Short of actually tearing my hair out looking for that immediately recognisable, eye catching ‘artistic personality’, the past few years have been infuriating.
I spent countless hours doodling and sketching to try and ascertain what kind of painting character I have. I spent weeks on different techniques, using various media and painting a range of subjects that would make most artists laugh. Still, nothing. What defines an artist is a strong sense of creative identity, something that the public can look at and immediately say ‘Oh that’s a Rhiannon Thomas’ etc and its something that has remained totally hidden from me for a long time.
It doesnt take a genius to work out that the reason I hadn’t found my own style was largely down to time. Or lack of it. With a full time job and a handful of commissions to work through there was never anything left spare. It’s not productive also to have been in a constant rush to find it and without the endless sketching, painting and fiddling that comes with finding your ‘style’, it simply continued to elude me. That was until recently.
Having booked a last minute break for myself, my other half and my dog to an isolated cottage in Pembrokeshire, we turned up for our 3 night stay to find the most beautifully historical and sympathetically restored long house, complete with wood burning stove and access to a deserted beach – some 400 yards away! It was perfect. Add to that, other than the inclusion of a Bose sound system, there was no TV, not internet and no phone signal. We really were totally alone. What we could concentrate on were the unpolluted stars at night, the fabulous scenery and the local wildlife. We had the most peaceful and inspiring 3 days any artist could wish for.
When we came back, my other half was away for the night in London on business, so I sat in front of endless hours of documentaries on Welsh Life and just painted. I had decided that what I painted would be free, enjoyable and non restricted. No boundaries, no constraints, no worries. What I produced, I loved. It was colourful, vibrant, exciting and a pleasure to create. It happened quickly, fluidly and has since gone on to evolve organically to a very original and distinctive ‘Look’. I love it and I am absolutely over the moon that I’ve finally discovered it.
What I continue to be fascinated by is that from a single weekend away, with no modern influences or digital pollution, my mind was free to just relax. And relax it did. On returning home and I was able to put that inspiration and calm mind onto canvas with immediate effect.
Here’s a few of the most recent paintings I’ve created for an exhibition in June in Cardiff.
Today has certainly been a mixed bag as far as days go. Or at least, that was how the morning was proving to be. After waking up to a forgotten list of ‘to-do’s’ as long as my arm, a sky high pile of dishes from last nights birthday party and the promise of getting soaked to the bone walking the dog, I was certainly ready to peel back the duvet and jump on in. I wish.
Since being self employed means that I could readily snooze all afternoon if it took my fancy (and if my energetic German Shepherd would allow), sleeping away the rainy days would do little to pay my bills. So, up and at’am! While endeavouring to get my kitchen sparkling, (having already walked the dog, finished the postal run and nearly completed the ‘to-do’ list, the sound of a boiling kettle was interrupted by a familiar thud. The kind of thud that says ‘there’s something in a jiffy bag you’re gonna love!’… and love it I did!
I had recently treated myself to a new set of palette knives, since the last set came with me on an archaeological dig in Somerset last year but failed to return home alive. But today,my new set arrived in all their variously shaped, shining glory. No sooner had a pulled the remnants of the envelope out of the letter box (thanks Mr Postman for endeavouring to get it through the door… whatever the cost), than I realised that amid the pizza flyers and Tesco vouchers lying on the matt was the thing I had been waiting for since last December – The February edition of the Welsh Coastal Life Magazine! – and I had a four page article in it!
Now until you have had a stranger come up to you and say ‘I love your story, can we write about you in our magazine?’ you wont know the bizarre feeling of confusion and elation at the though that someone else – nay – a MAGAZINE, wants to write about your life and your work for the willing public to read. Suffice to say I nearly pee’d at the thought I was so excited! This sort of thing is exactly the kind of lucky break that people so often talk about – I’d just taken the plunge and was (still am) in desperate need to extend my audience when out of the blue the article comes along. I love it! I’ve read it no less hat 8 times already.
What’s more infuriating is that everyone else I know is in work, so I can’t easily run up to them like a deranged woman, while wielding and flailing a rolled up magazine… (suppose there are benefits..) but Facebook is perfect for stuff like that too. After strategically placing my coffee next to the open article on my rather snazzy driftwood table (the love of my life) and photographing the results, I promptly pasted it all over the web. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… none escaped. In fact, here I am again showing you lovely folk. Have a look and if you’re super interested – go grab yourself a copy! (Available in Newsagents and Tesco’s etc). I’m on page 42 onwards.
Having recently finished a commission for a client in London, I thought it only right that I blog about the journey – its ups and its downs!
I was contacted a few days prior to christmas by a man who was looking for a bespoke painting for his mother in time for Mothers Day. He explained that as a child he used to live near Sully beach with his parents, which is only a short distance from where I am based now. His mother and father loved the sea, the beach and the local area, often taking the client and his sisters to the seaside for a day out. To date, he lives in London with his mother, who very sadly suffers from Dementia. He explained that after some considerable searching, they could find neither a painting that captured Sully from the right angle or one that included all the necessary details they were looking for. That’s where I came in. With a lengthy list of ‘must do’s’, I set to work.
The painting had to include the following:
– Sully hospital (as that was where his aunties worked)
– Boats out to sea (His father loved boats)
– The moon in a sunny sky.
– Beech tree’s (His mother was very fond of this particular species)
– The family
– A crucifix (His family s religious)
– Pink carnations (His mothers wedding flower)
The client had spoken about previous works he had seen of mine, and wanted something in a similar style, which gave me a solid foundation to work on. Having made the preliminary sketches, we emailed back and forth until we came to a design that he was happy with. Though I thought that this style of painting was best suited to panel canvas, the client was insistent that it was painted onto flat board as it matched the other paintings in his house. Having bought the necessary materials and additional colours, I set to work. Over the course of a few weeks I concerntrated entirely on this one piece, so the work was completed on time. What I learnt in the following weeks, was that with commissions that are done over the phone and via email, there is a huge margin for error. It is critical (and this is something that I have learned from experience) that a contract, outlining the exact specifications, is in place before you start. Throughout this commission I had been sending emails showing the work in progress, so that his mother (who new about the painting) could keep up to date. Unfortunately, halfway though (and at a point where the entire background, beach, cliffs and boats had been painted in), the client changed his mind. At times like this it is very easy to simply say no. To stick to the original plan and to continue with the work. Yet, in this instance, it wasn’t so much a change of mind, but a realisation that what he had asked for, wasn’t quite what he had wanted. He requested instead a more ‘Surrealist’ style, (which if I had painted, I’m sure would have come as a real shock!). What the client actually wanted when he had asked for ‘Surrealism’ wasn’t something from a Salvidor Dali piece, but an Impressionist style, something light, airy and ‘blotchy’ – and near impossible to do given the amount of detail he had specified.
Any of us that work with our talents are eager to please. The thought that a client dislikes our work simply doesn’t allow us to continue on with it. At least, that’s true to the way I function. So, with a very reluctant hand, I put paintbrush to a very intricate background, and painted over it. The result, was fine. Just as colourful but meant that the position of the family (originally in the distance) would have to be moved to the foreground. Changes were put in place to balance the ever developing painting, but as with many clients who wish to ‘direct’ the artist all the way through the creative process (and I mean this in the most respectful way), the result is often second best. It is easy to get frustrated – you wouldn’t order a a meal from a fine restaurant and hold the chef’s hand throughout the cooking process or get the builders in to erect a wall and tell them how to do their job, but it happens time and time again within art. I understand, I am sure I would be the same, but we need to remember that you don’t buy a dog to bark yourself. Sometimes you need to simply step back and allow the artist to do what they do best.
Painting almost finished – the client wants to change the amount of water visible in the bay by ‘adding another boat or something’. Unfortunately with the size of the canvas also strictly specified at the start, the painting would have become a chaotic mess of items. Though we all aim to get it right, there is also a point where we have to stop, in order for our work to maintain some of our own artistic interpretation. So with a swift extension of the beach and another request to make the tree’s in the foreground more ‘green’, the painting was complete. or so I thought. For the next few hours, we spoke via email and change, after change, after change was made. Not because anything was painted in wrong, but because there was more the client felt that he wanted. What began life as a simple, acrylic canvas painting for £300, ended with a piece of work that should have cost in the region of £600 – if only due to the continuous changes and the complete repainting of the piece halfway through.
When the painting was ready to go to the framers, I found I had another battle on my hands. Though in my opinion, the piece would shave looked beautiful in a charcoal / simple wooden frame, the client insisted on it being gold, even after myself and the framers advice against it.. When the framer changed the original design and dropped the piece off to me, the work was ready to be delivered.
The painting, although infuriating at times has taught me a valuable lesson in the world of commissioned fine art. Especially those pieces created under £500. Always work on a contract – with no exceptions, set your stall out at the beginning and check over and over again BEFORE you start work, that you and your client are on the same page.
With mothers day upon us, I received a phone call t o say that his mother and the rest of his family were very happy with the end result – which I guess is the most important thing of all. A very happy ending!
Who doesn’t love to look at coloured glass shining in the sunlight?! Whether its sea worn or hand crafted, looking at glass is a magical experience! Having recently had my birthday, I was lucky enough to have been bought two pieces of Jo Downs glass art. What more could I ask for?! This superbly talented artist takes her inspiration from the Cornish coast, with her designs remaining true to Cornwall’s breathtaking scenery, nature and colours. Reminiscent of days but he sea, these fabulously bright and vibrant works come in all sorts of varieties. Whether its a 3m custom designed wall panel, room divider, soap dispenser or a ‘pilchard bowl’ for the table, Jo creates fresh, textured works that have you daydreaming about the beach in seconds!
Jo’s handmade glass has elements of everything you remember about the seaside. From cool, crisp tones to ‘Wall’s ice-cream’ colours, her abstract forms and unique fusing techniques have made her one of the worlds most respected glass artists. Whats more, is that EVERY piece of Jo’s work is hand crafted. So even the smallest item is unique to you!
I had the opportunity to visit two of her galleries in September. One quaint little corner shop in St Ives and another in Padstow. If you are ever passing through, you simply must take a peak! Standing in those spaces with the light drenching the glass on the walls and in the windows, its not hard to imagine why Jo is an expert in her field.
Staring at some of the larger pieces, what I find appealing about her work is that Jo has not over priced anything or aimed her art at an exclusive, wealthy audience. Her art starts from as little as £8.50 for a gorgeous glass coaster with bronze fish inlay and of course can go into the thousands. But, with something for everyone, her work has become the ‘achievable art’ that we rarely see these days. I’ve lots of favourite artists, but without some serious saving, I can never hope to buy any of it on my wage. Yet with huge wall pieces coming in at under £500 (for something that looks like it should cost £15,000) its no wonder she’s so popular amongst the masses.
My fabulous presents consisted of items from Jo’s ‘Cornish Pilchard’ range. A beautiful deep blue and bronze coaster – that will be used ONLY for my wine glass, and a stunning square pilchard bowl for my kitchen table. What can I say, I’m in love!
Buying a piece of art like this is what art is all about. Its not simply something you pop on your wall, rather its an event. A home coming or new arrival to the family! I spent over an hour on my birthday washing the french windows to let in the light and polishing my big wooden table so that when I finally unwrapped my beautiful glass art, the light would catch it and it would sit, glistening, pride of place for everyone to see!
If you have a spare five minutes, check out Jo’s work at http://www.jodowns.com and get lost in all those gorgeous pieces!
Just a short post today, as I find myself with a long to-do list and very few hours to do it all in. With Christmas quickly approaching, its difficult not to get disheartened being an artist who is trying to sell his or her work. The opportunity to sell artwork at any stage of the year – especially that of fine art, is fickle and almost wholly unreliable. You find yourself in a position where your rooms are filled with finished and half-finished canvases that are doing little but gathering dust and not making you the money that you initially intended on. With this in mind, I thought i’d give you a list images of the kind of work I am trying to sell. Perhaps they are completely the wrong kind of art to sell online, via my Etsy shop or by using the numerous social media outlets available. It seems that at this time of year especially, the artists trade revolves around producing festive cards or some form of Christmas gift idea. When did paint on canvas become so old-fashioned? Nowadays, the need to have a beautiful or unique piece of art on the wall is reserved to those who have a real passion for the work or those who have an abundance of cash to spend. But, with the ever-increasing number of artists and the massive variety of work and styles available, it seems that art is more affordable now than at any other time.
As promised a list of the things that you can do to make your bleak day, an inspiring one!
Working from home or at home:
Delay opening the curtains and jump into a hot shower with your favourite toiletries.
Dress in warm, comfortable clothes and break out the wooly socks.
Open the blinds or the curtains as fully as you can. Let in every grey bit of light that’s out there!
Make a brew! Sit looking out of the window and think about how warm and cosy you are inside…
In the right mind frame? Now for the inspiration..
Get a pad and a pen ready – and write all of this down.
Look at the colours. What do you see? You think its grey outside but the world is never one colour. What colours do you see in the clouds? The shadows? The lawn? The pavement? Write them down and learn to recognise how beautiful the bleak days are.
How would you describe the day (no negative words allowed please). You say grey, I say ‘steely’. You see rain, I see silver iridescent blobs that water the plants! It’s not cold, its ‘frosty’ and it’s not wet, its ‘fresh’! It’s important to change the way you think about things by using the right words. The glass is always half full remember!
Think about the benefits of the rain? Do you love where you live? Would it be the same without the rain? Would it be as lush, as fertile and as green? Write it down. What do you like about the rain? For me its the chance to get my favourite wellies on and to walk through puddles, to smell the fresh and clean air after and to see everything with a new shimmering glow.
Think about what makes you miserable on a day like this. Is the rain really stopping you going out? Or is it just demanding a different set of clothes? Granted you can’t sunbath anymore, but you can still have as much fun on the beach with a brolly and a sense of adventure!
Plan your day – think about what you’ll eat later, cook a casserole, a stew or broth – all those things we can’t get away with cooking on a summer’s day. How about a hot chocolate? Rain is a great excuse for comfort food *ahem!*
Most importantly stop and listen. Listen to the rain lashing against the window and the wind howling down the chimney. What does it sound like? What does it remind you of? Does it inspire images of fishermen on the raging swell pulling the lobster pots in? Couldn’t you paint that?
Creative or new to creations?
From an artistic perspective I love the sunshine. It inspires paintings of harbours, of quaint fishing boats and beach scenes. But, the angry weather, the storms and the wild winter days stir emotions in me that are, for the most part, more useful than those I get from the perfect summer evenings. Look at your list of colours and get out your paints. Don’t paint the picture you see outside, see what images it produces in your mind. Can you see a wind torn mountain? Crashing waves against a crumbling sand dune? Cold weather worn villages stacked high with empty lobster pots? What do the colours remind you of? When you have the image in your mind, get it down on paper. For me, I like to do a quick sketch and put paint to canvas almost immediately. The more you think about it the less fluid it will become. The end result doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact it doesn’t have to be finished. All it needs to have done is change the way you look these ‘bleak’ days and to have stirred an altogether new set of emotions.
If you’re not of the artistic persuasion – at least from a painting point of view – why not use your new found feelings for these stormy days as a starting point for some interior decoration – adding a splash of muted greys to calm your bedroom or perhaps it inspires a gourmet meal or new wardrobe?! Whatever the outcome, its good to remember that we can’t change the weather we’re given, but we can embrace it!
It’s practically lunch time and already it has been crazy morning. With the recent onslaught of wild weather it seems that few of us are willing to stray outdoors – and who would blame us? The clocks have gone back and the nights have drawn in. The evenings, which were once filled with after work trips to the beach are spend instead with mugs of tea, fleecy blankets and dinner in front of a film. A cosy way to start off the winter months, but something I personally tire of quickly. Gone are the long shadows that creep over the garden and across the kitchen table from the setting sun, gone are evening al fresco dining’s and gone are the red skies and lilac sunsets. In its place (so far at least) are blankets of grey cloud cover, blustery winds, hail and rain. So where in this season of sullen evenings and foul weather do we find the inspiration to keep on trooping?
Many people suffer from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a recognised form of depression brought on by such changes. Personally, I think the notion is a load of rubbish. We all hate the dark evenings, the rain and the cold and it makes us all feel a little bored, miserable or down, but surely this is a normal reaction to the winter nights? So why make excuses? Instead of blaming the seasons, why don’t we look for inspiration in the bleak nights?
Today, I woke up to another day of a nasty chest infection. Work beckoned so remaining in bed wasn’t an option. Instead, I took a long hot shower to wake me up and arranged to meet up for a coffee with a good friend. The new christmas Praline Mocha was an excellent choice! Sitting in her cosy T5 next to Penarth Pier we watched the high tide rolling in. The sun had finally broken between the clouds and was reflecting off the sea with a luminosity we rarely get in November. We sipped our coffees and planned future adventures, business endeavours and shopping trips to seaside boutiques. A serene and much needed morning outing. Not an hour later, the sky turned an ominous grey and the heavens opened! Now you would be forgiven for mistaking the white covering for being snow. In reality it was something far icier and hail like!
Even in the most miserable conditions there is always inspiration to be found. Whether its art or writing, or even a need to create a better mood to get you through the day it is worth remembering that there is little we can do about it all. We can either accept it is going to make us miserable and be happy with the misery or we can look for that silver lining. For me, I try to embrace the energy that the storms bring. Whether your at home or in an office, try to make yourself cosy. Think about how good it is to work inside – and trust me I know. Having worked as an archaeologist, I know how it feels to be knee deep in mud in an open field while the rain lashes against your ever degrading waterproofs.
If its inspiration your seek, its there to be found and it is in abundance – you simply have to look.
While time is quickly running out for this post, i’ll let you think about the ways in which we can turn a rainy day into a real motivator. If your coming up blank, check out my blog in the next few days for some well used hints and tips!
It must be over two years now, that I designed the tattoo above for a close friend of mine. The flower, a gorgeous Gloriosa lily native to the African shores was created as a symbol of both South African born Jen, and her marriage to Graham.
When I was first approached, the notion that my work would be permanently etched onto her back terrified me. As any artist will tell you, we are difficult creatures, fickle and never content with the outcome. Now dont get me wrong there are people who may think your work is wonderful, but we all know that if we arnt happy with the end result, no amount of praise or compliment would ever change our opinion. I imagined it in my head – a final design that she loved but I hated. Something that I would look upon and crindge. Forever! Nonetheless, being asked was a compliment. A huge one at that..
So, over the next few weeks I trawled through book after book of exotic flowers and sketched the lily over and over again until its design was second nature. I gave her a number of designs and we tweaked, chopped and changed until she was happy. The idea to have both flowers connected was particularly successful. For me, if it was to be symbolic of her marriage, no amount of intertwining the heads would ever substitute for them being completely connected. Two flowers on the same plant. She loved it!
I traced the image and made a final sketch to the scale required. No colour necessary, that would be left to the tattoo artist and his imagination. Or at least his ability to copy a photograph.
Weeks passed and I was told the tattoo was a success. Soon after came the grand unveiling! It seemed I was more nervous about seeing it than she was. Had the tattoo artist understood my design? My vision? Did the colours work? Was it the right size? The answers were yes, yes, yes and yes. It was beautiful, and I was very, VERY relieved.
Almost two years have passed and I had all but forgotton about the tattoo. That was until last week. An hour or so into our visit and tattoo art cropped up. Jen reminded me of how fantastic she felt telling people that HER tattoo was one of a kind and not part of an over used portfolio in some tattoo parlour. Not strewn over the internet and certainly not copied. Completely unique. More than this, her pride came from the fact that a friend had designed it specifically for her. Someone who knew her well enough to create a permanent piece of art that would embody who she was and what she loved.
So here it is. In all its glory . I had forgotton how proud I was to have created this for her. So in true blogger fashion, im sharing it with you.
After a long and dedicated day sat illustrating by the kitchen table, I had well and truly earned an evening at the beach. Suffering from a mix of aching muscles (a product of hours stooped over a piece of Roman pottery) and blurry vision (again, pottery concentration syndrome) it was time for a break. 4.35pm came and the pencil was put down for the night. The sun, still shining through the french doors, had dropped a little lower in the sky and promised a beautiful sunset. I downed tools, wrapped everything up and set upon digging out my wetsuit. Using an old Oxfordshire recycling box, I piled in the wetties, additional Fins, screwdrivers, wax and towels. Next stop – boards. Carefully manoeuvring two 9’3 longboards around the narrow side of a semi-detached house is no easy feat I can assure you, but in no time at all, I was strapping those babies to the roof of Darren’s new 911. Yes, it has a roof rack and yes it looks bizarre (still bad ass mind you) but I wanted a T5 and he wanted a Porsche… so that was our compromise.
There’s no feeling that epitomizes the start of a journey quite like the one you get from strapping your boards to the car while the sun beats down on your shoulders, the smell of suntan lotion lingers in the air and you catch a glimpse of your own reflection; battered aviators perched on your nose, worn jeans, flip-flops and your oldest but most comfortable vest top. Now you’re ready to roll…
Unlike any other adventure, heading to the sea is one that requires a series of complex rituals! Boards on, wetsuits thrown in a bag, oversized pack of crisps and bottle of water for on route, last check of tide times and the words ‘I’m sure there’ll be something’… A desperate last hope that your preparation hasn’t been in vain. The drive is always taken up by good music, staring off into the distance and talking about the last time you had that ‘epic day’.
Arriving at the beach – and just in time to miss paying for parking (result!), we get our wetsuits on, peel the boards out of their bags and head to the ocean. There’s little that can compare to the smell and sight of the sea. At the water’s edge, we leash up, do the obligatory ‘baywatch run’, throw our boards onto the water and jump on. Paddling out and over glassy, clean surf is literally, the best feeling in the world. Nothing compares. Caswell bay in the Gower, isn’t renowned for its pumping waves, great swell or perfect conditions, but, its close and Monday night, it was perfect. The waves weren’t big, but they were beautifully formed and the conditions were just right for what I needed. After a long day, I wanted Neptune to take pity on me somewhat. To give me something a little gentler. Something that would allow me to totally relax and forget the world. Apart from us, there were a couple Paddle boarding a few meters away. He was pretty good, she was still learning. With a death grip on the paddle, I watched and cheered her on while she attempted a wave, only to completely wipe out in the white water. It didn’t matter, she came up smiling and got back on the horse.. so to speak. We sat out back, gentle bobbing on the swell and talked about holidays, people, jobs… everything. Nothing matters when you’re sitting on your board watching the sun go down behind the cliff tops. If you want magic in your life, that is it. You don’t need to be on a 5ft board, ripping up the waves in a 5 minute competition heat to really appreciate surfing. It is the smallest wave to the biggest rollers in the Welsh rain or under the Hawaiian sun.
Paddling my heart out to catch a tiny bump in the water, I caught and jumped up. The feeling of the wax under your feet is so soothing. I was up, swept the board to my right, trailing my hand in the wave that broke next to me. After a short ride, the wave fizzled out and it was time to turn around and paddle back out for another.
When you feel the sun on your face, that comfortable warm evening heat, the spray from the nose of your board is ultimately refreshing. We sat, we talked, we surfed, we fooled around in the water and we searched for the dozens of jellyfish we could feel passing by our feet. Those non stinging little buggers are like ninjas! You can’t see them, but you can feel them when you least expect it. Little blobs of squidgy jelly, bouncing off your hands and feet.
The sun went down and the air cooled. Time to go home. Catching one last dribble of a wave into the beach, I tied my leash around my board and headed back to the car. You breath differently after a surf. Slower and deeper. It is infinitely relaxing. A quick rinse in the outdoor showers, crank the music up and change back into those sandy jeans. Before you know it your home and you’re in bed. Dreaming of the next time that you catch that perfect wave…