Repeat visits

I’m writing this blog post in between Open Studio visitors (Yes! I have actually had some. That made me smile). We’re almost 10 miles from the centre of Saffron Walden – possibly the furthest out of town of all the exhibiting artists, so I know we won’t get as many visitors as those who are centrally placed. But that’s OK with me. We spent last night setting up and can now be relaxed and take our time talking to visitors about the how and the why of my painting, and loval art in general.

For every artist, Open Studios is a different experience, and the goal is also very different. For some, it’s important to sell paintings because that’s how they make their living. I am in awe of their brave commitment to creating art full time. I just get a thrill seeing all my paintings displayed in one place. I’m always amazed at how many I have produced :-D.  It’s a good way to get a perspective on a range of your work, and a sale is a wonderful bonus. I do have the occasional crisis of confidence as well, but I think that’s all just part of the creative process.

I read a quote by Billy Connolly today that resonates with me:

“my art is pure and un-judged, I am creating for myself, it is personal and private”.

I can see why he says that.  While I get huge enjoyment from sharing my paintings, I find it’s important to remember that the fundamental point of painting is the creation of an image for it’s own sake.  I think the pleasure of art from the artist’s perspective has two distinct stages: First the thrill of watching the image emerge, and then you get to experience it again when someone else sees and enjoys the painting.

The process of preparing for Saffron Walden Open Studios has given me the opportunity to reflect once again on what I love about painting, and on how much I love seeing people get enjoyment from my work. That’s the real thrill of a painting sale too – you really know the painting is loved when someone buys it. Even more so when someone who already has one of my paintings comes back for more.

Road to Nowhere (watercolour - 38 x 20cm) SOLD
Road to Nowhere (watercolour – 38 x 20cm) SOLD
Flyaway Tree (watercolour -  39 x 29) SOLD
Flyaway Tree (watercolour – 39 x 29) SOLD

It absolutely made my weekend when I got the request from someone who wanted to buy these two paintings on the night before Open Studios. The lovely thing about it that they are going to join one of my other paintings already in the same house.

Today’s seems to be all about return visits. I tweeted a comment about how strange it is that Facebook page Likes seem to come in waves, rather like buses: a flurry and then nothing for a while. And got a lovely response from Susan  (@EarthWhorls) who tweeted back “your work is startling & beautiful – I would think you’d get lots of return visitors.”  (Thank you, Susan)

Just a little slice off here, and a little slice off there….

In the lead up to Open Studios later this month, I’ve spent some time finishing off paintings. I’ve developed the habit of letting paintings sit at various stages. They stand on easels in the studio or get taped up on the wall while I enjoy pondering their development. In some cases I’m simply enjoying the paint itself. Every stage of a painting has a beauty of its own: It could be the energy of a brushstroke or two, or the anticipation of the next step.  Sometimes they are allowed to sit, just because I’m not entirely sure that they are finished.

Watercolour painting of trees and hills - Horizons

This painting started life much bigger and with different proportions. Finally, I decided it would be improved by removing a section of either side (neither of which was terribly exciting) leaving the core of the image with it’s more dynamic lines and sense of perspective.  Sometimes, the critical step in the improvement of a painting is not what you put in, but in fact – what you take away.  Doing so in this case, allowed the distant light over the hills to draw the eye, after an initial lingering on the dramatic textures in foreground trees.

There’s more to do to get ready for open studios. I have my fingers firmly crossed for good weather so we can open the garden to raise some funds for Care for Casualties. The garden looks fabulous in June, provided it hasn’t rained continuously for weeks.

View from my watercolour painting studio
The view from my studio

The view from my studio is particularly lush right now and the doors are flung wide open as soon as I get into it, so as to ensure that I appreciate every moment of it it, whenever possible.

June is definitely Chairty month in our house. This evening we’ve started the bike ride in aid of Mind. There will be sore behinds and many hours of waiting around – but Chris and Helen have raised well over £2000 for the charity so I’m sure they will count it a privilege to have painful rear ends.  More snippets about their progress may creep into this blog in the coming week. You have been warned.

Open Studios in June

Where did the last three weeks go?  If feels like ages since I picked up my brushes. But there is good reason. In the interim I have had no studio days at all. I’ve been working in London and then whisked off to South Africa on a business trip so it’s been a bit difficult to get into the studio. For some reason I find it incredibly difficult to get my head into painting when I am working intensely, so the creative side of my life seems to get put on hold at those times. Ah well – it means I have something to look forward to when I have a break.

The next exhibition I’ll be doing is the Saffron Waldon Open Studios weekend of 22nd and 23rd June. We’ll simultaneously be opening out garden and serving tea and cake in return for donations to Care for Casualties. Fingers are firmly crossed for good weather. So if you’re in the area, do pop in and visit.

And if you’re further South, here’s the list of other artists taking part. I only wish I could go and visit some of the other studios.

Saffron Walden Open Studio page 2Saffron Walden Open Studios leaflet

The garden is looking marvellous just in time for Open Studios. Now we just need to hope it stays dry and sunny.

Blooming border in early June 2013.
Blooming border in early June 2013.