I regularly do workshops at my garden studio Salisbury and at Salisbury Museum and Salisbury Cathedral! In fact, even as I write, I'm currently mind mapping my plans for a workshop on Constable, in October, as part of the museum's excellent exhibition programme.
But you don't need to wait to October, to decide to come to a workshop.
On Tuesday 10th May I'm doing an all day workshop in my lovely studio called "Art for pleasure". It's my most popular workshop, and I simply love it.
Everyone has a great time and learns how to get back to their art and enjoy drawing and creating once more, even if it's been years (decades!) since they last picked up a pencil.
I also have one place left on my Capturing landscapes course on 26th May! Places are going fast!
So what can you expect?
Each workshop begins at 10.30 and ends around 3.30pm.
Bring your own packed lunch, I'll provide tea, coffee and squash all day!
We begin with drawing. A few quick drawings to start you off.
I'll teach you some great techniques to build your confidence and get you going.
You can work in a variety of different media - pastels have proved really popular in the past, when people have wanted to add colour, but don't want to head towards paint straight away. Alternatively, Watercolours are great to add a wash of colour to a drawing.
My workshops are hands on - you'll work hard and I'll do plenty of demos to help explain how you can take your art further.
The courses are relaxed and enjoyable.
A Maximum of 5 places means that I can help everyone achieve better artwork.
Every course is always great fun, book your place now on the next one!
There's more info on my workshop page
Don't delay, sign up today.
You don't need to pay in advance, simply send me an email, asking to reserve a place on "Art for Pleasure" on 10th May or "Capturing Landscapes" on 26th May.
I'll send you confirmation and details of how to get to my studio.
Treat yourself, you'll have a great day!
Last week I blogged about how the French have art in their homes and the Brits do not!
So this week’s blog is going to rectify the situation and give you confidence enough to go and buy some great art.
Remember, always look online for artists in your area first, then visit their studio. It's a great way to find out what you like without pressure. If you can't find an artist you like, in your area, the next plan is to visit a small gallery (nothing too intimidating) or go to an art fair. Again, you'll find something online, have a good look round the website first before you go. It will really help.
Once you've gone to the studio/artfair or gallery- here's my top ten rules to help you select art. You should really enjoy the process of buying yourself some gorgeous new art.
The absolute rule number one is - Only by art if you love it! You might have to compromise with your husband/wife or you might have to think a bit carefully about how much you love it but broadly speaking if you love the art you can't go far wrong.
Rule number two- Think about where it's going to go. You might have a plan when you walk into a gallery or an art fair that you're looking for a piece of work for the lounge. This is quite a good strategy if you're not sure what you're doing. As you can start to visualise where the work of art might go. However if you love something, even if it won't go in the room you planned, that’s still the best reason to buy.
Rule number three - Size matters! Broadly speaking it doesn't really matter if you have a large piece or a series of small pieces to start your collection. But if you have, for instance, wall lights in your home you might find that large artwork doesn't fit in the room in quite the same way you had planned. Having a maximum size is a good idea. If you don't want to pay for shipping or delivery having a clear idea of the largest painting that will fit in your car is a good plan too! Very often artists will be able to arrange shipping for you if you are buying a very large piece that simply won't fit in the car.
Rule number four - Colour. I think this can be an automatic. You might decide that a series of blues and yellows will fit in well in your home, but if you fall in love with the landscape with a load of red poppies in the foreground it will still work. Besides, your natural liking for a colour palette will come through anyway- you're going to be back with rule number one quite frankly!
Rule number five - Have a budget and stick to it. Again it really doesn't matter how much money you spend provided you spend what you can afford. People seem to think the art world is about tens of thousands of pounds or even millions of pounds. At most of the art fairs I attend, the starting price for an original work of art is £45! That will be quite a small painting, but it's original and it's unique and it's a great place to start. Broadly speaking at a lot of the art fairs I go to you could get a medium-sized work of art (less than 1 m²) for around £400 depending on the medium. Obviously some artists are more. But the point is you can walk away with stunning work for only few hundred pounds if you want to. That's really impressive actually.
Think about it; you might have spent over £10,000 redecorating your kitchen why finish it off with a cheap little print for 20 quid from B&Q when you can have original artwork for just a couple of hundred quid.
Rule number six- Try not to worry about investment. You might get lucky, you might find a new emerging artist, buy their work for only a couple of hundred pounds, and then in two years time discover that their work is going for 10 times the price! It really might happen. Lots of successful artists at very least find their prices going up after only a few years into their career. However when you're buying work for less than £1000 try not to worry about what it will be worth in a few years time. Just make sure that you're going to love it in your own home that will be enough.
Rule number seven - Quality. Quality is really key for you to carry on enjoying your art. Feel free to ask the artist anything about the quality of the materials they use. Find out about pigments, ask them about colourfastness. Okay so you might be able to hang a £300 work of art in 500 years time but you certainly don't want the colour to fade in less than 10 years.
Room number eight - Negotiate! Some artists will not negotiate at all. Some High Street galleries will not negotiate at all. Don't be offended if people say “The price is the price please don't ask for a discount”. However if you buy more than one work of art you may well find that artists have a little bit of wriggle room and might give you say a 10% discount because you're buying more than one piece. The worst they can do is say no, if they do say no please don't be offended smile sweetly and say “It was worth a try”!
Rule number nine - Look after your art! Recently I sold a very large piece to a couple and they said “Is it true I can’t hang this over a radiator?”
Well here's the deal; in my kitchen I have a very large oil painting of Stonehenge and it hangs directly over radiator, it's opposite the oven, it gets steam and heat and cold and sunshine on it the whole time. Six years of being in the spot and it still looks like new! However if I had a work of art that I've spent a lot of money on, or if I had an old work of art that might be a little more fragile I would not dream of putting it over a radiator- as a rule of thumb you have to be careful with extremes of heat. But broadly speaking new art, on sturdy canvas frames, painted in oil or acrylic, can take quite a beating in terms of conditions! I even have an oil painting in my bathroom! However watercolours are significantly more fragile and definitely not be placed in a steamy room. Also be very careful about direct sunlight. Okay in our climate we’re not exactly living in Greece, the sun really isn't so strong and it doesn't shine for that much of the year , but sun will fade out paint incredibly rapidly if given the chance. Just think about the fading on your curtains or fabrics in a sunny room - that’s what might happen to your painting so do be careful. If in any doubt at all ask the artist. And if you move the artwork to a new room, still feel free to email your artist years after you've bought it they will be happy to help - honestly we really will.
Room number ten- Don’t be scared of being a numpty! I think the single biggest reason people don't buy art directly from artist is that they are frightened of looking like an idiot! You are not an idiot! It's your money and it is your house and it's up to you how you decorate it. Tell the artist what you're looking for maybe even tell them what work of theirs you like and what else you might like to have. Artists will be helpful to you at art fairs. I've even recommended other artists to potential clients because I knew exactly what they wanted from their description and I knew where they needed to go to find it. Gallery owners will do the same, they will try to match you up with the kind of art that you want, that's part of what you're paying for, don't be bullied and don't worry- it's your money and your house, buy what you love!
My next art fair is Reading art fair 22-24 April. There are over 100 artists there, there is a huge range at very reasonable prices. Message me if you’d like Private view tickets or 2 for 1 tickets over the weekend. www.readingcontemporaryartfair.co.uk
Is there really a foolproof formula for a happy marriage.
Sure there is.
There are loads.
That's the damn problem, you've got to pick the right formula.
Formula number 2.
Only marry someone who totally understands you.
Oh hang on that's not right either, I'm and artist, he's a scientist. Professionally we virtually speak different languages. Maybe that's what makes it interesting? We're always learning from each other. It's nice to chat about stuff knowing the other person has to concentrate to keep up. It keeps us fresh.
Ah so maybe that leads to Formula number 3.
Ah no...that's not right either. Despite the artist v scientist thing, actually I don't think opposites necessarily attract after all. We have the same believes and values deep down. We like a lot of the same music (which helps), we like some of the same movies.
Right. I'm getting there now.
Formula number 4. Marry someone who make you laugh. Definitely. This is true surely. Unless you're a very serious person, who doesn't like laughing. Which I'm not.
I'm definitely onto something now.
Austin Kleon, in his brilliant book "Steal like an artist" sums it up rather well.
So there it is.
We all need a support network of some kind. Left on their own too long, artists might become self deprecating, anxious beasts.
Whether is your husband, wife, best friend, sibling or nice group of chums who put up with you; support is a wonderful thing.
I believe we all need a bit of nurturing to be creative. And by creative, that's not just artists. Scientists need to be creative too. Engineers, writers, cooks, gardeners, teachers...in fact all of us have creativity woven into our daily lives.
Last week, whilst listening to Six Music in my studio, painting away without a care in the world, I heard the most interesting statistic I've ever heard about art.
Only 0.5% of British homes have original art hung on the walls. Half a percent. Seriously?
[I'm guessing this doesn't include the kids pictures on the fridge].
I was shocked. But this was only half the quote.
78% of French homes have original art adorning their walls.
It didn't surprise me to know that more French homes have original art in them than British homes. But those numbers- 0.5% versus 78%: that really did surprise me.
Why is this?
The French are known for their style and their élan. If there is a choice the French will more likely choose elegance over efficiency.
But are our French counterparts so steeped in culture that they feel original art, over a cheap mass produced print is in their DNA?
Let's think about this for a bit - The French have the Louvre, the Musee d'orsay, L'orangrie and that's only Paris...
But we have the National, the Royal Acdemy, Tates Britain and Modern, and that's just London.
The French have some of the worlds most famous artists to their flag; Monet, Seurat, Rodin. I know there are countless more, but the British have some heavyweights too; Constable, Turner, Henry Moore...
We are right up there with our artistic culture! And have been for centuries!
So, we're happy to pootle about famous galleries, look at the most famous, beautiful, valuable and important works of art the world has ever known, BUT we can't summon up the courage and the cash to buy original work.
Well worry no more.
You really can have stunning, original, professional art work in your home.
You won't be ripped off.
You won't be made to feel like a fool.
You won't be bullied into having something you don't like.
Next week I'm going to give you my top tips for how to buy art if you've never done it before. But in the meantime, here's something to get you started.
In order to buy well, you must buy something you love.
So you need to work out what your style and taste really is.
So get out more!
Loads of artists exhibit in bookstores, cafes, pubs, restaurants, and doctors' surgeries. Start looking out for the things that catch your eye.
Something you can live with.
Get online and find artists in your area. Most are willing to arrange a studio visit. You are not obliged to buy, tell them the truth - "I've seen your work online, I really like it but I wanted to see it in person before I think about buying any" Most artists will respect your honesty and arrange a visit with ease.
Remember that some small galleries have changed the name 'Private view' to 'Open evening' or 'Preview evening', deliberately to encourage new people to come. They are friendly, fun, usually drop of wine is involved, and folks freely talk about the art in front of them.
Think back to when you were a teenager, or your university bedroom. I bet the walls were festooned with images that reflected things about you, things you loved, things that were cool.
Now that those posters are long gone, don't you deserve something better than a cheap mass produced print?
Start finding what you want on your wall...
Next week I'll give you my top tips on how to buy art and why you'll absolutely love it when you do!
When I'm at art fairs, probably the most common question I'm asked is "How long did that take you?"
I'll admit, that most artists don't really like that question.
But since running workshops, and building rapport with my customers, I really understand where they're coming from now and when you're trying to find out about the art, actually it's a great question!
I guess artists don't like the question (especially when in a selling situation) because it feels like someone is testing how much we're paying ourselves per hour, or maybe they're seeing whether or not we can magic the art in a matter of minutes.
But I've realised, that's not really the question that's being asked. I think "How did you do that?" is woven in there, "How much work do you have to do before you start painting?" that's in there too. "What inspired you to create this?"
Well now you're talking, I'd love to tell you how and why I created something.
Followers of my blog will know that this year has seen a new collection, Countryside companions. And I love how it compliments my landscape work; I'm ultimately inspired by nature and the world around me.
This shows the start of my highland cow "Chewing it over".
Its 60cm x 60cm oil on canvas.
The first stages are sketches in my sketchbook, based on photos and life sketches (I'm not a farmer, so the sketches I do from life, tend to be at horticultural shows).
Then I sketch onto the canvas. Interestingly, the pencil lines are rare for me, in landscapes and seascapes I paint straight away. But my animals are quite "loose" and spattery. In order for the splatters to work, I have to start quite carefully in pencil.
I ensure everything in is the right place.
The first paint, is very diluted French ultramarine blue, and it carefully makes out the darkest areas.
When this layer is dry I can then add the finishing touches. If I was going to create a far more detailed and realistic cow, this is the stage I would start to do that. As I still want to keep the streaks and spatters I simply add more tones, including carmine pink to the nose, highlights to the horns, the grass he's chewing, and some white glints in the eyes.
When he was finished he was completed with a rather grand frame.
I've been going through exactly the same process with my Stag, who appears to be much more serious than my cow!
The process, is sometimes punctured with moments of self doubt. Sometimes, I get too excited by what I'm doing, and carry on for too long, which is dangerous as an oil painter, one false move and you've ruined a day's work. Sometimes, I work too closely and when I step back I realise the light is wrong.
However, all these moments can be overcome, with a bit a patience and skill.
And, after weeks, maybe even months of working on a piece, when it's done it's a great feeling.
If you would like to see more of my most recent collection go to:
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Picasso said "The muse may strike at any time, but she must find you working"
Since turning pro and being a full time artist this has been my mantra. The art world is littered with other beautiful art quotes which still amount to the same thing. Stop faffing about and get on with it!
The thing is that work, consistent work, constant effort, making mistakes, and making discoveries can lead to great inspiration, and great work. Picasso is right.
People still have grand romantic schemes that artists sit around in cafes, drinking wine, and discussing philosophy, politics and art all day. Then suddenly the Muse will strike them and they will head back to the leaky garret and create the next masterpiece ready for the salon to judge next season! Perhaps the modern English reality isn't that artists are sitting about in cafes all day instead life consists of getting up late, taking the dog for a walk, seeing a beautiful tree leaning over a river and heading back to the studio and magically painting it.
The reality is different.
I'm not complaining one bit.
My artistic life is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoy it, but it's definitely hard work. There is a big difference between sauntering along a country lane considering the beauty of the sky while the dog sniffs around in the hedge, compared to lugging your easel and painting equipment, setting up for a day of en plein air painting. Serious concentration is required to really analyse the landscape around you. Sketch after sketch, considering light, colour, composition. The sketches produced on those en plein air days will help you in the studio the next day, the next week or even next year you can work from those sketches.
Here comes the muse, and there you were, working. That's why she came!
Part of the problem with artists' block is thinking that we must find something completely new and original. Modest subject matter won't be enough to sate our artist need. Not true.
While I'm writing this I am listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing "It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it" and she's right too.
There isn't a monopoly on painting landscape, or a beautiful flower, or a still life of fruit. We can choose to paint anything, we can find inspiration anywhere, it's what we bring to the party ourselves that makes our treatment of the subject matter interesting.
That constant work while waiting for the muse is how we find our voice.
It's about our style, it's about how we create that landscape or how we capture that moment.
The artists I know don't magic a masterpiece out of the air.
It comes from graft, and craft.
We have to think about it, study it, experiment with it; we have to let it brew inside our minds and then find the techniques and skills put onto the page what our mind has already seen.
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