At the weekend I had the great pleasure of delivering two beautiful paintings to a beautiful home. It was the end of the commission process and I drove away feeling absolutely delighted with a job well done.
The story began a few months ago when my client spotted a painting in an exhibition at Waterstones. She went home and happily told her husband secretly hoping that perhaps he might invest in an original painting for her birthday. Little did she know that her husband also went to Waterstones, checked out the painting that she liked and made a decision to commission me for a bespoke piece.
The next stage of the process was him visiting my studio. He came armed with various photographs of his beautiful White Park cattle. I can't tell you how I felt when I saw those photos; they are such picturesque animals. Blue black ears and noses juxtaposed with their creamy white faces make them an incredible subject matter to paint.
The next stage was very exciting as I arranged to visit the farm meet the cows themselves!
I was shown in to the pen with the bull by the herdsman. My heart lept into my throat when he informed me "If I say run, run. I'm not mucking about"! The bull was actually very placid and calm and not bothered at all by me crawling around on the ground trying to get photos every conceivable angle. However I'm reliably informed that the calm bulls are the ones you have to watch out for, but that day was my lucky day and I escaped completely unharmed!
Next was selecting the most picturesque of the cows. I focused on three or four in particular. The cows were so friendly and curious whilst I was photographing one, another would rest her nose on my shoulder, while a third decided to lick my arm. It didn't bother me at all these are beautiful friendly beasts and besides if you're going to paint animals this is an occupational hazard!
The next stage is quite formal where I draw up a commission agreement. This is really important for both artist and client as it makes sure that absolutely everyone involved knows what's happening. The price quoted is the price paid no hidden extras here. Everything is agreed from the reference photographs to be used, the size of the painting, the frames, the canvas, and the style.
I began with a couple of really rough sketches, sometimes I like to do the sketches in situ in front of the animals. My rough sketches aren't clear enough to act as a true reference but they capture the character of the animal. I enjoyed the stage very much indeed.
The next stage is marking out the underpainting on my beautiful linen canvases. This is very formal and painstaking you have to get it right. With any commission piece I am no longer trying to capture the essence of a breed, I am capturing the beauty of a specific animal.
After this it's a question of balancing style with accuracy. I wanted a glint in the eye, and a beautiful shiny black nose but also to incorporate my characteristic colours. Though on these pieces the colours on not quite as strong as usual as the black-and-white had to be the main focus.
Once completed the paintings were framed and then delivered to a happy client.
I absolutely love these two, they were a joy to paint.
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.
Wherever you live, artists will compare the lack of arts in their area to a much more an arty place, and secretly wish they lived in the much more arty place. And if you're an artist in an arty place you'll wish you were somewhere where there was no competition whatsoever and you were the only artist in the village!
Actually us artists are often quite a positive bunch, but sometimes it's just nice to blame where you are for a lack of sales or a lack of action.
The thing is, I rather like living in Salisbury and the arts scene is rather good, and will get better and better the more people join in with it as artists, crafters, makers and visitors.
Here is my run down of where to see some art and where to create it.
Once every two years Plain Arts Salisbury hosts Salisbury art trail. That event alone has over 100 artists taking part all across the city and it's rather marvellous. The trail was in October last year, so it's not an art trail year this year, but there are still plenty of reasons to join Plain arts if you're an artist or want to find out more about the Salisbury arts scene. And there's a bargain to be had right now...
Many of the Plain artists exhibit in places that aren't galleries, and that's brilliant! The Medical centre on Wilton road host seasonal exhibitions, usually with about six artists each time. How marvellous it is, when you visit the doctor or the dentist, and you're greeted with works of art in the waiting room and down the corridors. Boston tea party, and Waterstones both host monthly exhibitions for local artists to showcase their work. The work in all of these places is for sale, but actually it's about getting art into public places and getting people to see it and love it.
There are some lovely galleries too, small ones like The Yard and Graham Oliver gallery which are well worth a visit. There is also New Red Studios; another gem of a gallery where boundaries are being pushed, questions and ideas being challenged in the context of art practice. Along with the much larger Fisherton Mill gallery, which is so welcoming and you'll find incredible diversity in the types of visual arts produced there. It's one of those places you return to again and again as there's always something wonderful to see.
Salisbury arts centre has regular professional exhibitions and some wonderful workshops to get involved in. Currently in the main exhibition space is Walking...Landscape...Memory. And there's the ever popular Dr sktechys, life drawing with a twist, on the last Wednesday of every month.
Studio 53 is a cracking studio gallery, it's tucked away in George street, but a treat awaits you when you find it. Their next exhibition is Suspended form and it opens on Friday 5th Feb. They have life drawing classes on Thursdays.
Salisbury Museum is a hidden gem. Set in the picturesque Cathedral close, it's easily missed, but my goodness there are some incredible exhibitions there. Last Autumn they had a wonderful Turner exhibition and some fascinating talks and workshops alongside it. The museum has just had a Hinchcliffe exhibition and on Jan 30th the John Craxton exhibition begins. It's worth checking out their website too, as in addition to their exhibitions there are usually accompanying workshops and talks from local artists and curators. I've done many painting workshops at the museum and I love doing them, in addition printmaker Sally Firino and sculptor Charlotte Morton, also feature on the museum's list of artists. The museum also does a young curators club one Saturday in every month, it's free and great fun.
Salisbury craft and heritage fair is in September and hosts beautiful work from local and national artists on the Cathedral lawns. The quality of work is extraordinary and good value as you are buying directly form the artist or crafts person; start saving and treat yourself to something beautiful.
So, I'm rather happy about being an artist living and working in Salisbury. At the risk of paraphrasing Richard Curtis, "Art is all around us"
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