Pictures at an Exhibition

The past year has gone by in a flash; I can’t believe it is twelve months since I took a giant leap and joined Frome Valley Art, affiliated to the Society for All Artists, of which I have been a member for some years.

I was nervous of joining, worried my work wasn’t up to the group’s high standard. For months I felt very much the new girl in school. It was only during the last two months I finally felt at ease, and often called upon for advice and help to my fellow painters. The group is friendly, always helping each other, and we have a lot of fun and laughs. There is no a formal tutor, we paint our own thing in our own style, in any medium we wish. Occasionally we have workshops or demonstrations, either given by one of our more experienced members or by invitation to well-known professional artists, this year’s included Keith Hornblower and Arnold Lowry.

Those past few months have also included the lead up to the group’s 23rd Annual Art Exhibition. There were many decisions to make, such as what pieces to show bearing in mind only five could be submitted. Could I get this current one finished in time? Would I be able to find the right frame or correct mount for it? What price do I put on each? Will I be disappointed if nothing sells? With nearly 200 framed exhibits along with almost 100 unframed but mounted artwork submitted, and with such an amazing about of talent producing excellent of work, the likelihood of returning home with the same number of pieces as delivered before the show, was high.

The Exhibition took place over the weekend of 12th and 13th May 2018, this being my first public exhibition. Having only had one small private exhibition before, I did not know what to expect. Finally it was time to deliver the paintings, where the stewards checked they were suitable for hanging, matched the details previously submitted, the correct catalogue number stuck on and duly hung with their corresponding labels: title, artist, medium, price. Not all were for sale, there were many green dots about.

Prior to exhibition opening was a Preview Evening where fellow members and guests could come and see the works as we enjoyed a glass of wine or two while we looked, admired and commented and mingled between the many boards filling the venue. And a most enjoyable evening it was too. It was also an opportunity to meet other members of the group we rarely see. A chance to put faces to names. Frome Valley Art runs an afternoon and evening session every Friday, it is only at demonstrations we get together, when there is little time for socialising and, even then, not everyone is able to come. It was also fun watching everyone’s reaction to the various pieces on show. Wondering what people were saying as they stood in front of mine. Were they discussing them? Did they admire them? Dislike them?

So, preview evening over. Followed by two days of nail biting. Two days of wondering… before it was time to collect our paintings after the exhibition had closed.

I went to my board – saw an empty space, a lonely label. Had one of the stewards already begun taking down my pictures?  Then it dawned on me: one of my works had sold – elation! It was one I had decided to show at the last minute. It was also the one I least expected to sell.


“Buttermere” SOLD

And I am no longer a public exhibition virgin. That must count for something!

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Painting Outside My Comfort Zone

I love to paint. It’s a wonderful hobby and given me a lot of fulfilment, but also a lot frustration. This is apparent when a painting doesn’t work out quite as envisaged. Or when my husband, my harshest critic, doesn’t like something I’ve created. His opinion of art is that a painting should be photographic in its image, especially when observed up close. He doesn’t understand a painting is simply an artist’s interpretation and that most art should be seen from several feet away. I think this is the main reason I became increasingly self-critical and hesitant to start a new picture, to the point towards the end of last year I had totally lost my mojo. This, for me, was bad news. Put simply, I had no idea what to paint.

I spent hours trawling the Internet for images, days scanning photographs on Pinterest seeking that one picture that would get the creative juices flowing again. I splashed out on half a dozen large canvases, took long drives with camera at the ready – anything to fire the enthusiasm and push me into opening a tube of paint, dusting off the brushes and setting up the easel. All to no avail. I seriously thought I was burnt out where painting was concerned. And staring at a blank canvas, not knowing what to put down, is as bad as a writer staring at a blank sheet of paper or computer screen at a loss for words.100_6751

Then one day, whilst idling a morning away on Facebook, an advertisement popped up of a forthcoming day’s art class being held in my region. The tutor, Jeremy Ford, a professional artist I knew from watching many painting programmes on TV and whose work I admired even though he doesn’t use acrylics, was tutoring in pastels – a medium I had tried a couple of times but always a disaster and incredibly messy to use, let alone all the chalk dust created. The fee was expensive but all materials were to be supplied and open to beginners and established artists alike. I wondered whether trying a different medium might give me some inspiration, as I was beginning to get withdrawal symptoms from not painting for so long and frightened I might lose what little talent I had. Having nothing much else to do in the middle of November on a dreary Saturday, I thought what the heck! Let’s give it a go. So I booked. And wondered what I had let myself in for.

Poppyfield Pastel

The location was some distance from home, an hour’s drive through heavy fog, as it turned out, but the moment I walked into the venue I felt at ease, even though I was the last to arrive, and a little late! We got down to work, with Jeremy explaining step-by-step how to use pastels correctly. And most important of all – how not to make a lot of dust. The most difficult part is using the fingers or side of the hand to blend in the colours. If done right, no dust should be created at all. Brilliant! It was hard work but the day flew by. Although we were all painting the same two paintings, one in the morning, the second after lunch, everyone’s work was different. I was more than pleased with the two works I did, and so enthused I came away with a pastel pad and a bundle of pastels Jeremy said we could keep if we wanted in order to do some pastels at home.

Lake District Pastel

I drove home elated, satisfied with the day. More importantly, I had regained my confidence and found my mojo. Since that day I have produced another painting in acrylics, started another, and even attempted one in pastel, although I binned that as it wasn’t good. But I shall not give up. It certainly paid to step out of the box for once and away from my comfort zone. Long may it continue.