There is buzz as I arrive at an art fair. Friendly, full of anticipation and the joy of seeing plenty people after a few months of flying solo in the studio creating new work. Many artists on the circuit know each other and have done for years. Whilst unloading our cars and vans laden heavily with canvases, sculptures and passpartout, there are hugs and kisses abound as everyone says hello and makes their way to their stand - Their home for the next few days.
I have always adored going to galleries and having a nice mooch about. All through my student days I haunted the National and the Tate, sketchbook in hand, for hours on end. Galleries, whilst attracting huge numbers of visitors, are so vast that you can still find a moment of peace and calm right in the centre of the hustle and bustle of London
During my many years as a teacher, I took students to a variety of galleries including the Uffizzi in Florence and the Dali museum in Figueras. During these trips I always wanted to encourage a life long love of art. I wanted to develop the confidence required to draw in public without worrying, and a feeling that the galleries of the world belong to us all. They aren't just for the elites and the show-offs. But beautiful artwork can be enjoyed by everyone.
So on Wednesday, I decided to give myself a birthday treat and I went to the Michelangelo & Sebastiano exhibition at the National gallery.
With some trepidation and heart full of excitement I went in.
To be frank I got a bit emotional about it all. Michelangelo has that effect on me. Always has.
The initial impact was "Wow".
I'm lucky enough to have seen the vast majority is of Michaelangelo's work in Italy and beyond but there are still some serious gems in this exhibition.
The exhibition itself explores the relationship between heavyweight Michaelangelo and the lesser known Venetian Sebastiano.
There are a whole series of letters between Sebastiano and Michaelangelo - it is very interesting to see the references to the papacy and indeed to Michaelangelo's arch rival Raphael. At first it might seem that Michaelangelo's collaboration with Sebastiano is almost entirely about rivalling Rapheal. One of Sebastiano's letters even references Rapheal's death - "My dearest compare, I believe you have heard poor Rapheal of Urbino has died, something that you must soon be very sorry about, may God forgive him".
Forgive him for what? The story goes that Raphael died, aged 37 from sexual exhaustion! Though this has yet to be fully proven. However his death did provide Michaelangelo with an opportunity to pursue further commissions from the papacy and to recommend his friend Sebastiano.
Unlike Michelangelo, Sebastiano was an oil painter. I believe that his luminescence and beautiful use of colour had been hugely influenced by Michaelangelo's frescoes.
One room largely focused on the Pieta (literally meaning 'pity' and referring to Mary holding Christ's dead body) there is a cast of Michaelangelo's Pieta. Whilst it's not quite the same as seeing the original, you simply can't get close to the original in St Peter's (Rome) so being up close and personal to this cast is great. It was a super opportunity to really see how it's been constructed.
At the opposite end of the Pieta room is Sebastiano's Pieta - a huge oil painting, as Mary looks up to the heavens lamenting the death of her son. What is really interesting is that the back of Sebastiano's Pieta is also visible. And you can see the sketches that both artists drew on the back of the wooden panel. This suggests that perhaps Michaelangelo had allowed Sebastiano to share his studio for a time. The sketches also show the start of some figures later appear on Michaelangelo's Sistine ceiling.
Throughout the exhibition there are many drawings from both artists. Some you may have already seen in the British Museum but there are others from Frankfurt, from Washington, and several from the Queen's own collection.
They are exquisite, delicate, beautiful and I spent much of my time studying them.
My "weak at the knees moment" was the room with the Risen Christ. One statue is an original by Michelangelo which he abandoned due to finding a black vein on Christ's face. I rather liked the black marble vein. It added to the drama. I sat and drew this for some time. The other Statue in this room is a cast of a second risen Christ created by Michelangelo, the juxtaposition of the two statues is extraordinary; one pose is contrapposto like Michelangelo's David the other dynamic. It's interesting to look at both of them; make your own mind up as to which is the better.
As if all this isn't enough, there is a huge 3D recreation of the Borgherini chapel, executed by Sebastiano with some preliminary drawings by Michelangelo. It is, quite simply, breath taking.
By the end of the exhibition I felt it had raised a few questions for me.
It appears at first sight that Sebastiano had learnt great deal from Michaelangelo. He learned about light, colour, successful rendering of twisted figures. Yet Michaelangelo seems to have learnt a lot less from Sebastiano, most notably he didn't learn to oil paint. Was this that Michaelangelo stubbornly did not want to learn how to oil paint? I won't spoil the end of their story, nor the end of the exhibition, but you'll leave with some interesting ideas about the answer!
The exhibition continues until 25th June and I can heartily recommend the visit.
Beautiful limited edition prints, ready mounted.
I often sell limited edition prints directly from my website. Sometimes people have already seen the original painting at an exhibition in Salisbury or at one of the art fairs I attend, and have decided to have a print of it. Other times they have simply seen my website and can't resist buying a print. It is a lot less scary to buy a print from a website than buying original art as the prints are significantly cheaper than originals, and they are also usually smaller!
My prints are sold with the mounts and backing board included. This means that the print is shipped to you flat. It also means the print is nicely protected. And in addition is much cheaper for you to frame it. I tend to get my prints made to fit standard size mounts, which also makes things a little cheaper for my customers.
I begin by making sure my work surface is completely clean. This might sound obvious but as an oil painter there are often wet paintings in the studio, so by far the simplest way of making sure I have a clean surface is to get some clean white mounting board as my surface to work on that way I can ensure that aren't any stray splatters of wet paint that would ruin the print. I also make sure I have all the things I need to hand, masking tape, craft knife scissors and glue.
My mounts, backing boards and cellphone wraps are prepared by my framers.
My prints are printed onto beautiful museum quality watercolour paper, and arrive from the printers wrapped in archival paper. I remove the print from the paper, sign it, number it and then it is ready to be mounted. I turn the print over and attach it to the inside window mount with masking tape. Masking tape is used because it is strong enough to hold the print in place but it is also easy to remove with out ruining the print itself. Next I apply a dab of glue to each corner of the inside of the window mount. This is to keep the backing board firmly in place. The glue does not touch the back of the print at any point to ensure that you are able to remount it at a later date if you want to without damaging the print itself. The backing board however does keep the print in good condition and can be used again if you buy a frame that fits the mount.
When I post my prints they are also placed in a sandwich of bubble wrap and between two sheets of thicker cardboard before being wrapped in brown paper and sent to my customer. To bigger the print the thicker the sandwich has to be!
I am looking into getting larger prints created of my work which would come with a white border but without a mount. And would be shipped in a cardboard tube. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this.. Would you prefer an un-mounted print posted to you rolled up? Or do you prefer the ones that are already in a mount for you? I'd be interested to know.
Thus far this method has work as all of my customers have always been happy with them arriving in perfect condition.
My new collection is finding the truth in my surroundings. My Countryside Companions Collection was the most popular work I have done to date. In fact you may have one hanging in your home right now.
I adore my oil painted animals on natural linen and they have been a real hit. I have wanted to expand my collection by including surrounding areas that inspire me and to paint them on my natural linen canvases to place beside my animal artworks.
I have drawn inspiration from my hometown of Salisbury, the beautiful nearby Georgian town of Bath, and London. I have included some extracts from my forthcoming Town and Country collection in this blog before they are available to buy on my website. If you would like to reserve any before they are available, simply email me and I'll happily send you details. Some more beautiful animals will also be added to the collection too.
At the beginning of March I will be running a workshop in Salisbury Cathedral on how to draw the complex architecture without getting bogged down in linear perspective. I teach you some arty tricks to find your way through tricky subject matter. We will explore the natural beauty in this incredible place. I still have a few spaces left on this course; it's always good fun, relaxed and really useful if you want to have the confidence to go and sketch when you're on holiday or sitting in a cafe. I promise you it's not as intimidating as you think!
Some of my new Town and country collection will be on display in Waterstones from 19th February. I'll be blogging about that exhibition next week...
Back when Trivial Pursuit was fashionable and just about everyone was playing it I always plumped for the brown piece of cheese first!
Art and literature was my specialism, so it seems only appropriate to refer to Art and literature when thinking about my forthcoming exhibition at Waterstones in Salisbury.
My planning and preparation for this kind of exhibition is very similar to that of an art fair (more on that story later). In addition to preparing and packing your paintings I always create a hanging plan. It saves a lot of mucking about when you get to the venue. Sometimes I stray a little from the hanging plan and smaller pictures might find their way into gaps, or a centrepiece might find its way onto a different part of the stairwell, but broadly speaking I stick to the original plan, carefully choosing pieces that sit well together. You want to give each piece enough room to breathe, whilst still using wall space effectively so that you get to show off as much of your work as you can.
In addition I have fully stocked tool box, hooks, a stepladder, a drill, a screwdriver all ready to hang my work in precisely the right place. I have prepared laminated artist's statements, free postcard sized flyers and business cards all available for future customers to collect my details.
Is it all worth the bother?
Well of course it is, I go back to my first paragraph Art and literature always sat rather nicely together and I love the idea of people shopping and browsing in a bookstore, selecting a novel to take home and in the process being able to see beautiful, original oil paintings produced by an artist in their locality.
It's really lovely.
So I urge you over the next month to make your way to Waterstones on the High Street in Salisbury it's really lovely to buy books, real books, and I think it's rather nice to look at some art whilst you're there.
Next week I'll be telling you about future opportunities to see my artwork as there are plenty of art fairs coming your way in April and May.
This week's blog post is a little sneak preview of the press release for BBC Countryfile. This will be live on the Countryfile website from the 1st June!
Louise Luton and the art of capturing natural beauty at BBC Countryfile Live
Louise Luton’s Salisbury art studio looks out over the valley across to Old Sarum. It’s easy to see why any artist would live where she lives. Surrounded by fields, livestock and constantly changing skies; Louise is inspired by nature. She will be demonstrating her oil painting techniques at Countryfile live and giving visitors an insight into her inspiration, and how she creates such stunning oil paintings.
“It all starts with drawing, but unsurprisingly animals rarely pose for me just because I have my sketchbook out! So I have to take reference photos too. David Hockney once described drawing to be like chess, “your mind races ahead to the moves you eventually make” I agree with him, when I make gestural, quick sketches I can already get a feel for the painting I might be able to produce once I’m back in the studio. The quick sketches rarely carry enough information on their own, but if I were to rely entirely on photos I’d miss the character of an animal. It’s the same for landscapes - a painting should give you the feel of a place, not simply what it looks like”.
My oil paintings begin very traditionally,starting with very thin layers of blue and umber at first. I make sure the landscape, or face of the animal is composed perfectly before continuing any further. Once I’m happy, then the fun begins and I can incorporate broader brushes stokes, surprising colour and splashes and splatters. This is the character of the painting - I love it!
Louise frequently exhibits in and around Salisbury and sells at National Art fairs, but BBC Countryfile Live provides a rare opportunity to see Louise at work. “I’ll be bringing some blank canvases and unfinished pieces to work on. Oil painting takes multiple layers, so as soon as the underpainting is completed on one piece, I’ll set it to one side and move onto the next layer on another piece. Visitors to my stand will see work at various stages in addition to the finished pieces on display and for sale. The whole stand will be quite a dynamic place, changing throughout the event. I’ll have my sketchbooks with me too. Most people are fascinated by artist’s sketchbooks as they are a real insight into how we go from a starting idea to finished painting. I love my sketchbooks - I’d never part with them! I’ll be happy to help people get started with sketching while they’re at Countryfile live.
Louise Luton, was born in Salisbury in 1971. She graduated from Digby Stuart (London) in 1992 with an honours degree in Fine art. She has been an artist and teacher for over 20 years, and after living and working in London, Exeter and Bournemouth, returned to her hometown of Salisbury in 2009.
Louise was commissioned to produce a public art piece as part of the 800th anniversary Magna Carta Celebrations
Louise Looks forward to seeing you at Blenheim palace for BBC Countryfile Live. She is in the Craft Heroes marquee on Stand 28
Do you wish you knew how to navigate your way into the art world?
There are plenty of articles, blogs and books for artists, on how to approach galleries to sell their work. There are almost as many books on how to sell without gallery representation.
But there doesn’t seem to be much advice for first time collectors to buy art!
So here are some ideas you might want to try.
Have a good look at your home. Where do you want to put your artwork? Have you got a minimum or maximum size? Have you got pallette in mind?
Have a look in your locality.
Go to a small gallery,often they are coffee shops too, so have a nice cuppa and slice of cake and start working out what sort of things you like, and how much they cost. You are allowed to browse.
In August I'll be exhibiting in Boston tea Party in Salisbury. In fact they have a different artist there every month.
Go to an art fair. Small or large you’ll find something that will at least help you hone your eye and make up your mind what you like.
Some art fairs are for galleries to show the work of artists they represent, others deal directly with the artist. Either way, its good to go and have a look. Collect plenty of flyers and cards so the you can look them up later.
Keep your eyes open in hospitals, hotels, restaurants - many artists are showcasing their work now in public places. They might not be for sale, but you’ll get a name to look up later.
There are some surprising places to find great art works. This Summer I'll be at the New forest show with my Countryside companions collection and I'll be a BBC Countryfile live at Blenheim palace demonstrating oil painting techniques. There will be other artists and crafters there too. It's a great opportunity to find out more about art, as there are so many other things going on too, noone will expect you to be an expert on art. Simply rock up and enjoy yourself!
Most professional artists have their own websites, but you might not be able to find them based on a google search. Once you have a name go directly to the site.
Some artists have an online store don’t be put off if they don't. You might be able to arrange a time to visit their studio.
If you make an appointment to see an artist in their studio, keep that appointment - they will have set aside time for you. Do not worry about buying straight away. Often artists anticipate visitors to their studio, might end up commissioning work rather than buying what is already there. Often couples visit together, then they want to go away and think about it, then come back another day.
If you have seen their website, or work elsewhere, and you like it; tell the artist you’d like to see something similar. If an artist is setting up for an exhibition, they may have far too much work to display in their studio, give them a chance to show you what you wanted to see.
If you feel unable to approach an artist to arrange your own appointment, then email them asking if they are doing any open studio events in the future. They’ll get back to you with date you can visit.
Try to have some alone time! I always try to leave any clients alone for a bit (I offer them a cup of tea and go off to make it) that way they can have a moment to get to grips with the work without pressure. Many artists do the same.
Ask them about their work.
Ask them about the medium they are working in.
Tell them where you’re thinking about putting the work - they might have a great idea for you. Discuss what you might want, even if you're still unsure. The artist will want to help you.
If you want to buy; go for it! Start with the work you like, if that’s too expensive ask if they have anything in your budget. Many savvy artists take the time to ensure they have a variety of works at different prices for this very reason.
It’s honestly a really lovely experience visiting an artist's studio. I love welcoming people to mine and showing them my work and how I create it.
You’d be welcome...
After reading that title; if you've tuned in to read a blog about the EU referendum, you're in the wrong place, this is all about art!
Whenever I’m asked "So what kind of art is it that you do" I always say “Beautiful oil paintings inspired by nature”. That has been my
The countryside and coast have been my inspiration from the start.
Most recently my animals have been a real hit; newly exhibited this year.
I have just returned from Reading Art fair and the first three original paintings to fly off the walls were all animals, the first three prints were animals too. Just as I began to think that a pattern was emerging, the next three where landscapes and seascapes so who knows?
The simple idea that nature is beautiful and artists want to capture it is as old as art itself. The cave paintings at Lascaux in France demonstrate art's purpose was not only showing the importance of the hunt and recording an event, but also the animals that were stalked or chased during the hunt. I remember very clearly the first time I opened Gombrich’s “The story of art” to see Albrecht Durer’s portrait of a hare and thinking how can it be possible that someone can create something so lifelike simply with a pencil? My hare is a different take on that beautiful and very popular animal. This hare was the second painting to sell at Reading at the weekend and I love him, I will be painting another hare but it will be different to this one: a different size, different canvas, a different background, a different expression but it will still be a much loved beautiful hare.
Various people looking closely at my work commented on how I had captured the essence of the animal with out being too realistic. I was delighted to hear this as that was the plan!
One of the big challenges for a painter (landscape, animal, anything really), is to work out what to keep in and what to leave out. What we leave out is just as important as what we put in. Most people tend to notice my vibrant use of colour in my animal paintings. A Stag does not have blue and turquoise in it, a hair doesn't have a blue nose or purple ears. I think I'm a natural colourist, I like adding colour. I'm a painter! I have to bring something to the party that is different to a photographer.
Interestingly I think my use of colour in animals has stemmed from so many years of landscape and seascape painting. Trying to capture that particular pink cloud in the sky can be a real challenge and it's led me to be able to use colour in really exciting ways even when I'm painting something that is essentially a series of browns and greys. I can add bright colours that really bring the animal to life.
I believe that artists can give the viewer a clearer sense of what they might be looking at in nature. The very selection of colour life and personality in each of my works is communicating something different to the viewer other than what I saw in the first place. It is the fine line between recording the event or the place or the person or the animal and bringing a story to any of those elements so that the painter provides the viewer with something more.
With each of my landscapes and seascapes I have always considered them to be your personal window on the world, the view that we wish we had from our kitchen, we have a painting to reminder us of that beautiful place we once visited. However with my animal paintings I think I'm bringing a different kind of joy to your living room.
Something I noticed this weekend at Reading, when people visited my stand was how many people put on a funny voice when looking at one of my animal paintings. Anyone my age will remember Johnny Morris and Animal magic and perhaps it’s inherent in us to put on silly voices when we think of animals; that level of anthropomorphism is very strong in the British psyche. I have heard so many young people making moo noises at my cow and squealing with delight when I saw a happy muddy piggy.
So what does all this tell us?
It tells me very clearly that I'm part of a long tradition of artists who have always been inspired by nature and inspired by what they see around them.
All of my landscapes (with perhaps the exception of the old picture of Venice or Paris) are of places I live near. All of my animals are also animals that I can see in Wiltshire, Dorset or the New Forest.
I like being part of the tradition. I like celebrating the British countryside and coast and the variety of creatures that live on our shores.
My first visit to Reading art fair was last year and what a great fair it is. I sold well, met some great people and spent the whole weekend talking about art. It was great and I'd recommend it to anyone
Let me fill you in on what you can expect.
The Fair begins on Friday 22nd April for the Private view evening, and continues through the weekend 23rd and 24th April.
I have some Private view tickets available for you, and I have 2 for 1 tickets for the rest of the weekend, simply email me, if you'd like to come.
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
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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Creative clutter or tidy art haven?
Last week I was talking about letting go while creating art and letting go so that you can sell it. This week I'm focusing on letting go of the creative clutter that inevitably accumulates in any artist studio!
Broadly speaking since having a professional studio in Salisbury, all to myself, I have designated spaces for office and admin, storage, painting at easels and even delivering workshops; my studio has remained relatively tidy.
I have a good fortnightly routine where I give my surfaces a deep clean to prevent the accumulation of gesso, paint, dried up oil, and other detritus that can build up in particular areas.
However I have another area that has turned into one of those dumping grounds. Everyone has a dumping ground at some point in their life. In our homes it tends to be the cupboard under the stairs where mountains of shoes that we will never wear again, hot water bottles and random bits of carpet seem to congregate without anyone claiming responsibility for putting it all there!
In my studio my dumping area isn't the cupboard under the stairs but instead of peculiar space above the stairs! It's ideal for storing canvases, upright portfolios full of drawings and any unused frames yet to find pride of place as the rim of a beautiful painting.
I've let it go.
I know I've been naughty and when my studio receives it's fortnightly clean the dumping ground remains the same with piles of things, I even found some garden lights, and an old guitar.
So this morning, bright and early, before I even did my small daily painting, before I even checked my emails I started clearing out the dreaded dumping ground. It was just one of those things I had to do. I need to clear my mind and in order to do so I have to clear out the messiest bit of my studio. It wasn't even high on my list of priorities for today, even this week but I just had to do it. So armed with a strong cup of coffee I set to.
Here's how it worked.
1.If a canvas is dented, warped, rotting, or damaged in any way throw it out! It's simply doesn't matter what's on it or how good it looks. If the canvas is damaged it's no use, its not even of any use to hang up in your own house because the dent will drive you nuts.
Chuck it out don't even think about it, don't pause for thought!
2. Papers can be precious and you have to be careful what you throw out.
I discovered a big watch of heavyweight cartridge paper that had been slightly folded, there wasn't a crisp fold fold in them but it wasn't perfect.
Some of the papers I kept.
But they are now stored in a portfolio to keep them safe from damp and further folding.
Papers are incredibly useful I run workshops and I really like using lots and lots of paper to get people going. Having paper that isn't precious encourages a great habit of experimentation when sketching (see my blog from last week for more on that). However some papers simply won't going to be good enough even for practice sketches. Some pastel papers had become so warped when they have got slightly damp that they simply had to be thrown away. This is another good reason to buy paper in good firm pads as they tend to stay in better shape even when they stored badly. Loose paper nearly always ends up crumpled and useless if you haven't got a good storage habit. In the process of clearing out my dumping ground I now have a better place to store my paper.
3. Old frames mounts and other things that you think really might be useful and you ought to keep. This is a real problem territory and you need to go carefully and I did. So I have kept three frames out of the myriad of ones that I found in my dumping ground area. The three frames I kept where clean, not warped in any way and still had true 90° corners and they're worth keeping.
However I did throw away a further four frames that were simply no good, they were either damaged or simply won't work with the kind of work that I produce now.
Now that can be quite a brave decision to make throwing out something that might be useful one day, but if I hadn't have thrown out those things I wouldn't have had the space to store the things I really need.
4. Throwing out canvases that aren't that damaged.
This is really tricky. I threw out some work that were on canvases that weren't dented so why why did I make this decision?
I'm not as arrogant as Michelangelo to get rid of every sketch or anything I've ever done! If you are a student at the start of your career I urge you with all my heart to try and keep as many things from your early days as possible. I have three portfolios rammed full of sketches, pastel drawings and watercolours that record the way my style has changed and developed over the years. I value them and occasionally look at them to see how far I've come.
But in the process of my clear out of my dumping ground area I also threw out a good for five maybe six canvases varying sizes of work. So why? How could I possibly throw away paintings that actually were pretty good!
The answer is simple- neither the canvas nor the paint was of a high enough quality that I could put them with my current work. Again this might sound arrogant but it's really not meant to be. I pride myself on only painting on the high quality canvas only using the very best paints, Michael Harding, Old Holland all of those great names find their way into my work.
The work that I threw out simply doesn't fit with my brand. Okay you might be thinking but you could've given them away that might have been a lovely gift? Well maybe but it also might devalue what I'm currently doing. This isn't about throwing out anything and everything that I can't sell, I've kept a great number of pieces that I won't ever sell that are either sentimental to me or show a real turning point in the development of my art. And I'm very happy to keep those items.
I'm confident now that all of the work on display my studio, and all of the work that I will take to future fairs or exhibitions is of a standard worthy of a professional artist.
5. Donating. There is a nice little joke tootling around on social media at the moment that goes along the lines of "I will take these clothes to the charity shop but first I'm going to put them in the boot of my car and drive around with them for six months!"
This could be true of artists donating unwanted materials.
I urge you, particularly if you have changed medium, that you donate any materials that you no longer need to your local school. There isn't a school in the land nor an art teacher in that school that doesn't want your stuff! Note, they do not want your rubbish- but they do want your brushes, they want paper, canvas, they want paint, they want pastels, they want charcoal! So get it in the car and take it to the nearest school!
So now my dumping ground has had his little clear out, how have I used the spare space?
Well for a start, newly delivered canvases can now rest there safe in the knowledge they won't get dented with a load of rubbish.
Secondly my papers won't get damp and crumpled.
And lastly it means that I've been able to move some of the things around in my studio creating more space for some workshops that I'll be doing next week!
All in all it's been a pretty successful morning and I've now stopped for a cuppa.
Love it and let go! How all artists learn to let go when they create the work and when it's finished.
Love it and let go. How all artists learn to let go when they create their work and when it's finished.
I love teaching and always have done. Now as a full-time artist I still teach workshops to adults, to pupils on school visits to galleries or exhibitions and and to art students in a variety of different media and subject matter.
Most recently I have found myself saying it to my latest workshop recruits "Stop worrying".
Whether you are 8 or 80 you will find yourself worrying about the artwork you create.
I usually begin my workshops with quick warm up drawings. Being an artist can be similar to being an athlete; you have to warm-up before the real business begins!
The great thing about drawing quickly is that you don't worry about the quality of the work you are producing. The process is far more important than the product. Sometimes you might even throw your warm-up sketches away. You can do a warm-up sketch with a pencil and any old piece of paper, you could even do it with a marker pen on a piece of newspaper, it really doesn't matter. Once you have fully warmed up the great business of creating begins.
I have to admit that I love it when my students produce work that they are proud of, work that they want to keep, better yet work that they would proudly put on display.
It's strange thing about art, sometimes you have to let go of your inhibitions, your worry, your "tightness" to create a work. But once you've done that you have another problem. That kind of work, the work of which you are justly proud, is the kind of work that you don't want to see go!
But as a professional artist let go you must.
I have just got back from the framers collecting three new oil paintings that will shortly appear in an exhibition. (I use a local, family business- Frith's, they are based in Netherhampton, just outside Salisbury).
One of the pieces has been rather grandly framed, it is of a highland cow chewing grass and he looks content. It's titled "Chewing it over"
The framer said to me "If I could paint like that I'd never be able to sell the work, its too good to let go".
Ooh, artists love to hear compliments like that. Lovely.
That's where the "love it and let go" comes in. Now that my Highland cow, "Chewing it Over" is beautifully framed he might sit in my lounge for a while rather than being wrapped up and stored carefully in the studio waiting for the next Art fair.
I will live with him.
I'll see him every day.
But when his new owner comes along, as he surely will, I will let him go.
The thing about being a full-time artist isn't simply learning to let go of your beloved artwork. The process in your mind is so different. I have so many ideas, so many more plans with future paintings running through my mind, that the loss is not so great.
We artists don't want to keep our work to ourselves, we are so full of ideas that we want to create more. Selling work isn't a wrench anymore because it means more space and more money to buy more canvas and more paint! It not only gives me the studio space to create more but also the headspace to start creating new works. (with the added bonus of paying a few bills too!). Besides, it lovely to think of my paintings making their way into someone else's home. I like to think that they will smile every time they walk past one of my paintings. All of my work celebrates nature; the seas, the skies, the fields, the animals... my paintings, like my highland cow, have a an air of contentment.
So if you are in the process of creating artwork that you love and want to keep, that is absolutely fine. In fact it's great! It's a wonderful feeling to have created something that you want to hang up in your own home for all to see.
But if you are about to make the jump from being a part time artist to a full-time artist don't worry about the work that you love, because once you have that time and space to create more, it becomes so much easier to love it and let go!
Louise's new collection "Countryside companions' celebrating animals of the Britsh countryside will be revealed later this month.
Great Art in Salisbury this week.
I can't believe my luck being an artist, living and working in Salisbury this week; there are some great artists exhibiting right now, I'm spoiled for choice where to go.
Earlier this week, I visited the John Craxton exhibition at Salisbury museum. I can heartily recommend it. I'm going to be doing some workshops in the museum in the coming weeks with schools and I can honestly say there's plenty of inspiration for aspiring artists.
John Craxton, was very clearly influenced by Picasso during the 1940s and 50s. His work is a wonderful example of how to be inspired by other artists whilst finding our own style. I loved his Picassoesque portraits, there is a beautiful lightness to touch to the quality of his line.
In contrast some of his work created in the 1970s in Crete shows a style all of his own, as if he'd found his own voice. The palette is truly beautiful and his understanding of pattern and texture is fascinating. I found myself staring at the use of colour, how they sang and bounced when being juxtaposed.
As I left the museum on that sunny, cold afternoon an enormous hare went past on the back of a flat bed lorry!
It was the work of Sophie Ryder, whose work is currently being installed in the Cathedral close and it's wonderful to see it close up. Another excuse to make your way to Salisbury Cathedral close to see some magnificent artwork.
And in the library Bob versus Nav.
Bob Ford is a fellow member of Plain Arts Salisbury and his contemporay look at pop culture is proving popular and compelling. I defy you not to get sucked into his detailed work. You'll contemplate it for hours! He is exhibiting with Nav Juty.
Often it's Summer time that is full to the brim of arty opportunities, Summer exhibitions and plenty to see. But how fortunate we are to have such a feast for the eyes in Salisbury, with so many artists exhibiting in cold dark February!
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