At last the dark months are behind us, and long days mean I can continue painting well into the evenings, maintaining momentum, and hopefully resolving themes and ideas right through to completion, at a time when galleries up and down the country which exhibit my work are beginning to want some fresh new paintings on their wall to entice the passers by to step inside.
The annual transformation of this little bit of Northumberland from dull greens and brown to bright green, with yellow daffodils just lifts the heart, and once again, I’ve managed to find time to complete a few daffodil paintings before the display is all over, and the next layer of colours replaces them.
The beginning of 2017 has marked a dramatic change to activities here following the decision to take all of the trade side of the business in house’. This has meant taking on more staff to manage the stock, orders and credit control, and it’s a good job I am perfectly happy to paint while other people work in the same area! So far so good, the trade customers are trickling in every week and range quite dramatically from visitor centres in Ireland to Floors Castle in the Borders, and we are quietly thrilled to now be one of the carefully selected suppliers of greetings cards to the ten WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) centres, founded at Slimbridge by the artist, Sir Peter Scott- son of the famous Antarctic Explorer, Captain Robert Falcon Scott. We share a passion for wildlife, and I have spent many hours drawing birds here at Washington Wetland trust, right on our doorstep, so it seems apt.
We are getting to grips with the new website, which went live’ last week, not without its gremlins – these things never happen smoothly, no matter how carefully they are planned. We are all learning how to manage and upload text/images in this rather different format to the old website. With hundreds of variations across the paintings, prints, cards and gifts, getting every single option, postage price, sizes, descriptions etc correct is time consuming and sometimes frustrating. The new website magically resizes for smart phones and tablets, as habits change, and browsing now takes place more often while sitting on the sofa in the evening, and less often sat in front of the computer screen, apparently! Another feature is the facility for trade’ customers to access the trade prices, new offers etc where they can order, apply for a credit account and even pay for things.
Last summer’s exhibition, Nature is Dreaming’ started just one day after the referendum results, which could have been a disaster. Fortunately for me, most of the original paintings featured in the catalogue, mailed out three weeks earlier, had already been reserved prior to the actual preview, otherwise it would have been a very disappointing preview, as most people were quite shocked by the results, and uncertain about how Brexit’ would affect them – this does not create the feelgood factor we artists rely upon for sales!
The design work for the catalogue and invitations for my own summer exhibition this year, Wild for Midsummer’ here at West Woodburn, is almost complete. The exhibition doesn’t take place until June, but the photoshoot, design and themes all need to be in place, then the last part is when the new paintings get dropped’ into the empty pages.
This always seems to be one of the most productive times for me. The alarm goes off at 6.30am, and once the dogs and horses are fed and the coffee drunk, I head straight down to the studio, buzzing about either new work or the next stage in a painting. I often dream about painting, and also wake in the night thinking about the work I am doing, and occasionally come up with the solutions which I’m able to take straight to the drawing board next day. I frequently work on more than one painting at a time – this is the best way with watercolour, as the drying time is critical in between layers’, so wet paint, already mixed can be used on another painting, usually the same subject. This technique takes the pressure off, and encourages me to maintain a confidence and a flow which results in a more daring’ attitude I feel. I think it’s the not having all one’s eggs in one basket’ effect!