This week saw the start of renovations to my new gallery at Rowsley . I’ll be moving back there full time at the end of March and can’t wait for more space to move around in. I mentioned before that my current studio is a little compact. That’s an understatement. It’s like the cupboard under the stairs kind of small. Every time I turn round I knock a painting off the wall with my bottom (perhaps that’s more to do with the size of my bottom than the small area I have behind my desk but let’s move swiftly on)
I’m spending my days at the moment working between the 2 shops. The mornings I spend in the new gallery, doing the decorating kind of painting and the afternoons in my studio shop doing the proper kind of painting an artist should do. Let’s hope I never get the 2 mixed up.
I know which sort of painting I’m better at. You’d think I’d be good at the former wouldn’t you but oh my goodness no. There’s paint in my hair, on the bottom of my trainers that I then walk all over the floor. There’s paint on the dog, paint in my coffee. I do manage to actually get some on the walls but I just seem to make such a mess. I wonder if all artists are the same?
Then there's the wildlife to contend with too. I had a very close run in with the biggest hairiest spider you ever did see. He just spent all morning glaring at me by the door. I had to stay at the back of the shop, totally trapped, while he decided to stop taunting me and eventually move. I couldn’t even ring for help – the phone hasn’t been connected yet. Animal lover yes – spider lover? Not so much.
I previously mentioned I would not be moving into my new superduper shop alone. (No – I’ll be sharing it with 500 spiders now that the Big Hairy knows how frightened I am of his kind. Bet he couldn’t wait to scuttle off and tell all his mates. They can smell your fear you know) I’m embarking on an exciting new venture with a superb new wildlife photographer I’ve recently met. I’ve basically got enough photographic material now to last me the next 10 years and he still keeps taking more stunning shots (which you’ll be able to see when you come and introduce yourself in the next month or so I hope). I want to paint his work every minute of every day – not decorating painting though - get my drift yet?
I mainly work from photos as it’s very hard for me to balance my proper job, being a working mum , and running a gallery, and having any spare time left to sit in a field with my easel. It doesn’t leave much time in the day to go out with me beret and smock on I can tell you, happily painting in a meadow with the sunlight dancing on my canvas and my sunhat at a jaunty angle......this is what most of my customers think happens I’m sure of it. "Oh I can tell you must love that place - have you painted elephants in Africa or was it India?" Little do they know this wuss is petrified of flying and I haven't ever strayed from my beloved Peak District.
I used to pretend that “Oh yes , I’ve just got back from Buxton. I was painting the butterflies in the Pavilion Gardens don’t you know” or “Bakewell was lovely this morning. The ducks just sat there posing for me for 3 hours while I dabbed delicately with my watercolour brushes darlings.” I couldn’t keep up the charade for long though.
It’s a shame but I constantly have to justify the use of photographs. It’s a fundamental part of my work and that’s a fact for most artists. It can be seen as a taboo and is frowned upon by the Lovies in the pompous art world. You show me an artist who claims to have painted a snow leopard from life , prowling towards them in the Himalayas , and I’ll show you an artist with either frostbitten off fingers or one with a nose as long as Pinocchio’s – that’s presuming they still have their head which hasn’t been bitten off by said beastie to still sport a long nose in the first place.
As a pet portrait artist it would be unfair to assume I could get a likeness if I didn't have a photograph in the first place to be fair. Especially if the poor pet has died - virtually impossible I'd say frankly. Even the live ones don't sit still long enough to have their portrait's done and I can't paint them at your house.
Unless you can bring your pet to my shop that is? I must just say no cats, no horses and no pet snow leopards please. The first two a definite no go, as my dog Jasmine, would object quite vocally and carnage would no doubt ensue ( she’s scared of cats and horses seem to instil an even springier springer that’s not really conducive to a horse’s welfare) and the snow leopard?.....well, obvious really. I would like to keep my own head and long nose intact thankyou very much
To the doubters I now say : It’s great to be able to combine modern technology with an art form that’s as old as the Masters.
After all , we wouldn’t use a hole in the ground, if a flushing toilet is available would we? But that’s another type of “Bog” story for another day......(ouch – sorry)
Oh, one last thing to mention. The paintings in this blog are to highlight the type of animals not be brought to my gallery to paint from life – just so we’re clear.
Blog brought to you by Helen Clark