CultureZara Le Cornu - Bean Abroad

Zara Le Cornu – Bean Abroad

Ever felt the urge to leave the rock and never come back? This is Zara’s story of how she managed to do it. After having her heart stolen by the beautiful landscapes of mainland Europe, her mission to stay in this part of the continent took her on the wildest of journeys. She’s a 22 year old artist currently roaming the streets of Milan, studying, painting and learning about life. It has been the adventure of a lifetime, and she wouldn’t change it for the world.

“After leaving school in 2020, I changed my subject from portraiture to Jersey seascapes, taking inspiration from the beauty of my immediate environment. This didn’t last long however, as I had the opportunity to spread my wings by moving to the Swiss Alps just before the second wave of COVID. 

After moving I fell completely in love with the landscape and ended up staying another two years. During my second ski season I became a qualified BASI Level 2 instructor and so my knowledge and appreciation of the mountains grew. During my 3rd season I completed an internship in events management which gave me a lot of free time. I decided to set myself the challenge of completing enough works to hold a solo exhibition. I dedicated my time to painting oil and acrylic mountainscapes and managed to gather a series of 15 works together to show at the beginning of April 2023. This was an achievement I was very proud of. It took lots of self discipline and organisation, with the hard work paying off.

Having fallen in love with Switzerland, the idea of returning to either Jersey or the UK was difficult, although it seemed I had no choice due to the restrictions of Brexit. I even had employers wanting to give me jobs but without an EU passport or highly qualified skills it was proving an uphill battle. I was beginning to give up on my dream to live abroad, working as an artist (definitely not considered a highly qualified occupation). After hours of research trying to find loop holes and wriggle room in the Brexit rules my hopes were fading. The one option that remained was to study abroad, so began my search for an Arts Degree anywhere in Europe. I took a chance on myself and was lucky enough to receive a talent based scholarship to Nuova Academia di Bella Arti in Milan. Next hurdle, to obtain a student visa – a hideously long and complicated process which had me in tears at times and required huge determination. This challenge has shown me if you want something badly enough, have the courage to go for it. You only ever regret the chances you didn’t take. 

When I first moved to Milan, it didn’t take much time before I started to regret my decision. I was naive about the struggles I would face, not speaking the language, not knowing the city and not having a single person I could call a friend nearby. After a slow start to the course, we shared portfolios and I was told my photorealist style of art was “a waste of paint”, making me question everything. As a result I started suffering from creative block – though I had creative ideas I was scared of failure. But what is failure in Art? In what felt like an act of rebellion, I abandoned every technical aspect I had been taught, painting freely with no intended outcome. What evolved was a large colourful mess of my emotions, based on exerpts from my journal during my first 6 months in Milan. It ended up being the most honest I’ve ever been through my art, which terrified me. I hated the piece. Whilst I loved the process of making it, I didn’t like the outcome and took it down off my wall as soon as the paint was dry. Presenting this piece was one of the scariest things I have done but to my surprise it was a real hit with my peers and tutors. I’d had so much fun and freedom creating this, I decided to forget about what I thought others expected of me and paint for myself. My time since moving to Milan has greatly helped me give up caring what people think about my work. Luckily, I’ve never really cared too much about what others opinions of me as a person are, but this work, being so personal – that was scary, it was my soul reflected on canvas. 

As I’ve gotten older and more experienced, I’m realising the value of being honest in your work. You don’t always need to set out a goal for your artwork – put on some good music, have fun and make a mess, just start! One of my biggest inspirations is Amy Winehouse. Her honesty through her song lyrics as well as her ability to write a banging melody helped me to become more honest with myself through my own form of expression. Great to sing and dance around my studio to as well. I now accept that some people may love my work, others may hate it but as long as I enjoy creating it, that’s what’s important. 

I’m only at the beginning of forging a career as an artist and I realise that the road ahead is not an easy one, full of self doubt and financial worry but I am following the subject closest to my heart. Everyone thinks after you leave school you need to have it all figured out. I got one year into my five year plan and threw the rest out of the window. My advice would be to give yourself time. Perhaps a gap year should be mandatory – an opportunity to challenge yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to get to know yourself better. It is ok to not know who you are yet or what you want to do, we need to be reminded of this. For anyone moving abroad or living away from home for the first time and feeling homesick, comfort yourself with a home cooked meal, maybe one from your childhood. Good food can help with a good mood. 

I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I’m in no rush to get to where I want to be (although my parents might be!). I’m proud of my progress and enjoying the journey. I have learnt that if you are true to yourself and go after what you really want, it’s not necessarily going to be easy and often the battle will be an internal one. I hope that I can make a living as an artist, creating art that touches people in some way that relates to them personally. My dream is to return to the mountains and start a creative workspace to collaborate with other young artists, musicians and craftsmen alike, serving good coffee which turns into cocktails in the evenings! Luckily, with a recent turn of events, this no longer feels like just a far away dream but a reachable one, with stepping stone goals in place to make this possible. I hope to return to Verbier after my studies for the 2026/2027 Season and I’m excited at the prospect of starting a business with my partner, who has a joint creative vision. I couldn’t imagine myself happier today. Meanwhile, in the inimitable words of Dory… “Just keep swimming”!”

Instagram: @zlc_art

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