Second Year of Business - 2002
First published Saturday 2nd January 2021
I entered my second year of business deciding to set myself a painting series each year to focus on studying to improve my work, skills and techniques. Deciding to start with the basics, I first worked to consider form and especially the role of light on the form: “the fall of light can transform the everyday and ordinary into the extra-ordinary”. I had already been documenting this in my paintings and studies of horses and hounds, and I added further study of anatomy to improve my knowledge and skills.
My very first commission – of cats! – in ‘Burmese Garden’ (above).
‘Thomas and Hounds’ (left) is a pastel piece I remember working on in the small bedroom of our house in Chapel Allerton that we also used as an office. I can see in this artwork my willingness to include riders, and it has been commented on before that I do seem to be able to see and depict how a rider sits, making them identifyable even if their faces are not painted. I attribute this to my long history of gestural Life Drawing (more of which later in this series).
In late November, I exhibited at my first trade-stand show at the Great Yorkshire Showground Halls: a Contour Exhibitions organised three-day horse and country themed event. From the start of my business, I had help and encouragement from a friend I had met through someone who shared a horse at the yard in Harewood, where our horses were stabled. Emma Firth (now Emma Sharp) had worked in sales and marketing, and had enjoyed manning trade stands before – a skill I was sadly lacking! Without her, I would never have had the nerve to take up a stand, but Emma’s limitless drive and energy had us setting up and running a 2m x 3m space selling originals and my first two print editions, along with a few card designs. It was an immediate success and I didn't have time to be nervous! By the middle of the second day, we had sold most of the pieces from the walls, and had to send another friend out to pick up more mount board and frames, so that pieces Emma plucked from my sketchbooks could take their place. We then sold them too, and came home with an empty car!
After the show, Emma came to my studio space for a further look through my work and came across ‘Kismet’. This was a pastel piece that I had drawn in 1995, based on a friend's horse Kizzy (who is still with us at the time of writing). The drawing, however, was too big for the sheet and over-ran the edges of the paper. The ‘error’ created a focus on The Eye (Emma’s name for the piece). While I had set it aside as a failure, simply seeing it as a study, Emma insisted it became a print and that I frame the original. She was, of course, right and ‘Kismet’ has been my best-selling print ever since. It was first digitally printed by a designer friend, but the Limited Edition of 500 run was taken over by one of my current giclée printers a few years ago when my friend shut down his press.
I have chosen Kismet as this year’s favourite, not only because I feel it stands up against my other work to this day; not only because I have seen that same cropped focus on the eye a thousand times since (even though I achieved it by accident); but primarily because it taught me the lesson that artists are often not the best judge of their own work!
My Christmas card in 2002 was another calligraphy card: ‘Ginger Christmas’ – again with the joke completed inside. As in the case of yesterday's card, this was partly hand made, so never offered for sale and only existed as my personal Christmas card. The calligraphy cards were inspired by the work of designer and artist Horst Janssen, who is one of my favourite artists. Some of the works Janssen produced were blocks of handwritten words with small paintings of everyday objects sprinkled within the text.