Pop-up Gallery brightens up town

Sunday morning found me hidden away behind a closed shutter in Horsham’s main shopping mall, Swan Walk working on a very special project. I was setting up a “Pop-Up Gallery” with a small number of professional artists from the local area.  The Gallery looks wonderful already with a great mix of humorous sculpture (see left), paintings on canvas, framed watercolour paintings, abstract photography, ceramics & large-scale sculptures. Horsham deserves a fine art gallery and for 5 days, with the kind co-operation of the Swan Walk Manager Gill Buchanan, we have been granted the chance to provide one. 

Pop Up Shops as a concept have grown during the current economic recession, the idea that you take an empty retail unit and bring it back to life, to bring a spot of colour and activity to a town centre is popular. Despite our love of on-line shopping, we also mourn the loss of a bustling, thriving town centre where people can meet, browse, wander and just enjoy the shopping experience.

In our gallery we will have artists and sculptors at work, happy to talk to you about what they do and why. Judging by the number of people already trying to peek a look through the window, I’m sure  it will create a buzz in our corner of Swan Walk, beside the eponymous swan sculpture and high street giants BHS, Sony, The Real Eating Company & Ann Summers! I’d love you to come in and say hello and show us your support by telling your friends. We are only open 5 days so be sure to “Pop In”! 

Gallery opening times 

Wed 6th to Sat 9th March 10-5  Sunday 10th March 11-3

Contributing artists & examples of their work:

www.artbylucyames.com  Autumn, Worthing, painting
www.lesley-taylor.com          Rioja Shocka, sculpture
www.sculptureform.co.uk   Wrapped Head, sculpture
www.stevegubbins.co.uk      In God’s Hands, ceramic
www.knoelpaton.co.uk        Poinsettia painting

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All publicity is good publicity

the usual mess

In the March edition of AAH (All about Horsham) magazine you will read that I like to work in a mess and see a photo of me in my studio surrounded  by a veritable jumble of paints, brushes & boxes. Of all the things we talked about it is not the main message that I would have chosen to get across to the county but as they say, all publicity is good publicity and the resulting article reads well. It is true that I do a lot of my work on the floor where space is less restricted, where I can reach out and grab a brush or palette knife, throw paint if I need to and generally be quite messy. It seems that this image struck a chord with AAH photographer, Toby Phillips, who insisted that I brought back in all the clutter that I had spent the previous hour taking out of my studio! Toby’s photography is crisp and distinctive and he’s a genius with Photoshop (though I stand by my claim that no airbrushing was involved in my photo!). The interview with editor Ben Morris was enjoyable. His relaxed and easy style soon found me back at ease after the appearance of a dictaphone had thrown me into stammers and a stilted manner of talking! I am delighted to be in this fabulous local magazine as featured artist for March, available online now or through your letterbox from Wednesday.

www.tobyphillipsphotography.co.uk

www.aahorsham.co.uk/content/septaah

 

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Competition winner is simply inspired

Back at the start of autumn when Christmas seemed far in the distance, I set a competition. If you remember I rather brattishly exclaimed that all good brands have a catchy strapline and “I want one”!! Relishing a challenge you sent me a heap of creative and clever ideas to choose from. Thank you for every entry. The winning line, from Juliette Schenck, captured me from the moment I read it, ‘Simply Inspired’.

‘Simply Inspired’ has a clever double meaning. It refers to the paintings being inspiring but equally to the simple way in which clients can commission a painting from me even if they have only the smallest inspiration for what they want. Here are two case studies below from my portfolio to show how it works:

** Battersea Power Station

This was for a couple living in Battersea. Their only brief to me was that they wanted to bring some colour into an otherwise neutral room. We talked about their lives and interests, and looked at paintings they liked. They then took me up to the roof-top terrace overlooking the Power Station and that view had us all engaged & excited. It was obvious it had to be the basis for their painting. We agreed I would paint it in masculine greys, charcoals, blacks and silvers but to add red for warmth and as a basis for other accessories in the room. I gave the paint surface a rough texture to represent cement and brick which makes people want to touch it. 

 

** Mad Men 50’s chic

This was commissioned by a couple who love the ‘Mad Men’ series on TV and all the style of the 1950’s era. When I spoke to them they told me how they loved ‘Joan’ in the series for her subliminal power over all the overtly powerful men in the offices. The lady commissioning the painting herself had hints of Joan with intelligence, red hair and curves. It was apparent they loved the vintage glamour of the decade with the sophisticated suits, gloves, hats and tailored dresses. We agreed on a fashion-style illustration of Joan. To add interest I covered the canvas with collaged images from the 1950’s. Amongst other icons, you can see Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Onassis,1950’s adverts for lipstick, cigarettes & stockings, covers from Life & Time magazine. To bring it right up to the modern day I threw splashes of paint over the top, Jackson Pollock style. It is a painting to be studied closely and a talking point in their home.
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The SusseX-Factor

You could call it the SusseX-Factor. It was The Woman of the Year awards 2012 at the Hilton Avisford Park.

The awards attracted successful women from across the county in all lines of work; healthcare to local government, sport, health and yes, even art, dressed in our finest and ready to make a speech if necessary.

The event was organised by Johnston Press in association with the Mumpreneurs Networking Club (MNC). MNC are my business lifeline providing information, advice, contacts and also a lot of fun. As I now work alone, I treat them as my colleagues!

I’d been shortlisted for the Woman in Arts and Businesswoman categories, with heaps of great nominees in each.

The awards had very quickly become known colloquially as the WOTY’s.  At the final hurdle I was a “NOTY” not a “WOTY”. The Woman in Arts award went to the Director of Chichester Festival Youth Theatre, Dale Rooks & Businesswoman to Rachel Boyle, founder of ABC Magazine. Worthy winners indeed.

The awards night itself was a glamourfest. Chichester’s boutique & Worthing’s beauty salon owners set the bar high – and the backs of their dresses low! 

I felt graceful and elegant in my raspberry dress with an on-trend lace top, from Allium B – my favourite find this year. Allium B is a small Brighton-based company set up by two sisters who want to source and sell beautiful and unusual dresses. They’re precisely the type of go-getters represented at the awards – and I don’t doubt they’ll be winning a few prizes of their own in 2013.

 

I’d suggest to anyone running a small business to have a go at entering such awards. Through being nominated, I had two great business profiles in the Worthing Herald and Etc Magazine – from which I’ve already had a painting commission. There’s nothing to lose in going for it and everything to gain by simply being a part.

Creative Mi Bewick of Brighton, provided photography throughout the night and managed to still look glamorous despite lugging round a ton of camera equipment. Thanks to Mi for the photos used here.

Links:  www.mibewick.co.uk     www.alliumb.com            www.jpsouthevents.co.uk      www.fireworkscoaching.co.uk    MNC  www.agoodgossip.co.uk

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Value your relationships

What makes a customer buy an original painting? Why do they choose an original as opposed to a print or a mass reproduction? Understanding the answers to these questions should be at the very heart of everything I do. I draw and paint because I love the creativity, I thrive on working with new materials and playing with new ideas but to sell my paintings as a business I have to understand the target market.

As art is so subjective and the purchasing decision often emotive, it is very hard for customers to specify what made them purchase a particular painting. Believe me, I have asked! I asked a lot of people at the Arundel Gallery Trail what made them choose to purchase an original and the answer, more often than not, was that they saw the picture and they ‘simply had to have it’. Now, that is a lovely sentiment and a compelling commentary but it hasn’t helped me understand the art buyers behaviour any better.  I need to understand where they shop, what influences their buying decisions, what magazines do they read, who do they look to for guidance, what objects do they covet…

I was quoted in The Times last month saying that I had to adjust my business model in the early days of Art by Lucy Ames and that is true (and it is still changing).  I realised that I hadn’t understood enough about my customers when I had drawn up my original business plan. I launched my new career with an exhibition of work at the Head Office of the large blue-chip company who had just made me redundant. I made 14 sales and had 4 commissions from that first week of work.  Wow, I thought, this is going to be easy. I’ll set up my work in other major offices in the local area, show my paintings to the staff during their lunch and coffee breaks, and if each one brings in roughly 10 sales, I will only need to do one every quarter. It took me a year (of sitting alone in draughty corporate reception areas, drinking machine coffee) to realise that it wasn’t just the quality of my artwork that had brought in the sales at my launch exhibition, it was the fact that people knew me. Even if they only knew of me indirectly, they were comfortable with who I was and there was a degree of implied trust in what I offered them. Energy and enthusiasm about my work had been created by me but also by the others in the organisation who knew me well. “People buy people” is a quote I have often heard since and it is as true in the business of selling art as it is in any other.

The Times article had several snippets of excellent advice for small business owners and is well worth a read. Two of their ‘insights’ relate directly to the contents of this blog:

  • Don’t underestimate the power of customer research (I refer to my questions, still unanswered!)
  • Take the time to make good contacts and build relationships

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/smallbusinessinsights/article3569036.ece

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Owls are the new cupcakes

Owls are indeed the new cupcakes. What a strange statement you say. I’m not suggesting that anyone with a successful cupcake business should shut up shop and buy an aviary to stock with Harry Potter’s feathered friends. My observation is that retailers spot trends and exploit them, and for the last couple of years cupcakes have been iconic. Anything and everything has had cupcakes printed on it from cards to tablecloths, to iphone covers. I have been guilty myself and produced a few cupcake paintings (a break from seascapes being as good as a rest and all that):

Along with the rest of you, I am now feeling sick on the over-consumption of cupcakes. It would seem we are now embracing all things “Bird-related” in their place. Images of birds are starting to emerge on prints, in magazines, on clothes. Ever one to follow a trend, I bought a summer dress from Sussex-based Melabelle with a cute swallow print.  http://www.melabelle.com

’50 shades of grey’ seems to have influenced our homes as well as our fantasies with grey in all it’s varieties being the wallcolour of choice this year. Literature, interior design, art, illustration have always been intertwined but I am only just realising quite how much their trends affect the types of paintings that my type of customer wants to buy. I have been selling lots of prints in black and grey tones this summer, presumably because they suit the new wallcolours.

When it was de rigueur to have walls in “string” or “clunch” (yes, really, Farrow & Ball!), the paintings that consumers wanted were as minimal as the rooms they would set them in; clean lines/abstracts/soft shades. With the return of vintage, pastels and Cath Kidston inspired homes, I have seen a return to popularity of my flower paintings. As an artist, these trends are clearly something I must keep an eye on and that will involve buying lots of magazines and spending time on the net…praise be!

 

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Break away from beige

I’m passionate about colour whether those colours are bold and vibrant or muted like a Farrow & Ball colour-chart.

As you can see in the photo below from the Arundel Gallery Trail, I  instinctively paint in a harmonious palette of blues; aqua, duckegg, navy, lavender, but it’s unintentional and I feel the need to break out of such a narrow spectrum.

 

I adore the harmonious, tonal pictures in soft shades like the Cornish landscape by Ben Nicholson below. I equally love paintings where the colour really smacks you in the face like this Patrick Heron. 

The whole theory of colour is interesting and colour itself so powerful. I teach the children at school about primary colours and secondary colours then about how the complementary colours can be remembered and we look at it like a maths equation:

if Red, Yellow and Blue are the PRIMARY colours, the SECONDARY colours are the colours that are made by mixing them:

Red + Yellow = Orange

Red+Blue = Purple

Yellow+Blue=Green

To work out the complementary colours, you just look at which primary colour was not included in your original sum and remember that using complementary colours make each other look more vibrant and vivid:

the complementary colour for Orange is Blue (because R+Y=O)

the complementary colour for Purple is Yellow

the complementary colour for Green is Red

Glazing over yet?! Tut tut, just like the kids at school.

It seems to me that Heron was playing with the complementary colours showing how green accentuates red whereas the colours that he has chosen in the same tonal area of the colour chart sit easily next to one another without jarring or shouting out from the canvas.

The vast array of colours at our disposal is a joy and we should use it bravely in our paintings, our homes and our clothes. It affects the way we feel. There is nothing like putting on a red coat on a cold, winter day to brighten the mood and get things done. Red supplies us with energy and warmth. It indicates powerfulness. There is  a place for the delicacy of grey, beige, taupe and mushroom but there is an awful lot to be said for spicing up our lives with cerise, purple, orange and cobalt blue! That’s it, I’m off to the studio to paint a rainbow. Bye!

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Buying art without breaking the bank

The conventional place to look for a painting is a gallery or perhaps from a high street retailer such as John Lewis but there are alternatives that would provide you with more choice, better prices & a more enjoyable/memorable buying experience.

The universities and art schools hold end-of-year degree shows at which there is a lot of work available to purchase. As the artists are as yet unknown, it is a gamble as to whether the work will appreciate in value. But, if you are simply looking to buy a painting or sculpture because you like it then it is a great place to seek out well-priced, inventive artwork.

http://www.northbrook.ac.uk/shows/

The Open House events that started in Brighton, have becoming popular all across the country and offer a fantastic opportunity to buy art direct from the artist. As a buyer you can browse many different styles of paintings/prints in artists homes or studios, and spend time talking to the artist to find out more about what they do, how they do it and the inspiration behind their work. It can make a painting much more interesting to you, the owner, if you know a special story linked to it or feel a connection with the artist who made it. Connections made at the open house events often lead to repeat purchases for that very reason, a personal bond is made between the artist and buyer. Again, prices are more reasonable than at galleries because there is no ‘middle man’ to take commission on top of the product price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the artist as they may be willing to discuss a discount off the published price, particularly towards the end of an event. I highly recommend a visit to the Artists Open Houses in Brighton in May, Chichester Art Trail also in May and Arundel Gallery Trail every August.

www.aoh.org.uk, www.chichesterarttrail.org, www.arundelgallerytrail.co.uk

Most artists offer prints alongside their original artwork and this is another way to own a special piece of art that can’t be bought on the high street, at an affordable price. Prints can be bought unframed or ready-mounted and framed. Sometimes artists offer sketches for sale which are completely without presentation. These can be a great buy but be wary of the additional cost of mounting and framing a large piece.

So next time you have just finished redecorating or have completed an extension on the house, don’t nip out to Ikea or Laura Ashley and buy the first picture that you like which matches the colourscheme (we’ve all done it!). Take time out to enjoy visiting a Student Show or an Open House trail. Select an original piece that tells a story, one where you can tell friends about the artist and why they created it, one that really speaks to you. That way you will own a painting that you will love and appreciate for years to come and it won’t have broken the bank.

 My venue at the Arundel Gallery Trail. Venue 27. St George’s Cottage. 17.8.12-27.8.12

 

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Power over nature

Summer 2012 has been so long awaited! I began to doubt it would ever happen. The staff at Brewin Dolphin Investment Bank are convinced that I am somehow responsible for the bad weather as it has, “allegedly”, rained ever since I put up a monochrome painting called “Rainy Bank Holiday” in their main meeting room. I wasn’t convinced that I have that kind of power over nature but I have been painting a sunny sunflower ever since and now look!

I love to paint ‘plein air’ i.e. out in the open air. It was a practice started by the Impressionists with their interest in capturing light and changes in nature. It’s an essential part of developing observation skills. As I often tell my Art Club students, OBSERVATION, spending time really looking at the colours and shapes around you is a fundamental part of being a good artist and once you start you don’t see the world around you in the same way again.

Be careful with choice of materials if painting in hot sun as the drying time is clearly going to be reduced. Water-colours can dry too quickly for you to use techniques such as wet-in-wet or creating a ‘wash’ i.e. letting the wet paint slide down a tilted board, useful when creating skies. Despite these challenges which can require a change in approach, watercolour is still my material of choice when painting outside as it is simply so portable. A little travel box of paints and a tiny pad allows me to capture everyday scenes and is always in my holiday bag. It also provides wonderful memories of holidays abroad when I flick through the sketchbook at a later date.

Seawhites in Partridge Green stock a useful selection of small sketchbooks, watercolour pans and a great portable water pot. www.artesaver.co.uk

A6 postcards. £2.50 sketchbooks £1.64

Well, I recommend the use of the term ‘plein air’ to impress friends, not only with your language skills but your art knowledge too. Don’t tell anyone that I hadn’t heard it until last year !

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Arundel & beyond

A great time was had by all at the Arundel Festival. Paintings, ceramics and sculpture were on display in the intriguing houses around this special little town. The home owners know full well that the majority of visitors are just as interested in their house as they are in the exhibits but that’s all part of the fun. 

Painters of all styles were showing work. My particular favourites being Min Maude & Andy Waite who share a similar freedom in their application of the paint and nature in their themes.

I was based in the “small but perfectly formed” St George’s Cottage, a 3 bedroom holiday home on School Lane. It proved to be a great location. The cottage looked wonderful and really set off the seaside theme to my work plus the aquatic colours. I stopped counting after 400 visitors and almost sold out of stock!

So, that brings me to life post-Arundel….   I’m embarking on a series of landscapes based on the scenery of North Yorkshire. Back in June I completed a 26 mile, 3 Peak walk with a group of friends. The scenery was incredible, the effort enormous and the whole event uplifting. We shared tears, smiles, laughter, lucozade and plasters in equal measure! I want my paintings to reflect the wildness of the scenery, the gruelling nature of the experience and the beauty of that landscape. I’m aiming for a very loose style, almost abstracted perhaps deferring to the style of Andy Waite mentioned above.

I’m also looking forward to getting back to my life drawing classes and to a couple of courses that I have booked with Emily Ball at the Seawhite studios in Partridge Green. I’ll let you know how they go and what I learn from them.

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