This is the hardest bit of all. Not the thinking around the subject and how to carry it out. Not the making of the paper and gathering of materials, then setting it all up. Not even the making, painting, rethinking, revisiting, deciding, opting, trying, despairing, having a go – each piece is different. Nor the measuring, framing, stringing, labelling. Not even (horrors) the pricing.
It’s the PUBLICITY. No matter how good the piece, if no-one sees it, it won’t sell. And selling really isn’t just about the money. Of course that matters, we have to live, and feel justified in how we’ve chosen to live. It’s also about creating mental space for new work. If you’re surrounded by ‘old’ pieces – even quite new ones – your mind simply isn’t free to move on.
In the Midlands I was always busy with a fairly seamless succession of exhibitions – solo and group – plus workshops and other art-related activities. Moving South meant changing my habits and developing new patterns of work and contacts. I’ve been really busy with establishing our Artists’ Open House in not one but two locations over the last three years: do have a look at our Wolf Facebook page if you haven’t done so before:
(I don’t seem able to post a live link at present.)
Now it’s time to look for new pastures….
Our household icon (as she would have it). I did this piece as a slightly ironic homage to the creature who sits on my drying paper, leaves paw imprints and grooms herself leaving piles of grit and fur all over the place. She seems to know when I have made somerhing new and exerts a fiendish ingenuity to make her mark on it. It can’t be much fun snoozing on damp cotton pulp.
The metal leaf here is not gold, it’s Dutch leaf (I imagine brass or some non-precious metal). I can’t have her getting uppity! And there’s quite a lot of it: I had to re-gild it after we moved house and the painting got slightly battered.
It has gone to a very superior household where they too have a superior cat. Also they picked up the literary reference, to a wonderful eighteenth-century poem about the habits of his cat (Jeoffry) by the poet Christopher Smart. He had a rather hard time of it and spent six years in Bedlam where he wrote this poem which, among other things, describes the habits of his cat:
Part of the text is to be found in the coloured borders which contain the saintly image.
This website is due for a massive overhaul, not before time. It’s done me well but things have moved on so there will be major changes before too long.
These two pieces, conversely, are backward-looking. In two ways. My botanical pieces are much influenced by the herbals and plant treatises of the medieval period and their later versions. A few people reading this may know that I designed a medieval curative garden last year for the wonderful Dilston Physic garden near Hexham, Northumberland.
One of my botanical pictures, a large quince piece, is now hanging in a garden room overlooking a newly-planted Quince Walk in a glorious Lincolnshire garden. Two more, an Aubergine and a Sage, are in a fabulous two-story conservatory. It’s nice, though unusual, to know where the work I produce eventually hangs, though when I remember I ask purchasers to send me a pic. It can be in a loo or a hall, it just gives it an afterlife in my mind to know it has a physical location.
I love the idea of mixing up text and picture, detail and overview, commentary and fact (or belief). This inevitably gives these pieces a retro feel and I enjoy doing them. But it’s important to avoid pastiche, so I’m not tempted to churn them out. That would be easy – they sell well and I have had some good commissions. I try to find an individal way to do each one – different techniques, mixing media.
So I hadn’t done many for some time – bar a couple last year which sold straight away – but my recent foray into art in the outdoors at the beautiful Sussex Prairies spurred me on to produce a few plant-based works. Here are a couple, made as a pair to the same dimensions.