This week’s Monday Mention is a bit closer to home so to speak. In more ways than one I might add. Two weeks ago, on the first of July, I became a Perthshire Artisan. So what is a Perthshire Artisan?
“A Perthshire Artisan is a professional creative or maker based in Perthshire, Scotland who has been recognised and selected by an independent creative panel for their exceptional talent in crafting a product or service.” [quote from the Perthshire Artisan website, last accessed 19 July 2021]. Based just around the corner from my Studio in Coupar Angus, they really could not be much closer to ‘home’, meaning my studio and not my actual home.
There is a professional ‘closeness’ amongst this group of artisans. Each member functions fully as an individual artist but at the same time contributes collectively to the ‘voice’ of the group whether that is within meetings (online currently due to Covid-19) or through other communications such as Cloud Rooms, learning resources etc. I was one of ten new Artisans selected from the July cohort. You can meet the new members here. Andrea Gardiner, Diana Law and Roberta Pederzoli are jewellers; Susie Eggins, myself and Gill Houlsby are visual artists – Gill is also an art therapist; Gillian Hunt is a photographer; Jenny Charles is a ceramicist; Katy Galbraith uses mosaic as her medium; Rachel Hendry produces natural aromatherapy products. There will be another selection process soon to increase the numbers again as we emerge out of the pandemic restrictions. Closing date for applications is 1st August.
Perthshire Artisans website is more than a directory of creatives in Perthshire. It has a shop, a blog or news section, information about workshops and more. Do take a look at the links above to learn more about the Perthshire Artisans.
Back in April 2021, when I turned 66, I thought long and hard about where my art was going. I came to the conclusion that for art to exist it has to have an audience. Going ‘on stage’ is quite a scary contemplation. What if I my artwork is not good enough? What if I am not good enough? What if no-one ‘turns up’ or if they do then the ‘audience’ leaves during the performance? So many what ifs to consider at a time when I felt very vulnerable and without a shred of confidence or self-belief.
Death had punctuated my last few years with loss and I felt, at retirement age, I hardly existed let alone my art. One of my remaining daughters encouraged me to look outside of my grief for opportunities that would give voice to my art. She prompted me to find a new studio and build connections within my local community. I found my first ‘stage’, a bright shop-fronted commercial property on the high street in a quirky wee town a few miles from where I live. The next ‘stage’ appeared shortly after finding this wee gem of a studio with gallery space. I saw a call to action from Perthshire Artisans and applied while the curtain of confidence was raised. To my delight I got through the ‘audition’ and the second ‘stage’ was set.
Over the last year and a half Covid has kept us all apart from one another. Communication and interaction was all happening in a virtual environment, something that I could manage on a basic level but not well enough to be running a business online. I knew that if I were to build an audience for my art to exist I would have to adapt to the huge change that was transforming our society and economy. Perthshire Artisans opened the doorway to a lot of digital training through GrowBiz Learning Sessions. My business acumen is improving. My digital skills are developing with speed. I am becoming more knowledgeable in the world of social media. My approach to business is quite different to what it was. I am focusing more on finding new ways to market my products, to communicate in new ways with my ‘audience’ and building several platforms or ‘stages’ for my buyers’ preferences and needs.
As I prepare for the future ahead I find my confidence in myself, and enthusiasm for the creation of art, is returning. If I prepare the ‘stages’ then the ‘audiences’ will come. My art shall have its voice and continue to exist.
It is always good to revisit basics. When I feel adrift from my creative self I often find a comfort in returning to the warm, welcoming arms of the basics. The basics this time, as it often is for me, is colour mixing. There is something soothing in choosing a range of colours, usually a maximum of three plus white and an umber. I’ve not mixed colours for a long time. I’ve not painted for a while either. It is time to mix colours. Then painting will follow.
This morning I started reading a saved news email from Jackson’s Art, my favourite supplier of art materials. Jackson’s Art, like Winsor & Newton, have a wide range of articles on materials, techniques and other features of interest to an artist. Jackson’s Art have managed to pull me back to basics. The Jackson’s Art article “PIGMENT STORIES: QUINACRIDONE PIGMENTS” by Evie Hatch (21 June 2021) has inspired me to experiment once more. It is back to basics with some new colours. I have always shied away from the quinacridone pigments, perhaps because I am afraid of their vibrancy and my own longing to be more bold in my work. It is time to get brave and bold. After all, bold colours will not kill me. In fact, it may be a new beginning with exciting discoveries. The road of discovery often opens new doors.
The first step into a new door usually involves a cost of some kind. The emotional cost is one of fear and excitement mixed with anticipation. Oh I can handle that. After all, I’ve had many years walking this earth with such emotions. The other cost is perhaps the more scary of the two. The financial cost. But hey, it is a day to be brave. I’ve dipped into the reserves and headed off into the online ‘toy’ shop for artists. Yes, back to Jackson’s Art and almost £120 later I tether my patience, or lack of, to the few days wait for delivery. Next week is play week with new colours to discover as I get back to basics.
Forward Coupar Angus that is. I met the lovely Jane from Forward Coupar Angus over the weekend. She popped in to say hello during her round of delivering plants and compost with her trusty bike and trailer. I had to ask what Forward Coupar Angus was all about as I had never heard of them. Shame on me, I should have done more research into my neighbours in this beautiful wee town that is now home to Ainetheon Arts.
So let me tell you more about Forward Coupar Angus. It is a development trust founded in 2010 to improve the economic environmental wellbeing of Coupar Angus. Jane told me that one of the most recent projects Forward Coupar Angus has taken on is their fixing and maintaining bikes. This is to encourage local people to use alternative travel for shorter journeys. They do this with the help from the Scottish Government Climate Challenge Fund – this link will take you to other challenges they have undertaken with this funding. This is a great way to promote support for climate change as well as helping encourage a healthy lifestyle.
It really is good to see how rural communities come together to support one another, especially when we are all going through some pretty tough times.
Two days ago I wrote a short blog about Joan Eardley. Today I follow this up with some recommendations where you can learn more about this fascinating artist and her style of work.
The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow have some wonderful videos to watch about Joan and her art. The link will take you to the video web page where you could quite easily indulge yourself for hours with the vast range of videos etc they have about artists and other subjects of interest. The video about Joan’s life lasts for an hour and a half so best get a cuppy and get comfy before you start. Well worth the time out to watch.
The Scottish Gallery has a long and lovely write up about Joan, her paintings and a short (less than 10 minute) YouTube video. I’ve ear marked that for reading later.
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design (DJCAD) are running a 3 hour ONLINE EVENT Joan Eardley New Perspectives by In-Gear. The link will take you to Eventbrite to book FREE tickets if you are interested. But hurry, the event is TODAY (2 June 2021) at 2pm to 5pm. I’ve just moved my diary around so that I can ‘be there’.
I hope these links have whetted your appetite for Joan and her art. She really is worth a read and watch. Enjoy!
This week’s artist I want to draw your attention to is Joan Eardley. Her work is full on “what she sees is what you get”. She was renowned for her depictions of Glasgow’s street urchins. I find these paintings very moving and full of narrative. My favourite Eardley works though are her landscapes and seascapes. She is an artist that had huge talent which was cut short in 1963 when she was only 42 years old. This year would have been her 100th birthday on 18th May. There was an interesting article in The Herald on 24th May that is worth reading.
Do take time to look at the links above, particularly the Joan Eardley Website which gives lots of information about exhibitions and events being held to celebrate her centenary. The website is also full of some wonderful works that she created.
Today was the day of presenting the ‘best side’ of me, my artwork and my studio. I’m not sure if there is a ‘best side’ because my work is quite eclectic and I am quite diverse by nature. As for the studio, well I am yet to discover the ‘best side’ of any aspect of it as I’ve only been in for less than four weeks. But today was the day for the photoshoot. New ventures need new approaches. I can’t trust myself to take good photos of my work and I certainly cannot take good ‘selfie’ shots of me at work, so I had to go down the route of getting a professional in. I am so glad I commissioned Lynn, the Strathearn Snapper, to do the business. She was professional and very pleasant to work with. I am already thinking I will use her again for future events and also some family portraiture later this year or next.
As we move towards the end of May and into June, I will be progressing the plans for some new initiatives and events from July onwards. New beginnings and new connections. All will be revealed in due course so do follow the progress via whatever method of contact you prefer:
Ainetheon Arts can be found here:
* 5 High Street, Coupar Angus PH13 9DB
* 01575 574682 [please leave a message – not always manned]
Have you ever sat or stood at your easel and felt the fear of the white canvas or support staring threateningly back at you? Even when my back is turned to the white surface, I can feel the threats of disaster pushing out towards me. Something sinister happens to the pristine white stretched canvas the minute it is placed on an easel. It develops a control over you until you tackle the thing that panics you more than anything as an artist – making a mark, a hideously wrong mark. No matter how much I tell myself that there is no ‘wrong’ in art, only difference.
How I conquer my fear of the white devil is by applying a coloured ground over the surface. If the canvas is not white then it can’t threaten me! One solution is to buy natural linen canvas with a transparent primer. My favourite one is Honsell Naturelle and these are lovely to work on as well as being more durable. The other solution is get an ‘under colour’ applied to the whole canvas (even the sides, especially if you are going to frame in a tray or floater frame). I find a thin layer of paint works best on most occasions but there are times when I want a bit more texture to my paintings so I will use thicker paint with a bristle brush.
So what colour to use? For winter or snow scenes, I will use yellow ochre which will warm up the cold tones of the winter scene. Spring sees me often applying a very bright, almost luminescent lime green to landscapes. This makes the painting light, bright and ‘popping out’. Summer grounds tend to be any of the warm colours but not too bright. Orange works well as does some reds. And autumn grounds are all the lovely warm harvesting colours such as burnt sienna. Another favourite is burnt umber at anytime of the year but I usually mix some other colours with it. Phthalo blue and umber makes an almost black which can really make for an interesting coloured ground to paint on, especially if you want some really dark tones and shadows to come through.
Take the fear of white away, try colouring the canvas or support before starting the painting.
Three weeks ago, on May 1st, I collected the keys to Ainetheon Arts new studio in Coupar Angus. It has been a long, hard three years without a creative space to call my own. “I’ve been through a desert on a horse with no name” – to quote some lyrics from a long time favourite folk-rock song. (from the song Horse With No Name by the group America in 1971). And now, in just three weeks, I’ve brought to life my own creative oasis in this desert.
Life does continue, even when life as we know it bears no resemblance to how it once was. Even when those most precious of souls have left this world suddenly and without warning. Thinking constantly ‘she was too young to die’ is like standing face on, with eyes open, in the mightiest of sandstorms. All deserts have their sandstorms. And that is why we must always seek out the calm of the oasis. My studio, in three weeks, feels like a welcome oasis.
Today’s photographs show the transformation from one-time beauty salon to an artist’s studio. First week was all painting, DIY jobs, moving the big bits in (whilst I had on hand the energy and strength of the young ones) and packing boxes. Week two was more packing boxes and moving in followed by unpacking the aforementioned boxes. The space was taken up by art paraphernalia that had no ‘home’ to speak of in this new studio. Week three was getting things off the floor (so that I could get around the studio), hanging the artwork (in no set order or sequence – so that must be addressed next week), finding ‘homes’ for all the easels, materials and other tools of the trade. Plus still trying to do all the admin, marketing and other tasks involved in running a business. The icing on this week’s ‘cake’ was that I managed to get a painting started and almost finished. Flowers for a daughter gone too soon from this life.
I can’t remember how long ago I came across this article about artist Georgia O’Keefe (American artist 1887-1986) and how she approached making her art. I obviously thought it was important then as I do now. The article was published by Artsy.net in March 2018 (click the link, it is worth the read); the article was written by Alexxa Gotthardt. The following four ‘lessons’ are taken from Gotthardt’s article and I urge every artist who is in doubt about themselves to read and be inspired by them.
Lesson #1: Observe the world around you—closely, hungrily
Lesson #2: Organization is key to productivity
Lesson #3: Don’t sweat mistakes—learn from them
Lesson #4: Pay no attention to trends—be yourself
The website Britannica gives the history of Georgia O’Keeffe for anyone wanting to know more about the facts of her life. I’ve yet to come across a good biography of her and perhaps one day I will learn more about this intriguing American artist who has inspired my return to working with focus once more.