Steven Tafka’s book the Art of Crime takes a dive into Britain’s jails and his job as an art tutor where he was able to teach the supposedly unteachable
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A prisoner’s seemingly innocent painting of a tennis court caught his trainee art tutor off guard when it was revealed it depicted the site where he spread the body parts of his murder victim.
The killer chopped up his female victim and placed her body in bushes around the edges of a tennis court, and he was now using the same court as the vision for his latest artwork.
The revelation came as art tutor Steven Tafka was taking a tour of a prison as he began his career helping inmates behind bars in the UK.
He told the Mirror: “I asked the student why he was painting a tennis court and discovered that’s where he buried the body parts.
“Nothing in my training quite prepared me for this.”
Mr Tafka’s book the Art of Crime looks at his work in Britain’s jails and his job where he was able to teach the supposedly unteachable but he said that the longer he did the job, the more it seemed like it was him that was serving a sentence .
He added that writing this darkly comic book gave him a release and helped him to survive.
Writing about the encounter with the murderer he explained there was a small man standing awkwardly in front of an easel on which he said there was a particularly inept painting of a tennis court with the inmate unable to get the tennis player correct.
Mr Tafka said it was a curious subject matter so he asked the pupil why, of all the things he could choose to paint, he picked a picture of a tennis court in a park with swings and slides in the background.
But before he had the chance to answer, Greg – the tutor leading the class – came rushing over, grabbed Mr Tafka by the elbow and ushered him into his store cupboard.
“That’s where he spread the body parts. He chopped a woman up and placed some of the bits in the bushes by a tennis court,” he told him.
Greg added it was best not to ask the prisoner about it as he was concerned that he might inadvertently open a can of worms.
Mr Tfka added: “I was a qualified teacher, I’d done my PGCE, I had years of experience as a lecturer in art and design, but nothing in my training quite prepared me for this.
“And so, with a churning stomach, I returned to the strange-looking man and offered to help him get the splodges of paint to look something more like a tennis player.
“We had the most bizarre conversation as I struggled to transplant the tennis player’s arms and legs onto the front of his body, whilst trying not to mention the impasto green and brown splodges that were supposed to be the bushes; I looked closely and thankfully couldn’t ‘t see anything lurking there.”
The book looks at tales from his initial job interview, charting his journey as a rookie prison art tutor to the depths of the prison underworld.
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Written in diary form it details the often absurd daily experiences of trying to help prisoners to achieve a qualification against all the odds.
Mr Tafka, who had wanted to be an artist since the age of four, had to discover the art of teaching watercolors to violent gangsters and introduce murderers to Monet.
He found himself doing swimming pool designs for an armed robber and trying to keep order in a classroom where one of the learners thought he was Picasso Peppa Pig.
And all this was happening as he was having to count the latex gloves in and out – so the prisoners couldn’t smoke them – and while watching out for illicit hooch being brewed behind the classroom radiators.
Publisher Mirror Books managing director Steve Hanrahan said: “This book gives rodents-and-all insight into the dysfunctionality of prison life, the often-abject conditions, but more importantly the power of art to transform lives.
“There is an undoubted fascination with the art prisoners make, because it has something to tell us about the human condition and this book reveals the characters behind it.”