Open Studios: An Insider View

by Christine Hopkins SGFA

Do a google search for ‘Open Studios’ and you will find a comprehensive list from Bedfordshire to York; towns, cities and regions whose artists are linked together with one aim – to make art accessible to as many people as possible. Open Studios, Open Houses, Arts Trails and Arts Weeks happen every summer all over the country and from the perspective of an artist are a chance to show one’s work to whoever comes in through the door. This may be someone who has seen your tiny thumbnail image in a glossy brochure, come by recommendation from another studio, or is just a curious neighbour or friend.  Perhaps they were attracted by the balloons or bunting, or brightly coloured arrows that you’ve distributed around your neighbourhood, or perhaps they’ve visited before and wanted to come to see what is new.

Christine Hopkins, "The Road to Dungeness"

Christine Hopkins, “The Road to Dungeness”

Some of us operate as solo artists, others group together to offer an alternative experience. ‘Studios’ can be purpose built work/gallery spaces, front rooms, dining rooms, sheds and outhouses. I’ve even bought work myself from a downstairs loo. We open up our workplaces to the curious; happy to show work in progress, allow visitors to watch us at work, and talk about our processes and inspiration. For a visitor we try to ensure that the experience is as different as possible from a commercial gallery, giving us the opportunity to make direct contact with someone who will (hopefully) buy a piece of art to take home, or even just a greetings card. However, whilst sales are an important part of our income, it’s about so much more than that. We work alone most of the time, and I’m sure most of us enjoy talking about our work. The feedback that we get is so encouraging – either verbal, or a lovely comment in the visitors’ book. The best visitors are those who take time to look properly at the work, and ask about techniques or ideas. My least favourite are those who either rush in and straight out again, or those who arrive just as I’m thinking about closing for the day, then stay for an hour talking about themselves. In Surrey there is a ‘loyalty’ scheme for anyone who has been to four or more studios, collecting a signature from the artist as proof. Once or twice I’ve had ‘signature hunters’ whose sole aim is to get the back of their book signed.

Whoever your visitors are, you have to be on duty for several hours each day, ready with a smile and a cup of tea, jelly beans, biscuits or mints, and put on the act of being a successful artist for a few hours. Pretending to know what you are talking about can be an awful strain. However most visitors are utterly charming, ask insightful questions and are just thrilled to have a small introduction into your creative process. They think that artistic clutter is meaningful rather than untidy, and if you appear scatty or too talkative it can all be blamed on your ‘creative personality’.

Christine Hopkins, "Seafood Bar"

Christine Hopkins, “Seafood Bar”

I’ve been taking part in my local Surrey Open Studios every year since 2005, and each year is a different experience. The event has clashed with Fathers’ Day, world cup football, royal birthdays, my own birthday and with other Open Studios events taking place in nearby regions. One year I had the Olympic torch passing the end of my road and another time there was a cycle race whizzing by. The weather can affect visitor numbers dramatically – 2016 was the wettest and coldest June in memory, and in some years the heat has been almost unbearable.  The Surrey event takes place in early June each year, but events can be found round the country at all times of the year, and  sometimes there will be a Christmas ‘pop-up’ fair, a preview exhibition or other communal event associated with the main summer opening.

Before we can welcome any visitors, we have to clean and tidy the studio, do a health and safety assessment, display hazard warnings on sharp tools, and remove spiders to a quieter place. It’s necessary to plan what work will be on display, and what to work on during the event. Sometimes it can be a productive fortnight, with several new pieces done from start to finish, and occasionally painted, framed and hanging on the wall, ready for sale. The goal is to end the event with empty wall space and lots of new contacts and even new friends.

Christine Hopkins in her studio as part of Surrey Open Studios 2016.

Christine Hopkins in her studio as part of Surrey Open Studios 2016.

At last, at the end of two weeks you can shut the door for the final time, pack away the bunting and return the dining chairs to their rightful place. The spiders all come out of hiding, determined to recreate the webs that you so thoughtlessly brushed away. All the clutter that you tidied away into the spare bedroom can begin to creep back downstairs, and suddenly there are no more nice ‘visitor’ biscuits to snack on. For about 24 hours you exhale sighs of relief that the hard work is all over and that you have the house back to yourself. But, you wake up on the following day feeling unexpectedly flat, and soon you are full of ideas for next year, and can’t wait for the merry-go-round to start up again so that you can jump on for the ride of your life.

It would be hard to do this without an understanding family offering support and advice, climbing ladders and nailing up the bunting, making endless tea and coffee, and not minding that their lives are disrupted too – thank you.

The individual artist is just the top of the iceberg, resting on all the hard work that goes on beneath. Without the hard work and enthusiasm of everyone at the Surrey Open Studios office, our East area co-ordinator, the support of the New Ashgate Gallery and media partners Surrey Life magazine, none of this would get going in the first place.

Artists are asked to submit a statistical return and evaluation at the end of the event – in 2016 the Surrey event 305 artists attracted an estimated 15,700 visitors which resulted in sales worth £240,000. This event is a big boost to the local arts community  – artists, framers, greetings card printers all benefit directly, and there are many indirect benefits too. Artists gain commissions, pick up teaching or demonstrating bookings, and build a network of like-minded people who may go on to organise other events and opportunities.

Find out more on www.surreyopenstudios.org.uk, or search for UK Open Studios 2016 to find a comprehensive list of events across the UK.

Find out more about Surrey Life magazine: http://www.surreylife.co.uk/home

Find out more about the New Ashgate Gallery:  http://www.newashgate.org.uk


About the author: Christine Hopkins SGFA is a painter/printmaker who has been a member of the Society of Graphic Fine Art since 2007, and served on the governing Council from 2009, acting as Honorary Secretary until her retirement in 2015.


Footnote: As a result of visitor votes during the Open Studios event, Christine Hopkins has been shortlisted for the Surrey Artist of the Year seven times, being awarded runner-up in 2015. In 2016 she was among the four most popular artists in Surrey, and will go forward to the final whose results will be announced in November 2016. This takes place at the New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, and more details can be found here: http://www.newashgate.org.uk/whats-on


Upcoming SGFAMember Open Studio Events:

Bridport Open Studios: SGFAPP David Brooke

August 20 -29 2016

http://www.bridportopenstudios.co.uk/word/painting/david-brooke-31/

Somerset Art Works – Various locations across Somerset including SGFA members Anne Carpenter, Myrtle Pizzey and Chris Lee

September 17 – October 2

http://somersetartworks.org.uk/openstudios16/

 

Wandsworth Artists Open Studios– Venetia Norris ASGFA

1/2 and 8/9 October

http://wandsworthart.com/

 

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Townscape 2016, East Grinstead

Press coverage of the exhibition

Press coverage of the exhibition

A contemporary art group based in East Grinstead has been working on objects based on items in the East Grinstead Museum. Harriet Brigdale SGFA is a member of the group and is showing with them until 3 September 2016.

Harriet elaborates:

Our images are based on items in the Museum. Some members have drawn medical instruments used by McIndoe during the second world war on faces and hands of heavily burned air crew and pilots.
Another Member choose a simple 1970’s phone and created a three dimensional wire phone.
I choose a very old carpet beater, and drew on a patterned background in pen and ink, I also made a  small wire carpet beater and made a patchwork carpet and embroidered the carpet beater on that.

It is an interesting project to be involved in.

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For more information about the museum please see their website http://www.eastgrinsteadmuseum.org.uk

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Image of the Month: Bear Swimming II by Gary Cook ASGFA

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Gary Cook ASGFA, “Bear swimming II”, Watercolour, 70cm x 55cm

Polar bears are modern man’s canary in the coal mine. The dangers that they are facing in the Arctic are an early warning to us. I wanted my watercolour to demonstrate how our actions are affecting the environment there and will, in time, affect us all too.

Layered into the painting are facts and information about how the sea ice is dramatically shrinking as temperatures rise. In 2012, the area of summer sea ice was 1.3 million square miles less than the average for that time of year. The lost ice is a vast amount, equivalent in area to 13 UKs. Scientists are predicting that the world’s weather systems will be disrupted by this dramatic change in the amount of ice at the North Pole. “I want people to look at my work and be drawn in by a dramatic image. Then, on closer inspection, discover the shocking statistics subtly drawn within the background about how we are in danger of losing so many magnificent animals by the way we are affecting the environment.”

Although polar bears are strong swimmers, in the past they only had to swim short stretches between floes to hunt and breed. The melting ice has seriously changed this. They are now forced to swim long distances to survive. I think the image of the struggling, swimming bear highlights our unintended actions on the climate.

The elephant in the room from cookthepainter on Vimeo.

I paint on unstretched 640gsm handmade Khadi watercolour paper which is a lovely surface that helps create rough textures. I use masking fluid, salt and a roller at different stages to move the paint around, which often results in unintended but pleasing results.

By using a restricted colour palette I hope the animal and especially, the eye becomes the main focus of the piece. Influenced by my newspaper infographic background I believe the most compelling way to communicate these shocking statistics is visually, so I create woodcuts to depict the facts. In this case I used the outline of the UK, stamped repeatedly on to the paper to drive home the enormity of the loss of summer ice. On this occasion, I ended up with two blocks because only when I had finished carving the first did remember I needed to work in reverse.

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Profile of the Artist: Gary Cook ASGFA

Gary Cook ASGFA

Gary Cook ASGFA

After training at Bournemouth Arts University, where he was later made an Honorary Fellow, Gary Cook joined The Sunday Times where he worked for 26 years, becoming graphics editor and winning many national and international awards for his artwork.

He is now pursuing his passion for painting and campaigning about the environment. He combines his journalistic training with traditional painting to create infocanvases, which merge art and graphics.

His work has been shown at WWF headquarters, was featured in GreenSpirit magazine and will be shown at upcoming exhibitions including the Quartz festival, Taunton and the Resurgence R50 event at Oxford. Gary was elected to the SGFA in May 2016.

For more information please see:

website: cookthepainter.com

Twitter: @cookthepainter

Instagram: cookthepainter

Facebook: facebook.com/cookthepainter

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Louisa Crispin at the Society of Women Artists, Mall Galleries

Louisa Crispin ASGFA has been selected from the Open Submission for the third consecutive year for the Society of Women Artists, at the Mall Galleries, London 28 July – 7 August.

The two drawings which will be exhibited are Lichen on Amelanchier Canadensis II and Decay IV, The Sunflower.

I have a fascination with drawing lichen and twigs, the longer you look the more your eyes tune into the cracks and crevices, the blemishes, mark making on a miniature scale.

 It was only when I had finished that I realised the influence of Anselm Kiefer in my Spring drawings. Last year’s sunflowers had been languishing in pots outside my window, catching the winter sunlight, gradually dessicating yet protected by an old brick wall. A series of studies, each from a different viewpoint, delicately captured with memories of Kiefer’s RA exhibition.

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Image of the Month: The Industrialists by Kevin Wells ASGFA

Kevin Wells ASGFA "The Industrialists"

Kevin Wells ASGFA “The Industrialists”, pencil on paper, 50 x 40 cm, 2015.

 

The Industrialists was unusual for me in the sense the idea came to my mind fully formed and was then drawn pretty much as it was imagined. Usually, I start a drawing with at best a vague idea, or, more often with no idea at all, just the desperate hope that something worthwhile will emerge from my scribbles. The inspiration probably came from a slight obsession with things Victorian, the experience of the polluted metropolis and the joy of drawing tall hats. At the time I made this drawing I had put my cartoony scrawls to one side to work on a series of more objective pencil drawings but could clearly feel the influence of my more natural tendencies beginning to seep through in the faces of these Victorian gentlemen.


Profile of the Artist: Kevin Wells ASGFA

A compulsive doodler drawing inspiration from the characters around him much of Kevin’s work is a development of his sketchbook drawings. These sketchbooks are crammed with rapidly rendered figures scratched from life, memory and imagination. Kevin studied fine art at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design, Farnham (UCA), won the 2005 Winsor & Newton Watts Prize and was the first Artist in Residence at the Watts Gallery in Compton. “The Industrialists” won the Best Themed Work prize at the SGFA Annual Exhibition Draw 15. Kevin was elected an Associate member of the SGFA in 2015.

www.wellsart.blogspot.co.uk

https://twitter.com/kevinwellsart

https://www.instagram.com/kevinwellsart

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Joining the SGFA and Call for Entries “Draw 16”

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Draw 15, Menier Gallery, London

Each year the SGFA hold their Annual Open Exhibition at the Menier Gallery, London. There are numerous prizes to be won and submissions are open to all.

The deadline this year for paper based applications is July 15 and for email applications July 22, 2016.

Artists whose work is accepted via Open Submission are eligible to apply for Associate Membership with the Society of Graphic Fine Art.

Sally Friend ASGFA, ASWA, exhibited with the Society of Graphic Fine Art before becoming a member. She explains how she found out about the SGFA and how it has helped her professional development.

I first found out about The Society of Graphic Fine Art when I picked up a “Call For Entries” flyer at The Mall Galleries. It was for DRAW13.

I hadn’t been making Fine Art for long but was a Graphic Designer. Having work accepted for an exhibition at The Mall Galleries on my first attempt, had given me confidence, so I thought I would go for it!

I submitted one print, an etching called The Bathers. The Bathers was the second print I’d ever made, so I really wasn’t sure it was good enough.

I was very excited when it was accepted. I remember the “handing in” morning at The Menier Gallery and seeing all the work being handed in and thinking, “crumbs, the work is of an amazingly high standard. Hope they haven’t made a mistake”.

When I passed my print over to the smiley lady at the desk, she exclaimed “I loved this!” Her friendliness made me feel very encouraged and welcome. She turned out to be the gorgeous Harriet Brigdale SGFA, mother figure, encourager, Bulletin Editor and glue of SGFA. Now my lovely friend.

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The Bulletin keeps SGFA members up to date with the latest exhibitions, news and gossip.

The night before the Opening of DRAW13, I was at home when the phone rang. It was the then President of the SGFA, Dr.Jo Hall PPSGFA, AOI. She told me that I’d won “The Award for a Highly Commended Print” for The Bathers and hoped I would be attending the Private View.

I was stunned, it was such a confidence booster. I remember feeling really nervous waiting for the London train on the evening of the opening.

Later that evening I was overheard by Harriet at The Menier Gallery saying “I’m not sure what a mezzotint is.” She immediately introduced me to the brilliant mezzotint expert, Clive Riggs SGFA. He had a gorgeous prize winning print of a hare in the exhibition. He explained the mezzotint process to me so enthusiastically, that I was inspired to buy a “ready rocked plate” the following week and have a go.

The atmosphere of the Exhibition Opening was very welcoming and friendly. It was lovely to be amongst fellow drawers who loved drawing as much as me. I was also very excited to sell two of my Bathers prints that evening!

I’d volunteered to do a couple of sessions of stewarding and found I was paired up with someone called “Fitzy” (Glenn Fitzy Fitzpatrick ASGFA). He was so sweet and friendly. He made me coffee and told me all about his time in the army and his passion for drawing. His drawings were fabulously loose and expressive.

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The Private View at Bankside Gallery of “Drawn Together” a members only exhibition, 2015

A couple of SGFA members said you should try for membership. A tall kindly chap who’d created the most amazing Prize Winning drawing of a ships’ figurehead (a self portrait), who I now know to be our illustrious Honorary Treasurer, Barry Harrison SGFA- winked and said “We LOVE sketchbooks!”

The following spring I received an email from the SGFA encouraging me to consider applying for membership. I remembered what Barry had said about sketchbooks. I knew I had a shelf in my studio groaning under the weight of sketch books.

I entered some work for DRAW14 and applied for membership.

I remember feeling a rush of nerves as I handed in my portfolio to the Associate’s Representative at The Menier Gallery. It was Charlie Kirkham SGFA and she was so smiley and warm, I immediately felt better. She asked me if I’d done the drawing of a soldier in a trench, Despair. When I said yes, she said “I love that!”

I had to return at about 4pm for the verdict from the committee. My supportive husband had taken the day off and we went to Tate Modern for a few hours. I found it hard to concentrate and look at the work, I was becoming more and more nervous.

At 4pm I returned to The Menier a nervous wreck. Christine Hopkins, SGFA, our fabulous secretary at the time, was seated at the desk. She was very welcoming and told me the President Jackie Devereux PSGFA would be with me shortly. I began looking at the exhibition which calmed my nerves, while I waited for Jackie.

Jackie appeared and said, “Well, we enjoyed looking at your work – ” I was waiting to hear, but we don’t think you’re ready yet , like they say on X Factor – but she said – “and we’d like to welcome you onboard!!!!!” I was so thrilled I went to give her massive a hug! To my horror I saw that she had her arm in a sling and I thought “oh no – I’ve just hurt the President”. Another “Bridget Jones” moment.

Anyway Jackie assured me I hadn’t damaged her arm and told me to go downstairs to collect my portfolio. When I did, I saw my drawing Despair on the far wall, it looked like it had a note below it. Intrigued, I went to take a look, had it won a prize?

I left the Gallery in a daze to meet my husband. When I saw him I burst into tears and said “I’ve been made a member and I think I’ve won a prize!” I was in such a daze, I wasn’t sure if I’d imagined it.

Later, at the Private View, I went to check and I had won something. Andrew Marr presented me with the “The Award for Themed Work” for Despair. It had been selected by The Very Rev’d Andrew Nunn (Southwark Cathedral), who’d said “It had touched his heart”.
Later, Andrew Marr told me that “the drawing was very beautiful”. I was so thrilled and excited, I’ll never forget that evening.

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Drawing Days are a great chance to meet like minded artists

Over the following year I went to the SGFA Drawing Days and began to meet the other members and make friends. I loved the companionship of drawing with a group and sharing each others sketch books. I was introduced to museums I hadn’t visited before, like the Horniman.

I am friends with SGFA members on Facebook and enjoy seeing their work and sharing mine. When I’m stuck with something or need technical help, I have a family of friends and colleagues that understand, with masses of experience to draw upon.

Finally, last October I had two works selected for DRAW15. A painting about my grandparents and an etching called Rapture. It won “The Arcadia Award for a Highly Commended Print”. It was selected by Martin Shortis, from The Royal Drawing School and presented by John Huddy, owner of The Illustration Cupboard, St.James, London.

Submitting work to the SGFA Open Exhibitions, followed by being elected as a member, has been incredibly positive for my development as an artist. It’s so much better to take part in exhibitions before deciding if you would like to be considered for membership. There is the opportunity to meet members and to discover if they are your type and if you are a comfortable fit.

The members are amongst the most friendly, professional and encouraging of all the major art societies. I urge any artist who believes in drawing excellence to submit their work to DRAW16.

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If you would like to find out more about submitting your work for Draw 16 details are available at: http://www.sgfa.org.uk/call-for-submissions-draw-16/

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Site and Symbol Exhibtion from Maz Jackson SGFA

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Poppy and Maz Jackson warmly invite you to SITE & SYMBOL an Exhibition and Film Launch. Private view 6 – 9pm Wed 22nd June. Exhibition Open 12 – 9pm 23rd – 25th June. At THE HOUSE, 64 Briarwood Road, London, SW4 9PX

Poppy is an international performance artist and painter, Arts Council and British Council Supported, recipient of the Arts admin 2016-17 Bursary. She is a visiting lecturer and tutor at the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths College. She has also lectured in New York and Chicago in connection with her solo performances in both cities.

Maz is an SGFA member of 27 years, winner awards for drawing and printmaking. She has been exhibiting nationally and internationally for 40 years and has won awards for her egg tempera paintings in international exhibitions. She is also a Short Course Tutor at West Dean, once or twice a year.

To Maz and Poppy Jackson drawing comes first. Always carrying a sketch book, they both note down anything that excites or inspires.

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A friend once said to Poppy ” I haven’t anything to draw with.”
“no problem,” said Poppy, “Use a fag end, it will do just as well!”
“Never stop drawing” is a message from them both.

” It feeds your head, your heart and builds a library of images to build your practice, whichever form it takes.”

poppyjackson.co.uk

http://www.mazjacksonart.com/

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