: Sarah Standing (170076-1321)
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What do you think is art?

It’s a simple question, but it means different things to different people.

At The Art Pod, the answer is anything that you feel inspired or passionate about and are able to express.

Art tutor Al Warner

Art tutor Al Warner

In a relaxed, friendly environment, people of all abilities put their thoughts and feelings into their work.

Tutor Al Warner began teaching art in 2011 in Lee-on-the-Solent after he lost his job as an HGV driver.

After his first session, he got the bug. Now he helps others to improve in a studio at Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport.

Al, 47, says he discovered his love for painting before he could even write and was always a prolific painter during his school days.

He says: ‘I responded to an advert looking an artist for Lee-on-the-Solent

‘About a year later we took it over and went from there.

‘I left school and always planned to get back into art, but then life and kids happened. It was when I lost my job that I thought I would just go for it.

‘After my first session, I wished I’d done it years ago.’

The Art Pod moved from Lee-on-the-Solent to Royal Clarence Yard in July, 2015 and has gone from strength to strength.

Al is a mentor who looks to get the best out of his students by letting them make their own choices.

He’s not pushy in telling them what they should or shouldn’t be creating, but is always there to point his pupils in the right direction and offer his expert guidance.

Al adds: ‘What we do is teach confidence.

‘People can learn or paint anything they like at the art clubs and I’ll show them how to do it.

‘It seems to work really well.

‘We used to run beginners’ courses, but we don’t do that any more.

‘Sometimes they will see something that will inspire them or fancy a go. We also run trips to exhibitions that helps with ideas.’

He adds: ‘I haven’t got one single artist that I am really fond of. Every artist I’ve looked at has produced amazing work and work you wouldn’t want to see again.

‘Art is subjective to the individual. I really enjoyed the teaching to start with as I thought it would get my paintings out there. But I got more and more into the teaching.

‘It is more satisfying seeing people starting to improve.

‘To take someone who comes along and thinks they can’t paint to produce a piece of art is fantastic.

‘That confidence expands further than this classroom and it’s made me want to give more and more.’

Confidence is a big part of art, says Al.

‘We get a lot of people telling us they were rubbish in art at school. The difference is they were taught how to pass an exam in school and you have to do things you don’t want to do.

‘But here you can paint what you like.

‘Another thing is that people who say they can’t paint have been led to believe that.

We have all been taught how to write at one stage, but people don’t question that.

‘It’s been drilled into you as a child because you learn to write your name.

‘The oldest paintings we know of are 40,000 years old. The oldest writing was thousands of years after that.

‘It’s about encouraging people to paint how they want to paint in their own style. That brings confidence quicker.’

The Art Pod is not just a place where students sit in silence for two hours at a time.

Al explains: ‘It’s somewhere that people can come for a biscuit and a cup of tea.

‘On our website, we say that you might even get some painting done.

‘With the loss of post offices and pubs, it’s another meeting place really.’


Students at The Art Pod have all been left satisfied by Al’s teaching and cannot thank him enough for the work and hours he puts in.

Pam Humphries, 88, from Lee-on-the-Solent took up the classes a few months ago after no longer being able to play bowls due to her knees giving way.

She says: ‘I found it very tiring not having anything to do.

‘I seen the advert and I thought I would have a go. I really like it.

‘Al is wonderful and the people are very nice here.

‘I just thought if it doesn’t work, it’s only six months but I’m really happy with it.

‘I would say to people to come and try.#

‘I’ve got a beautiful hedgehog I done at home and I’m really proud of it.’

Marguerite Newman, 77, says: ‘I’ve been doing it for about three years.

‘I have never found such a good teach as Al. He makes you understand.

‘I’ve looked at things to start and the improvement from everybody is wonderful.

‘I always say to people, if they’re going to go to a class, they should come to Al as there is something for everyone.’


Name: The Art Pod

Address: 6A Royal Clarence Yard & Marina, Weevil Lane, Gosport, PO12 1BP

Phone number: 023 9250 1831


Class times: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday mornings 10am - 12pm.

Wednesday & Thursday afternoons 1pm - 3pm. Classes are six week blocks.


Portsmouth & Hampshire art society - Becket Hall, Oyster Street, Old Portsmouth. Conact

Portchester Roundabout Art Group - Castle Street, Fareham, PO16 9PS. Contact

Fareham Art Group - Lyndale Road, Park Gate Southampton SO31 6QN. Contact

Gosport Art Club - St Mary’s Church Hall, Green Road, Alverstoke, PO12 2ET. Contact

Gosport Floral Art Club - Thorngate Halls, Bury Road, PO12 3PX. Contact 023 92588242

St Faith’s Church Art Group - 2 North St, Havant PO9 1PR. Contact 023 9247 1214


As a parent, it is vital that adults have their own space away from the family to enjoy themselves and wind down.

Whether it’s dad’s playing football for a few hours or mum’s relaxing with a bit of retail therapy, all favour various activities to relax.

For Sian Hewett, it is whipping up pieces of art in a chilled out, adult enivironment where she can shut out the world for a few hours.

Sian, 40, has increased her classes from once to twice a week and says she thorough enjoys her time at The Art Pod.

Sian, who’s attended the club for three months, says: ‘I needed something for myself, away from the kids in an adult environment.

‘Al brings out the best in everybody because he is ever so good.

‘I never knew what I could do and it is because of Al’s

‘My confidence level has increased greatly and I really enjoy it.

‘I can’t do anything less than two sessions a week - I get withdrawal symptoms otherwise!’

Pam Ralph was the person who encouraged Sian to go to the classes.

Pam, Fareham, adds: ‘We still can’t believe how quickly sessions go past.

‘Al is marvellous and everyone gels when we are here.’