I was so honoured to have my image of Ivy Leaping selected as the front cover of ‘Paint’ the magazine for the Society of All Artists. It was published this month, and looks fantastic. Lovely article inside too. It’s a particularly poignant image for me as it was the first work I produced after having children and dealing with various health issues that I felt really began to reflect where I wanted to go with my art. I had previously been known for very traditional, realist works. I liked them, but there was little to distinguish them from the many realist artists out there. I wanted to create a body of art that felt more my own, rather than the culmination of a traditional atelier education. I am rarely happy when I look at my older work, I always see scope for improvement, but in this one, I still love it as much as when I first finished it.
I drove up to Tuxford last weekend to attend the S.E.A. awards. I was fairly spot on with my predictions, although not always the right category! The main award is going to be presented next week, at the private view in London at the Osborne studio Gallery, so I will do a list of winners next week. I was a bit suprised to find the categories had changed, and I feel there needs to be more transparency within the society of the judging process.
I’ve been back in the studio, after what feels like a very long break. In fact I got face full of cobwebs when I walked in, so at least someone has been busy. I’m working some new equine pieces, and here is one in progress on the easel!
Society of Widlife Artists
‘Monkey Business’ got through the first round and has now been dispatched for second round judging – fingers crossed!
I have to replace my old easel. I first picked him up in Florence, part of a job lot being replaced by the Charles H. Cecil Studio where I had been studying. I was setting up a realist summer art school with James Napier, in London, and we bought them for a pittance, and, I presume, jammed them into our cars to get them back, I can’t imagine I flew them back, even in the heady days of limitless baggage on easyjet.
Charles H. Cecil Studio
They did service at the summer school, which rolled on for a year or two, eventually developing into the now enormously successful London Academy of Realist Art (drawpaintsculpt.com) which these days is run by James and his sister. I hung onto my easel (sorry James!) and its done a decade or so with me. A year or so in the punishingly expensive studios of London, a thankfully short while sharing what was basically a cave with James in the London Bronze Foundry and then more recently in my studio here.
The old easel with a work in progress
Old age has got him finally, in the end. He shakes and shudders, arthritic in every joint, and is also incontinent, leaking onto my feet (or the spaniels sleeping below) various noxious fluids I use in my work. I had a moment of madness, shopping late night on my ipad and bought a beast from Jacksons Art, a beechwood Chippendale of a model by Mabef. I’m pretty sure it cost more than my first car. It rolls, extends, lays flat, has drawers, but part of me will miss my old, paint encrusted easel from Italy, who knows how many students, and how many works have been created in his rickety wooden embrace?
I’ve been asked recently, a few times, to have students or young teenagers for work experience. This is always as much of an experience for me as I imagine it is for them, as I see my younger self reflected in their faces, and their dreams. I wonder if I had spent any serious time with an artist in my teens whether I would have taken fright at the path I was choosing! I didn’t stumble into being an artist, it is what I wanted to do from a very young age. I knew, with out doubt, that there was no other path that would give me the same satisfaction and happiness. That is not to say it was a choice without hurdles, my art foundation year at E.C.V. in Paris was at an art school largely geared towards graphic design and advertising, and I saw that this would be a more lucrative path. Luckily, I was hopeless at graphic design, and remained on my road. I then studied at Durham University, and watched my peers go on to quickly earn decent salaries in the city, and buy houses. I wondered if I should maybe get the ‘proper job’ that my mother kept hinting at. A brief detour into portraiture taught me a huge amount (the main lesson being that I was not a portrait artist).
‘Ivy Leaping’ Oil on canvas
Why I do what I do.
I think, it was clear in my head that I was unable ‘not’ to be an artist, that being prevented from painting and drawing makes me unhappy and frustrated. I constantly have ideas and plans buzzing around in my brain, I see inspiration in the every day routine of life, be it winter light though the hedge on the school run or watching a wildlife programme on late night TV. I realise I am fortunate to have known what I wanted to do, and to have had the support to achieve it, but it is both a blessing and a curse. People often say to me ‘Why don’t you paint such and such?’ or ‘Why don’t you draw only charcoals?’ The answer is that I can’t. I have to stay to true to what I want to paint, to my vision as an artist. If I try to paint to please other people I feel I end up pleasing no one, and in the end my art deteriorates.
‘Blaze of Glory’ Charcoal on paper
Advice for artists starting out
One of the bloggers I read regularly, Making a Mark by Katherine Tyrell, posted this great link to the 2103 BP Portrait winner Susanne du Toit’s Top Ten Tips for being an artist. They resonate with me, and I think I will pass them onto the work experience students. The other piece of advice that I read somewhere recently was “Learn to live on less” and it struck a chord. Most artists will never earn a fortune, or get serious recognition, but they will be an artist, and that is reward in itself.