Thursday, 21 November 2013

Newsletter November 2013

It has been quite a year this year. I entered three paintings into the Sunday Times watercolour competition at the last minute (I literally had ten minutes left to closing time) and was totally astounded when I had one of them accepted. The competition is the most pregistious in the UK so to be accepted was an honour and an achievement. The exhibition of paintings was shown at the Mall Galleries in London in September and is currently touring the UK offices of the exhibition sponsor, Smith and Williamson. Hopefully all the works will be going to the Guildford House Gallery, between 7 December - 3 January 2014. For more information visit the Watercolour Competition website.

At the time of entry I was also showing my work at Holmfirth Artweek, as I have done for the last fifteen years, but this year brought about a fantastic surprise. I was amazed when I discovered I had won the Pennine Wealth Management award for Best In Show. It's moments like these as well as selling work that give an artist a real boost.

I have been working hard at my painting this year which has culminated in a number of my works being exhibited. In September I took four new paintings to the Gallery at Bevere just outside Worcester. The gallery stock select artists along with fantastic ceramics and have a relaxing cafe, all situated at Bevere just outside Worcester.  For more information go to the Bevere gallery website.

This year I have been invited to exhibit my work alongside 12 other artists in an Autumn exhibition at Millyard Gallery, Uppermill, Saddleworth. The exhibition is running now, so if you would like to visit or find out more, check out the gallery website.

My main exhibition this year is currently at Harrison Lord Gallery in Brighouse, West Yorkshire. This time the gallery have teamed me up with Catherine McGrath who paints beautiful industrial compositions in heavy body acrylic. On the opening preview night I sold a third of my show so a big thank you to everyone for making it such a success!  The exhibition will continue until 30th November, so again if you wish to visit please visit the gallery website for more information.

My courses have continued to be popular again this year with every event over subscribed. I have conducted forty-four demonstrations, from Morecambe Bay and Lytham St Annes in the West, to Horncastle and Pickering in the East, from Gosforth and Church Brough in the North, to Bedfordshire and Stevenage in the South. As well as all this I have run sixteen workshops along with forty-two course sessions and a weekend in Slaidburn. I spent a weekend gathering subjects in the winter mountains of the Lake District in February and went back to the Lakeland mountains again for a weekend in April. We walked the Nidderdale Way in August and I was back in the mountains again, this time in North Wales, in October. Somehow, in between all these events, I have also managed to paint around fifty new works.

Coming up
2014 is looking to be just as busy. Already I have twenty-six demonstrations booked, eight day workshops and I will also be running my usual course dates throughout spring and then again from September to the end of November. Details of my courses and booking facility for 2014 will be online soon at
As usual I will be painting throughout the year and I am really looking forward to developing some new ideas to push my work a bit further. Recently I have been invited to run a painting course in Provence in the South of France in July 2014. I’m really excited about this as it will be lovely to be able to paint outside without the difficulties of the UK weather.

Finally - What do you see in art?

A short take on the human perception of art...
Which way round is it? perhaps the most insulting question you can ask an artist, but then again are you really supposed to know which way round it goes? In some cases, does it matter? At one of my exhibitions a long time ago, a customer was interested in buying one of my pieces and right on the point of sale the gallery manager thought he'd jolly things along by declaring that he "preferred this one upside down", followed up with a loud bellowing laugh. It was like one of those awful gags in the middle of a formal dinner that has gone too far and instead of achieving uproarious laughter from his audience, we were left open mouthed in disbelief at what he'd just said. I didn't let him sell another piece of my art after that.

Snobbery is unfortunately part of the art world too. If you are not in the current who’s who of art you’re not worth bothering with. On the contrary most artists who don’t cut the mustard to this level are actually much more proficient than those that do. I remember not long ago I was delivering some work into a well known exhibition and the assistant (who is also an artist), rather grumpily took it from me, looked at it, turned it round, looked at it again, frowned and asked in a rather forthright manner "what is it?" It was plainly obvious what it was so I answered "it's a painting". Well what else was I supposed to say? You ask an insolent question, you get an insolent answer.

So what do you really see in art? Well for a start we are all different, we all have different tastes and we all have different likings for a whole myriad of subjects. Artists sort of muddle all that up with their own interpretations and personal styles. Edgar Degas famously once said 'Art is not what you see but what you make others see'. He was right. A true artist will take a subject and bend the rules a bit, change the colours, add something, take something out or make something bigger.  We exaggerate, show you a new world from a different angle, share unexpected colours, infuse atmosphere or light into a scene and even then, in the end result, you may see something different, something that wasn’t intended.

At the preview of my exhibition this year one client pointed out a lake in one of my paintings and asked "how the hell do you paint water like that with all the ripples in it?" There were no ripples or I certainly didn't intend to paint any. But who am I to correct his vision?

The worst 'visions' though usually come from hecklers at painting demonstrations. "Now that you've done that, all I can see is Jimmy Hill in that tree", or "Is it just me or can anyone else see the outline of Italy in the sky?" They are sort of ‘Mary Magdalene appeared in my toast’ moments and it’s probably why most artists are rather reserved about the process of their own creation. Sometimes you feel like barking back, "It’s not finished yet!", but professionals rarely get critiqued and there are no better judges than hecklers in audiences, so I find the best way is to actually listen. One spectator once loudly asked me at the end of my demonstration, "And what are you going to do with that wall? I mean it looks awful. It's like breeze block or something." The remainder of the art group around her looked shocked and embarrassed and I even received a written apology from the chairman later. But was that really necessary? I mean, in all honesty she was right and all she was doing was expressing her view, albeit in a forthright manner. There were probably other people thinking the same but not daring to say it, so she was rather brave to express her thoughts out loud. It certainly made me think and I did alter the painting, not to please her but because she made me see something that I hadn't.

But art is not just about seeing things, it is about having ideas and having the courage to put those ideas down on paper or canvas. This is often a quality that sets artists apart and I see it all the time when I am teaching. I call it the fear of failure factor. But fear of failure can only be overcome by experience. Fear is also brought about by the sheer amount of techniques that the artist needs to use. One simple application of paint might involve brush handling, the way the paint is applied, the speed of application, never mind the strength of colour used at the time, the level of saturation, the timing of all those processes, the way that shapes and values are interpreted, the emotion of the artist in the moment and, of course, the courage used in the way that the paint is applied.

So next time you look at a piece of art I hope you look a little deeper and involve yourself a little more perhaps in the background of the work. A creation is far more than just a nice picture or a piece of sculpture or a piece of pottery. It is a moment of an artist's life, captured forever like a fly in the amber, a fossil of feelings, of emotions, of energies that convey to you a set of qualities that you admire and cherish and through that admiration comes enjoyment, the end of the line for the process of creation.

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