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Looking back, looking forward.

2013 has been a great year.
I think at the outset I was determined it was going to be a good one. 2012 had been pretty shit, I badly broke my ankle, and then, having recovered from that, was diagnosed with cancer. There seems to be a general view that skin cancer is somehow a less dangerous form of cancer, more of a cosmetic irritation. Which I admit, was probably a view I also held. (Got a dodgy mole – just get it chopped off; problem solved.) Turns out, that’s not how it works, and skin cancer is as frightening a black hole to look into as any other cancer. I was lucky.

So, my aims for 2013 were to get fit and healthy, and to acquire an agent/gallery in London, plus at least one other in the UK.
I also wanted to grow my ‘brand’ through PR, social media, retail outlets, and by entering a selection of Art competitions. People always seem surprised when they ask me about my daily working life how much time is spent away from the studio, but being successful as an artist is largely about being successful as a business. No one is going to wander into your studio and buy enough art to warrant you to pay tax. So it was a happy moment taking this photo of my picture “Ivy Leaping” in prime position in the window of Oil & Water in Wandsworth, another goal ticked off the list!

Oil & Water Gallery, Old York Road, SW19

I also signed up with The Stockbridge Gallery in Hampshire, and managed to get into the BBC wildlife artist of the year finals. It has been clear through my work that I’ve managed to rediscover sense of joy, that I think had been noticeably absent.
I’ve tried to be bolder, more experimental and use greater colour than ever before, and have found that this has seeped out of the studio and into what I eat, what I wear and my outlook on life in general.

“Over the last”

I am excited about 2014, about the opportunities and possibilities that lie ahead; my solo show with Oil and Water Gallery in June 2014, the competitions coming up, and of course, the many and varied people that I so love meeting in the course of work. I feel very blessed (well, except for the tax bill obvs!)
Happy New Year

Me, wearing my favorite new jumper!
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Art Competitions.

I’ve been spreading myself far and wide in the past couple of months entering pretty much every art competition going. My painting ‘Stags in Rut’ was awarded ‘Commended’ in its category in the BBC Wildlife Artist of the year, and I was given a lovely certificate, (though frankly would have quite liked the free safari and/or some cash!) and I got to spend the day in Marwell Zoo with the immensely talented Fran Sanders , who is a genuine wildlife artist.

I did wonder if I could stretch the boundaries of truth and enter the Sky.com portrait competition which is offering a very lucrative prize pot. Ironically I trained as a portrait artist, but quickly discovered I wasn’t best suited to that career; the best portrait artists leave their clients half in love with them, whereas I think my sittings were more akin to spending time with the Gestapo. I can’t chit chat while painting, listen to Shania Twain on loop and am not very tolerant of ‘suggestions’. Suffice to say, it was a short stint, and I moved into painting animals, which are largely silent and un-opinionated. Here’s an example of one of my early portraits (paid model – did as was told.)

This brings us back to horses, and the next big competition on the horizon is the Society of Equine Artists which is held in the Mall Galleries in London. The racing paintings are progressing really well, creating the spray of paint and movement has been challenging, but despite a paint splattered spaniel have been mostly successful. Loving painting on a bigger scale too, the one below is nearly 4 feet wide.

The Henley Arts Trail was a resounding success, hundreds people trooping through the studio doors, viewing and buying art. However next year, to save time, I might equip myself with one of these T-shirts….

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Art world Snakes and Ladders

It really does feel like that sometimes. I get an enormous boost up the ladder from something – selection as a finalist for the BBC Wildlife Artist of the Year competition, or a couple of great commissions, but then the next week, an agent or gallery rejection will send me slithering back down the snake to square, if not one, then further from the finish.

Being an artist is not an easy career choice, it is very personal, and requires an extremely thick skin, and a limitless amount of self belief. I am learning to enjoy the journey, and celebrate the successes, and write off the ‘failures’ as just another stepping stone. In many ways, being an artist is not a career, but a life, and as the great Winston Churchill said
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”

So philosophising apart – being selected for the BBC Wildlife AOY is fantastic, the next round of judging is next week. This is the painting selected, which is in the ‘British Mammals’ category. Fingers crossed, but to be selected at all is an honour.

 
 
 
 
It is also ‘open studio’ time for the Henley Arts Trail this May bank holiday weekend. An event I love, not least for the interaction with so many talented local artists, and the opportunity to meet art enthusiasts from the region. It also forces me to to do an annual studio spring clean, without which I would vanish under a tide of wrecked brushes, dried out tubes of paint, and empty turps bottles.
 
 
I have been working on a new series of racing paintings, developing new techniques using an airbrush, (rescued from immense frustration with it by Andrew Breeze) and I am pleased with the results. They are more contemporary than previous work, and pretty big, but I have so enjoyed painting them, which always shows in the final result.
 
“Over the Last” Oil on Canvas 40×30 inches