Dearest Belles and Baubles,
I hope you are keeping well. I expect you are up to your eyes in tinsel or sherry, but I wanted to raise a hand before the year is over.
And what a year it's been. In fact tell me, am I asleep and dreaming or have I gone quite mad? Because, for a moment there, I imagined that in 2020 the whole world (and life as we know it) has been entirely redesigned by a Wuhan bat, Bill Bezos-Gates or Boris Cummings or all three in cahoots.
Did it really happen that we were not allowed to go to the pub? But then a bit later we were allowed again but then we weren’t again and then we were again if we bought a Scotch-egg or something…but some of us don’t eat meat so that’s not fair, IS IT BORIS? Anyway, thanks to Scotch-egg raves and the powers-that-be making up rules as they go along, it looks like many of us will be pulling crackers with ourselves this Christmas.
Partly due to the strange and terrible goings-on of the coronavirus, plus a fair bit of personal life restructuring (I certainly wouldn't recommend moving house during a lockdown), there has been a dearth of new available artworks from me. Clearly there are far more important things for us consider at this difficult time, and just think of the pennies I’ve saved you.
Not that I’ve been entirely unproductive; in-between chatting to my imaginary friends and tippling the occasional Absinthe (I'm told alcohol kills the virus), the odd painting has been created... Although, maybe I dreamt that too, because the images appearing on canvasses so far include: clothed sea crustaceans, naked ladies and cakes with faces. I'll present these to you at some point in 2021. Not in person, I won't come round to your house or anything; I'm probably not in your bubble so most likely I'll send you an online link.
Given the unbelievable nature of this year, I’d like to thank anyone who made contact, commissioned artwork or simply continued to be supportive of artists - as ever, you are very much appreciated.
Have the very best Christmas possible, take good care of each other and remember: do whatever you can to keep body and soul together - the fixit badgers are under tremendous pressure (and that's just from me).
Let's all cross our fingers, paws and tentacles for a Happy New Year.
Just me, checking in from my bubble, where things are peaceful. If you are also bubbled, feeling bubbly, in a bubblebath or just blowing bubbles, I hope yours is a place of comfort while the virus continues to rage around us.
Luckier than some, my years of solitude at the easel have inadvertently prepared me for a locked up, locked in, locked down life. Being semi-reclusive anyway, my days are not so different, I am painting again; it’s a good feeling and a nice way to escape into different worlds. I've been keeping busy with commissioned pieces but I am shortly due to resume work on the more feral, free-range art that I do.
At the risk of doing myself out of a job, I’ve been monitoring, with pleasure, a renewed focus on personal art projects in the wider community. If the canvas shortages are anything to go by, the numbers dabbling since March, have boomed. Helping the mood along, Grayson Perry’s ‘art club’ was lovely bit of socially engaged television (still well worth a watch, if available) it showed amateur artists being given a chance to share their lockdown experience and have their work seen in public. Covid has created an appetite for self expresson and the pursuit of activities we might not have otherwise had time for.
Special mention here for Lesley (usually works in IT) and one of her creature comforts:
who's a pretty boy, then?
In the absence of live performance and restricted viewing of film and exhibitions, now would seem a good opportunity to stretch your artistic legs and make your own entertainment. You may find it fun or relaxing but ultimately it is therapeutic. Switch off the outside world, immerse and express yourself in paint, poetry, dance, and song, something good must come from this virus.
Although I am now returned to my own easel, I have temporarily abandoned my limited edition programme and won’t be doing my usual publishing before Christmas this year. It isn’t a permanent arrangement and I will, of course, alert my private mailing list when I do get around to pressing ‘PRINT’.
Bricks and Mortar
I recently moved into a new home and I’ve been busy ripping out the unwanted features ( I love a bit of demolition) and doing a spot of DIY decorating. The next room to be tarted up will have a theme of peacocks, partly because I love the blue to green colour spectrum, but also…corrr what a lovely bird!
Peacocks were a feature of my younger life – my parents adopted a pair and they wandered among our extensive menagerie. This may have been quite normal for anyone living on a grand estate or even in a large house; ludicrously, the Szikora peacocks patrolled a 1930’s pre-war bungalow. I do wonder how much the neighbours enjoyed hearing the distinctive call of the birds at dawn and dusk, no question it can be a haunting, evocative sound, but they are also astonishingly LOUD.
This handsomely adorned creature has become attached to various superstitions around the world. India, China and Japan are places where it is believed that the feathers invite good luck into the home. I find this Asian idea preferable to that of our own nation, where, some believe that the bird invites bad luck; the arrogant nature of the peacock is allegedly transferred to the person who incorporates their feathers into décor or clothing. There’s worse news for any unmarried maids hoping to find a husband – you can forget it - displaying these feathers means your Prince will never come. I’ve been known to court risk in my time, so I’ll take my chances, having purchased some feathers, if I am to be an insufferable spinster then at least I’ll have an exotic parlour in which to do it.
Occasionally my artwork is used for illustration purposes and I thought I would give a mention to The Deckchair poets who adopted me as their resident album cover artist. In case they are new to you, The Deckchair Poets, Jerusalem and Zorbanauts are three names used by the same band (don’t ask me why, they’re simply a law unto their eccentric frontman, Lynden Williams) but if you like some noisy prog-rock-n-roll with poignant, thoughtful and often plain funny lyrics, these are your boys and girls - don’t say you weren’t warned.
I’ve been commissioned to paint some horses, a favourite subject of mine.
The Lady Godiva on an anatomically accurate horse, painted ages ago.
Before I saddle up and shift my hooves, let me offer thanks to the people who have helped me through this year, both personally and professionally, If this Covid business is teaching us anything, it is a fresh appreciation of the valued people in our lives.
Wishing you a very happy autumn - May your leaves and toffee apples be crunchy and your pumpkins, plump.
Keep nice and safe, ya hear?
Hello lockdown lovelies,
Are you well? I really hope so.
The wheels came off the world, didn't they? it feels like the UK is at least on the hard shoulder now, and waiting for the recovery vehicle.
Having personally escaped with nothing more serious than a bumper scratch, I reflect that my own related frustrations are a mere blip compared with the suffering and losses of others. The virus has certainly caused quite the pile-up, but it has also offered some perspective.
In my last update, I did a little whinge about a house purchase falling through but another home is now hopefully a few weeks away. I complained that my easel was inaccessible; not anymore, there’s even a half finished painting on it. For lack of a garden or café, I have done my pondering whilst perched on the doorstep with a pot of tea. This allowed me to enjoy the odd greeting from passing dogs and their humans. And even, occasionally, from a patrolling officer of the law (cos, mostly, they’re nice like that).
If I am honest, I haven't missed very much at all. shops, restaurants, cinemas, airports? nope. Though I do balk at the idea of closed theatres or being herded, single file, no loitering, around art galleries. And it's been very difficult to purchase certain art supplies online - it seems that lockdown has created a nation of artists, which is wonderful, but calm down with the canvas bulk buying, it's like toilet rolls all over again!
The pandemic (and its social and economic fall-out) has created a heightened awareness of humanity, morality and mortality. So it should: it’s everyone’s business to try and understand the world around them. My non-key worker role of ‘woman with brush’ is to communicate something of my own findings. I make no claims that what I have to say about anything is revelatory, explanatory or even remotely relevant, but it will download regardless. Though I need to spread my wings, I won’t get too visually gritty on you just yet; I’ve discovered that it’s possible to represent existential crisis in the world using popular biscuits alone.
There may have been some unhappy scenes lately; societal division is running deeper than perhaps most of us thought, while people congregating in their thousands to protest, fill beaches or attend illicit raves could have jeopardized our national lockdown efforts. There is still hope that these actions don’t push us back under the wheels of the Covid juggernaut, but stand well back, just in case.
It’s not all bad of course, there are some stars out there; you can't miss them, they shine from the gloom. Follow the light. or maybe you ARE the light; turn up your mainbeam for someone who may need it (cos you’re nice like that).
While you dazzle, I'll get busy organising a 'Ginger Lives Matter' campaign, because, some biscuits in the tin remain, stubbornly, more equal than others.
Wishing you a safe onward journey and hope to see you again soon.
What extraordinary times we are living through. We have been called upon to act with extra diligence, patience and consideration and to be clean. We have been asked to temporarily sacrifice our precious liberty and to wait.
These are not big asks when it comes to saving lives.
‘Sunshine indoors’ A painting made a few years ago but still hopefully sending the right message.
From the front line staff in the NHS, the stressed-out souls working in food shops, the army of carers trying to keep their charges safe to those keeping the basic infrastructure of our country in check, the volunteers, the vaccination researchers and their guinea pigs:
We salute you!
People working in risky and stressful environments during this horror show deserve our deepest gratitude and, when it’s all over, significant recognition.
Luckier than many, I’m waiting and watching the pandemic unfold from a house very near to the coastline. Looking left from my attic bedroom window, I can see the remains of former shipyards on the River Tyne. Enormous passenger ferries are usually visible, moving slowly out to sea but not at the moment. To my right, just above the rooftops, I can see that the horizon is made of water and, when the need arises, I know I can walk alone (once a day) to the sands.
However, this house by the sea isn’t my home, I am a guest here. Before Covid-19 I had been in the process of buying a place of my own. It may now take a lot longer than normal, longer even than the usual interminable carry-on that is conveyancing.
For now, Corona requires me to live out of a couple of suitcases; my belongings, including easel and painting materials are also quarantined elsewhere.
Six bored, tetchy pussycats must be placated; they can’t understand why they’ve been wrenched from their own comfy residence and locked down in a strange place for their own safety. Little did I think when I came here for a gratefully accepted stop gap that I too would be confined to barracks and for the same reasons.
No stranger to solitude, making art is my natural way of passing the days, but without the tools to do this in the normal way, I'm doodling, writing and planning. Due to a string of other unforseen events in 2019, I was already going to miss the target for a new exhibition this year. I’ll aim at 2021 but ultimately it doesn’t really matter because there are far more important aims at this time. Right now, like everyone else, I’m worried for my loved ones and more focused on seeing us all return to whatever will pass for ‘normality’ once this maniac disease has been wrestled into submission.
The sands of time will continue to pour through the hourglass and this will be behind us soon enough; until then, try and enjoy the boxsets, biscuits and pyjama days. Bear the frustration and let's get each other to the other side, it is a privilege that will be denied to many.
Love (from a safe distance of two metres)
Ps, I am aware that there is still a technical fault with this website which means your comments are not showing online and it appears that I have no way to reply to you. Sincere apologies for that and I’ll get my ‘have you tried turning it off and back on again? man’ to fix things.
Hello Human Beans,
Yeesssss! It’s still just about January so I can still wish you a very belated Happy New Year.
You probably weren’t wondering why I haven’t posted in a while but I’m going to tell you anyway.
There have been a series of rather distracting events which have caused me to down brushes and focus elsewhere.
First I closed my Whitley Bay gallery because it was keeping me too far away from the easel. Then, since I was on a roll, I decided it was time to move from my silly old house and into something more manageable. I’ve always enjoyed moving and change is good for an artist…but very suddenly, finding a new home dropped down my list of priorities when life, or should I say death, put the boot in.
Taking my young, funny and hardworking brother first, it knocked the wind from me to lose another sibling and, although we didn't see each other often (how frequent this lament must be when it is too late) I have nothing but good memories of him. I was still trying to process this loss when, also snatched away, was a gentle, charming friend who I will always remember as still supporting, from his hospice bed, the almost unsupportable Darlington FC. Rest peacefully dear boys: no more pain.
Finally, I lost my darling Mammy at the beginning of 2020.
For anyone who might have been following my artistic endeavours over the years, you may also know that alongside the painting, I’ve been closely involved in steering my mother through a long and difficult dementia. It started with care at home and eventually progressed to a residential nursing facility.
a painting of mother and daughter, 2008
Dementia starts out insidiously: losing car keys, repetition in conversation, until it picks up speed and eventually rages through the life of its victim until it has consumed all cognitive and physical function. It is devastating.
I could go on at length about the failures of the healthcare system for people with this vile disease and the way nursing homes are increasingly replacing compassion with corporate policy - but this isn’t the time or place, so I’ll just say that my Mammy (Piglet) was lucky to have some dedicated carers doing what I consider to be one of the most undervalued and underpaid jobs there is. I will always be grateful for their humanity.
By the end and, after an unexpectedly long sentence, I am so grateful that Piglet has finally been set free.
Mammy doing what she always did: holding me up and helping me to reach the good things that life can offer.
We all have to lose our parents and, so I’m told, it is only then that we finally become an adult in this world.
So what will I do as a grown up? For now, it’s back to the house move, I’m up to my scalp in packing boxes and wondering if I reeeeally need to keep the life-size pink sheep that lives in the kitchen.…?
Probably I do, so not a fully fledged adult yet then.
While I wrestle with these momentous decisions, I will continue to live somewhere near the sea (possibly in my car) but I have primed some canvasses because after an unsettling 8 months of not painting, I have an awful lot to download.
If you are reading this, thank you and I really do hope your year is off to a good start but if the rosy apples don’t easily drop into your lap, get on your tiptoes, stretch and you will reach them.
Always an Inspiration x
Are you battening down the autumnal hatches and clambering back into your woolly tights and waders?
What a busy old summer it has been. Working for most of it, I haven’t had an actual holiday but living close to the sea does offer some compensation.
Tyneside managed a decent share of sunbeams and I did steal a little time for warm strolls, bubbles on the beach with the ladies...and blatantly lying flat on my back in the grass with strawberry stained lips.
Among the odd little excursions out of my studio, back in very early summer, I found myself aboard a restored vintage lifeboat. Somehow I was given the task of piloting the heavy old thing from the Mouth of the Tyne, along the coast and into Blythe Harbour a few miles away. If I say so myself, I did quite well and kept her in a straight line, didn't run over any seals or sink to the seabed.
move over Captain Pugwash - SJ on the high seas.
Apparently lifeboats cannot capsize and I imagine this is why I was allowed my time at the helm. Still, I might try flying an airplane next.
In August there was a visit to the Rocky Horror Picture Show (it is now 45 years old!) you can be grateful that I am not sharing the photographs of that particular occasion, however, whenever I do ‘dressy up’ events, I always have it in mind that it would be nice to get a painting from it, so brace yourself for stockings and sauce.
In my previous ramble, I mentioned a portrait exhibiton by celebrated pitman painter, Norman Cornish (1919 – 2014) and in September I also went to see further works currently on display alongside his studio which has been carefully recreated for the Bob Abley Gallery in Spennymoor; a hidden gem in a quiet corner of County Durham.
It was a poignant moment to behold the engine room of a fellow artist and I was moved to see the rickety, hardworked easel and the familiar boxes of charcoal that I recall from my student days – It was a privilege to see this private piece of his world. Cornish has been shamelessly imitated by contemporary artists (I bang on about this quite often) but if you want authenticity, real-deal-bees-knees, pay this place a visit (link at bottom of this update).
Through August and September, I held an exhibition for my friend Anthony Marshall - it was a huge success and I was very pleased to be a part of it.
a handful of Anthony's colourful paintings, all now in their new homes.
Anthony in my studio, teaching 9 year old Freya, how to apply impasto acrylic to canvas using a palette knife, (she picked it up like a pro).
The exhibition was a really special way to spend the summer but it is now time I turned my attention back to the waiting canvas on my own easel.
You might have gathered by now, that I get itchy feet quite often and change studios regularly (probably a little too often) Running a gallery has been valuable insight into how much work goes on behind the scenes in both retail and curating exhibitions. Frankly, *wipes brow, I’m a bit worn out.
So, along with a house move (I do nothing in small measures) I’m closing the gallery and with it, another chapter. Pastures new are calling.
My publishing programme is also on pause while I focus on creating original art for my next show. I’ll be back in both print and paint next year with some foxy new images for you.
In the meantime, while I am beavering away, no matter where I am physically, this website is a guaranteed constant and you can always find and contact me here. You will also find a small number of my original paintings available for sale at www.trinityhousepaintings.com
So ta-ta for now, let’s all make a big pot of tea, toast some crumpets and watch the orange leaves flutter down. Have yourselves a cosy autumn and I’ll be back to update you again soon.
As I sit at my desk tapping away, it is a lovely day. The sun has opened the roses and brought an abundant crop of raspberries. There is also, inexplicably, the sound of bagpipes in the street (?) if I didn’t have these words to type, by jove, I’d go out and do a Highland Fling.
However, when I first started jotting my little update a few days back, it was dark as night, pouring down and windy to boot. The café next door to my studio had suffered a flash flood and, because the drains adjoin our properties in a certain way, so did my studio. Hello British Summer.
It’s as well we are used to this sort of weather carry on. It doesn’t stop us from grabbing a cagoule and making for a festival or National Trust site. Come hell or high water I still go in the sea for a paddle; in fact I think it’s the best time to do it. There is something magical about being in a body of water on a moody day or in the rain.
I’m sure it relates to the memory of being a slip of a lass and wallowing in an outdoor thermal pool somewhere in Hungary. The heavens opened for a warm thunderstorm and I clearly recall glimpses of brilliant colour from gaudy bathing caps through the thick, warm fog. I also clearly remember storks standing to attention in their nests atop nearby telegraph poles and adding to the surreal quality of the moment.
Having said all that, I have not yet been brave enough to immerse myself fully in the North Sea. I’m not as brave as the gaggle of giggling older ladies I’ve seen on my local beaches. One day I will join them – especially since I learned we currently have dolphins here – ACTUAL DOLPHINS.
I painted the hefty lasses (above) 21 years ago and looking at their thighs, it surprises me how much the figures of my paintings have changed shape in the intervening years.
Speaking of bodies: following stern medical advice, I’ve had to make a few life changes. Unfortunately, a long love affair with the grape has had to be significantly cooled down and I’ve started riding a bicycle.
my bike: Nigel
Never good at exercise for the sake of it - I’d rather fall in a bed of nettles than join a gym – I have found that I don’t mind exercise so much if it is useful. So, at least a couple of times a week I’ve taken to pedalling along the coastline to my studio. Commuting this way stretches out the arthritic body parts, gets oxygen and blood through what passes for my brain and overall delivers a certain delicious smugness for the whole day.
There are downsides: motorists aren’t always very considerate, pot holes and poorly maintained roads can make for an uncomfortable passage. Worst of all is the ‘look’. Wearing a cycle helmet and fluorescent items teamed with a padded bum under a summer dress is unlikely to win me the ‘Best dressed artist on a bike in Whitley Bay’ award but I guess it’s a small price to pay for being a little healthier.
My own private beach (Longsands, Tynemouth) on a perfect paddle-day.
Just a very brief mention about a small exhibition I happened upon while in Durham recently. If you are reasonably local and a fan of Norman Cornish – you could do a lot worse than have a stroll through this lovely city and catch the small exhibition featuring his superb portraiture.
Cornish – self portrait
Forget the current crop of ‘nostalgia’ artists and their untimely efforts to capture a long-gone era of pit toil and flat caps, Cornish was the genuine article, painting his own life of hard graft and community. It also marks the 100th year of his birth.
The exhibition is open until September 1, 2019.
Artist turns Gallerist
As you may be aware, I have a small public space (not that it’s very public since I only open it on a Saturday) but I am still there most days, slowly covering the canvasses. I’m setting aside paintings for my own exhibition in 2020, however, I will pause the brushes for a handful of weeks this summer to host a summer show for my friend and talented artist Anthony Marshall.
I’ve collected Anthony’s work for a long time and although he needs no help from me to find homes for the beautiful art he makes, I’m delighted to have his paintings on the wall of my own gallery. If you should fancy popping along to view the exhibition, the details are just here:
Before I go I’ll leave this here:
Sometimes I receive images of drawings, sculptures and cakes made by others, (often school children) and which are inspired by my own art. You can’t imagine how chuffed this makes me. it’s a lovely compliment. Recently, I received my first ever LEGO tribute (Thank you, Gail). Who knew such things were possible?!
I’ll be back soon but in the meantime, enjoy the summer sun, rain...or snow...
Whatever it does, wear the cagoule and your best smile.
Dear flightless bipeds,
If you are in my mailing list, you'll know that I released a couple of very low edition number prints yesterday, (30th May).
The winged one fluttered straight out within a couple of hours - Many Thanks to all you big hearted butterfly collectors.
If you missed that one, there are still a couple of greyhounds looking for a forever home...
Thank you again,
This is a notice to let you know my website is now healthy and safe again following horrid activity by internet rascals.
You may have recently experienced difficulty in using the site. It has also come to my attention in an entirely unrelated problem, that any comments or replies made by visitors to my blog (words) page have not been getting through but rudely disappearing into the the ether! And all the while I’ve been wondering: was it something I said?
Everything should now be back to normal now. Thank you for your patience.
Dear spring lambs,
It is my favourite season again and I am triumphant.
I have survived another cold winter in the studio. There is none of your new-fangled central heating in my place. Oh no...
you don’t need such luxury when you are a hardy Northern battle-axe. Using a strategic triple layer of cardigan, microwaveable hot things to shove up the cardigans and re-chargeable electric socks (yes, really) I simply chipped the ice off my paint and got down to it.
But now it’s getting better every day, new lambs are gambolling about their pastures and we can’t move for daffodils.
Here, where I live in North Tyneside, the snowdrops which were rescued from a neighbour’s front garden before a brutal refurbishment, not only survived the uprooting but blossomed happily and right on time in my own garden. I’m now waiting for the tulip bulbs I planted two years ago to come back again. Not naturally green fingered, I am grateful for the smallest blot of colour in what is an otherwise weedy, green-grey backdrop.
Flowers offer us cheerful and simple comfort: a lovely gift from nature. I find myself wondering how it is I’ve painted so few: after all, it’s impossible to look at Van Gogh’s sunflowers or Monet’s waterlilies and feel stress…
and in these strange times of climate changes, Trumps, backstops, fake news and borderline political meltdown, we really should take a breather sometimes.
(it's no Vincent, but it's the only floral one I could find by me)
So, while fending off hypothermia in the studio, I have painted some rudey-nudey naked ladies, a party of human cakes and some winged women in various flights of fancy…
These canvasses are the start of a collection for my next exhibition. As far as a theme goes, it’s looking girly - not pink and frilly - but more shaping up to be about the female condition and the way society at large expects women to be - a subject matter I always return to.
Recently I braved a cinema (their munching and rustling patrons normally keep me the hell away) to watch ‘The Favourite’. An impressively female centred film - it’s star, Olivia Coleman, turned up again this month in the new TV series of ‘Fleabag’ alongside the brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who (in case you’ve been living on the moon) not only wrote this but also last year’s outstanding TV drama ‘Killing Eve’.
It seems that the girls are enjoying a fairer share of the spotlight just now and we are all the better for it. I grew up being led to believe that women can’t be funny, never mind funny AND clever. But just as others have done before them, these talented women blow that notion sky high - that’s as good an inspiration as any.
SJ having a lovely Spring walk.
In a recent update, I was whingeing about my skeleton. I’ve now been through the noisy MRI scanner which confirmed an arthritic cervical spine along with other ramshackle bits and pieces. This all nicely compliments my lopsided eyes and is what you get for sitting on your bum at an easel for nearly three decades. I’m trying to stand up more now and I’m also wearing a Fitbit which reminds me to get up and walk 250 steps an hour. I march around the studio at full pelt, sometimes waving my arms around. It gives the nice Indian waiters in the restaurant opposite something to be confused by.
Speaking of which, it’s time for my constitutional. So until we meet again, drink in the longer days; maybe go lamb spotting! Buy yourself (or someone you like) a bunch of flowers. Better still, grow your own, watch and smell the blooms. Let’s get ourselves a nose full of something pure - a fragrant and welcome change from the unavoidable, whiffy manure heaps we find scattered around this life.
ps I will be placing a handful of prints onto the website for Easter, don't ask me what - I'm not organised yet x
Happy New Year!
It's early days but I hope your annual blank canvas is showing the promise of a future masterpiece.
Forget resolutions: those are all about unrealistic, goody two-shoes behaviour and inevitably doomed to failure. I strongly urge that you tear up your new gym membership immediately and save yourself an 11.5 month guilt trip. Any one of these next 365 days could be our last, so walk with a friend instead, sing loud, open the wine, bake a big fat pie, smile at a stranger, read for hours in the bath, tango across your kitchen, LOVE.
Whatever you get up to, thank you very much for being here and supporting my artwork. I wish you all the very best for a happy year ahead.
Dearest hibernating honey bears,
New! Here is a link to two new wobblin' hissin' stocking fillin' arty art prints, just in time for Christmas:
and in other news...
Every autumn, I dread the darkness, damp and the leaves turning orange. Not even toffee apples help in my least favourite season.
I found this sweet poem which reminds me of why I prefer the winter and its promises.
Outrageous weather in late October didn’t stop me from attending the Whitby Steam/ Goth weekend again. It was a short visit but I enjoyed the spectacle and applaud the effort made by the faithful. I very nearly lost my wig a few times in the wind.
SJ (left) and fellow steamloon Becky in search of authentic Gothic cod and chips
Getting into my 'making the best of autumn' stride, on bonfire night I found myself in an outdoor hot-tub for the very first time. This particular tub is positioned high in the Pennines, so it was in rain and strong winds that old friends and I watched the fireworks in our bathing costumes praying that we wouldn’t be the end target of a stray rocket. As it turned out I was a casualty of something else and I now know that you shouldn’t overdo the bubbly in the bubbles. Something about the fizz, too much oxygen and the vigorous pummelling of internal organs transformed me into a lightly chlorinated, catastrophic mess - from which it took nearly 4 days to recover.
Fangs very much!
Far more important than my daft weekends, I need to say a big thank you to all those who gave a home to an artwork at any point over this year or if you have taken time out to visit my studio gallery.
*all serious now*
If you don’t mind I’d like to deliver a small sermon on the matter of collecting art prints.
I’ve been publishing art for more years than I dare calculate. It’s been a truly heart-warming experience to find so many people willing to give up their wall space to my work. Back at the beginning in the early 90’s, my then publisher took the risk of printing runs of 500+ copies. Mostly it worked well, so they did their thing and I did mine, never much thinking about the numbers.
Experience taught me that the art industry, like so many others, was placing profits above integrity and over ten years ago I decided to become an independent publisher. I immediately reduced the number size of my limited editions. There were assorted reasons for this but mainly I wanted the prints to be genuinely restricted, no improbably high numbers of artist proofs, United States editions, remarque’s or spare ‘insurance’ copies. I always keep in mind that ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’ so if the certificate says 10 copies, then it’s 10 copies, world-wide. I can set this number as low as 2 although usually it is between 20 – 50 copies and certainly never more than 100.
The downside of slashing print numbers is the risk of becoming Miss unpopular. In the case of the recent ‘Love Bite’ and ‘Deeds, Not Words’ images, they sold out on the day of release; lovely from the artist’s point of view but frustrating for collectors who failed to get a copy. I do try my best to be fair and make it up where I can but it's not easy. Luckily most collectors are very understanding, so thank you.
I have now completed phase one of my experiment in running a retail gallery. Having the space has enabled me to meet interesting people and collect lovely new local artfans but like so much of provincial Britain, it’s very quiet on the high street these days; often more so in seaside towns and, despite its recent tarting up, canny old Whitley Bay is still rather out on a limb. Worse than that, I’ve discovered that I’m not Superwoman after all: trouble with my wayward, deteriorating eyes and a recent diagnosis of bone growths and arthritis in the upper spine (most likely the result of years in front of the easel in cold studios), I would now prefer to dedicate myself solely to creation. There will be no downing of brushes until I'm forced – so the gallery will close for now and I'll be painting: while I still can.
My masterplan is to open for special events and YOU CAN VISIT THE STUDIO/GALLERY ANYTIME! Please just contact us (with a little notice) to arrange a time. JAM will also be open Saturdays until Christmas 2018.
I will leave you with this new family portrait painting (private commission) 'Christmas Crackers'.
The print release of ‘Deeds not words’ and ‘Love Bite’ are now all reserved. Both prints have been oversubscribed - If you contacted us to register your interest - once we have allocated each edition, we will be in touch very soon.
Thank you very much for another overwhelming and super-fast response!
It seems the holidays are all but over: flowers are throwing down their petals and weak English tans are beginning to fade. Today, I’ve had to put on a pair of socks for the first time in weeks which made me ponder on the imminent end of a bittersweet summer.
There have been no fancy holidays, just the occasional stretch-out on the grass and a couple of days away from Tyneside.
One of these included a visit to the National Railway Museum (I’m not a spotter but I know someone who is). George Stephenson’s ‘Rocket’ says hello as you arrive and then you see a poignant new exhibit: a WW1 ambulance train which carried wounded soldiers back from the front.
I am always taken aback by the sheer scale and presence of the magnificent engines. I looked at almost everything except the modern Oriental trains - you can’t get a sooty face and wave your ribbons at those things! I perched on a stool in the café (Blueberry muffin: 7/10) and admired the curves of the magnificent Mallard but one of my favourite finds was this marvellous platform vending machine.
SJ wondering how in the world she can get one of these...
There is simply too much to say about a place like this: I loved every square inch of it. The house and estate have been beautifully maintained and recently renovated: the stone could have been quarried yesterday. And who knew that a Georgian greenhouse at Chatsworth cultivated the 'Cavendish' banana that we all know today? The plants were sent from Chatsworth to various locations in the pacific and grown commercially for the first time around the turn of the 20th century.
This French beauty was sitting in the grounds - a great pity it was closed. If I were posh enough to have a favourite champagne, it would be Pink Laurent Perrier; I even painted some once…
I can’t report on the cake quality at the Duke of Devonshire’s place as I didn’t have any. I’d overdone it the day before as it was my birthday. Instead I bought a ridiculously expensive bar of Chatsworth soap which is still in my car, overpoweringly a reminder that I need to go places more often.
There has also been a good amount of peaceful painting time and I certainly don’t take for granted the evening walks home along the normally chilly coastline in the bizarrely out of character warm breeze.
For those of us inclined towards depression or seasonal affective disorder, the sun is one of the best fixes there is which is why I dread (and have to psyche up to) the coming seasons. However, I am very lucky to see another autumn: a gift which some will be denied.
This week, I experienced the loss of a friend...
Toni was an incredibly talented artist who I met many years ago when we shared the same art publisher. We hit it off immediately; she possessed a wonderful, dark sense of humour. Toni was well known for her striking paintings of animals, executed with such precision that I could never understand where her patience came from. Yet, as technically accurate as her work was, she could never be accused of photorealism. Toni composed her portraits artistically and could give a standard Friesian cow a certain ethereal quality; all of her cows,spring lambs and goats would have names and personality. This magic ingredient and her respect for animals is what elevates her artwork above merely faithful animal painting.
Despite this honed skill, at around 50 years old, Toni changed careers. At this age, how many of us would be brave enough to train for an entirely different occupation, especially while undergoing treatment for double breast cancer? She worked and studied like a demon, passing her final exam this summer (with 100%) to become a hospital pharmacy technician. She had been doing extra revision when she couldn’t sleep because of the pain from an extremely rare form of metastatic cancer, such was her resilience.
Not being able to meet very often, we wrote to each other regularly for years. I have reams of correspondence full of Alan Bennett-esque observations from her life and whenever I cleared out my inboxes, I always saved her messages because they were too good to delete. I’m so glad I will always have her words.
On asking Toni how she managed to remember so many clinical references and chemical names:
“When I studied ear/nose/throats, I struggled to remember the difference between ‘Otitis media’ and ‘Otitis external’ as they have very similar symptoms and some related specifically to the ear canal. So for one, I drew a gondola in a canal (ear canal). My victim in the gondola was carrying an ear trumpet (can cause temporary deafness) then I struggled to remember that Clioquinolone is one of the treatments, as we don’t have those type of things in hospital pharmacy, I drew an upturned Renault Clio in the canal that someone had dumped. Did all that and it didn’t come up in the exam.”
Life isn’t fair: a brilliant person has been taken from her life-partner, Wendy and deprived those of us who knew her of a determined, clever and remarkably funny friend. I will miss her.
Toni Hargreaves 1965 - 2018
Dear chocolate kittens,
To everyone who made a short or a long distance trek to Jam gallery for my recent ‘Urban Zoo’ exhibition, it was wonderful to see you, “THANK YOU!” - I cannot say it enough.
It was a real pleasure to see familiar faces and a delight to welcome new ones into the fold.
(Thank you also Guy 'Badger' Callaby, Bev at North Chocolate for your kind sponsorship, Lottie McPhee cakes for your sugary seagull confections, Alison V for the dog-biscuits, Margi Noise-machine for your extra paws and Ian Wright for everything else).
Rats and greyhounds, butterflies and seagulls are winging their way to new homes.
I am always ambivalent about the departure of creations. The canvas and I spend long days alone. It’s a battleground at times but slowly and lovingly, we reach our peaceful destination together. Sometimes, even years later, when I look back at a picture, I can still hear the music I was listening to at the time or recall the season.
When art comes about from significant personal experience or influenced by the people we love, it is never easy to let go. A musician can write a love song and he gets to sing it as many times as he likes - I don’t think about the fact I will never see my original again but I wanted to be an artist and the only way I can do that is to enjoy the creating and keep moving on.
So it’s not without sadness to say goodbye but knowing that the fruit of my labours has touched someone else enough to live with it makes me happy. It also means that I can sometimes buy the work of other artists and they should know that I am a careful guardian - all too aware of the emotional investment they may have made.
Back to school!
I’m busy with all sorts of miscellany for summer and I’ve been to visit OFSTED champions, St Matthew’s Primary School in Prudhoe, to talk art and biscuits.
Photo : Kate Buckingham, Hexham Courant
Not spending much time with kiddies, I forget just how entertaining they can be. On setting the task to create themselves as gingerbread people, one little girl did this:
During August, I’m also going to cast my eye over Tyneside’s ‘Great North Exhibition’ and I’ll report back with a review of the art but, since I know the equal importance of it, I’ll also cover noteworthy cakes I may discover on my visits.
After Christmas I will begin work on my next major exhibition (2021). Before then my mission is to tackle the commission waiting list; if you are STILL patiently waiting, thank you so much - I'm on it!
Love, SJ x
Ps As I get very easily distracted - I’ve decided to close my studio/gallery ‘Jam’ Mon-Fri, but more than happy to make arrangements for mid-week visits by request (still open as usual on Saturdays, special events, exhibitions or on blatant whims).
PPs Urban Zoo is now finished, but if you haven’t seen it, the catalogue and available paintings are right here. http://www.sarah-janeszikora.com/images/pdf/URBAN_ZOO_CATALOGUE.pdf