Ok Ok - I might have moaned a bit too loud about it being way too busy last week at my gallery - well not moaned exactly, it was more a little panic stricken wail? But I have just taken 18 pet portrait orders - yes 18 - in two weeks - and I think that entitles me to a little squeal don't you - anyone would moan - I mean wail - wouldn't they? (You can watch them all being done, by the way, on www.flickr.com/photos/villagerhelen )
Well anyway, back to the moaning- er wailing - it's now gone very quiet - this hot weather is making all the customers lethargic and the last few days have been thankfully peaceful. I've a feeling everyone is picknicking in Chatsworth and filling the streets of Bakewell, and who can blame them? The colours around at the moment are so, so stunning, plants are flowering again thinking it's Spring, and we're all sick as pigs because we have to work and can't enjoy the sunshine - yes? Well I've been getting up very early every morning - no alarm clock, just my eyes flying open at about 5 o'clock and then I'm awake, brain switched on - after a strong cup of coffee. I'm writing you see, writing a book. I shan't give spoilers - it's not half bad - and it not half good.It may never be published, me being a cowardy custard- but all I know is I can't stop writing it. My energy levels are more frantic than ever before. I can no longer be calm or sit still for 2 minutes. I scribble on bits of paper between painting, my head exploding with all the words I haven’t used since I got my A levels (I actually got two A’s for English , I only attained a D in art which proves ......not a lot, but don't tell the Sproglet I said that because education is important).
I write for an hour until the sun comes up, then grab the lead and Bogdog and I tramp through the fields, enjoying the quiet stillness of the morning and the shafts of sunlight in the hazy mists - it's been so glorious this week. Autumn is coming, it's in the air and this is just a tiny moment in time before the cold arrives so we should enjoy it to the full. It's a photographer's dream.
Artists of any kind will tell you, it can be very lonely, a life of painting. I'm lucky because I actually have a shop with real people to talk to, co craftspeople and mill workers to entertain me. But a lot of artists work from home with only their pets or themselves to talk to - although I do that anyway still. A dream state usually kicks in and the world is worry, mundane, what shall we have for tea? I think 13 years of motherhood and art happening at the same time had slowly turned my brain to mush. But now I have opened a little door in my mind that had slowly closed shut the longer I had left school, many moons ago. My love for writing is still there, still embedded. It must be like riding a bike - you never forget. Or is that elephants? You see- this is an example. I am sooooo random. I didn’t know I still had it in me, words that I forgot I even knew have burst forth.In conjunction , call it serendipity, but due to a little blogging on Peak District Online, I now have another job. I'm officially a fledgling copywriter - and I have to say, I am so loving it!
I seem to be able to write about anything now - from marketing products of all kinds for different websites, reviewing videos, writing articles, press releases - promoting and waxing lyrical in between painting. And they like it?! How lucky am I? And I think it's making my painting better - I hope so anyway.
This is Brodie. Isn't he beautiful? I mean the cat, not my painting but I hope that's beautiful too. He's a Burmese and he's an apricot colour and his owner is a really lovely customer. He loves reading my blogs so I know at least I have one fan! I'm privileged to get to know people while I'm painting their pets - I like to know the nitty gritty, the character of each animal because I quite often can't meet them in person and I don't like to paint any old cat, any old horse. I nearly got into an argument with one chap from Youlgreave this week - he came in with no picture of his cat you see, just said it was black and all black cats look the same, could I paint him one and pretend it was his? His wife wouldn't notice.......mmmmm. Let's not go any further with that one.
One last thing- and please indulge me a little longer than normal, you lovely Blogettes - but I have to say a very important thing. This week is a bit of a milestone for me. A year ago this week, early October 2010, my business was failing - so hard to admit to yourself, when it’s your love, your life, your passion. When you’ve built something up and then watched helplessly as the takings started to slide, the visitors to the craft centre depleted. I was trying to make ends meet, justify employing my staff, sadly destined to become a one woman band once again. I was in a tiny unit, stuck in a rut, no zest for painting, no zing left for self employed life. I felt helpless to do anything about it, my self confidence in shreds. Credit Crunch – those words still make me shiver with dread.
On this same week, last year, I received a phone call at my Gallery in Rowsley - I wasn’t there to take it - and through a little mix up, I missed the opportunity to speak to this customer for the entire week. That could have been it - opportunity lost. But eventually, I found the message - a piece of paper stated to ring a number, discuss a commission of a painting of a dog. I thought nothing of it, we exchanged pleasantries, I apologised profusely at my inexpediency at replying - I had no idea at the time of talking, that this phone call would change my life – yes dramatic sounding I know, but it's true.
We talked for ages, instantly clicked, realised we were very alike. We didn’t solve the country’s debt crisis, we had no answer for world peace. What we did have was the same acute love for animals, a soaring passion for wildlife, an incurable bug for the beauty of the Peak District. This customer’s enthusiasm overwhelmed me, and yes, scared the life out of me. Then I saw the photograph he'd taken of his dog on an email and literally fell in love with it. It’s my favourite still today, but I’ve been blessed to have permission to paint many more. I’ve had a year of painting such wonders, not nearly enough time yet, having only scratched the surface. I'm in tune with his work and it inspires me so much.
In a rollercoaster year, I’ve had my confidence repaired, my enthusiasm restored. My business is going from strength to strength with ‘Serendipity’ being literally the reason, for the change in me these past 12 months. I moved back to my old Gallery with a spring in my step in March, my pride bursting out of my core. I have more work now than I could have ever dreamed of, not through anything other than being ‘Me’again – little me, the tiny mouse who hid in a hole until the recession passed. I got a much needed kick up the bum with that phone call and many more , a push and a shove and a good telling off. I emerged out of my hole like a butterfly unfurling it’s wings – ok - now I’m getting carried away, I shall stop it. But I am painting better than ever, my workload huge once more.
My career has turned a corner and I am the luckiest girl in the world. I can’t wait to get up in the early hours, I never know what the day will bring. But I have never been so happy, so challenged, so inspired – and that phone call started it all.
You know who you are - you are squirming in your seat for me saying this I know and I’m sorry for that, but you have been my teacher and my friend for a whole year now and I just wanted to say - thank you.
Ok - I'll get my coat!
This blog was brought to you by Helen Clark