Open your studio for visitors. Sound easy, doesn’t it? Ha! Sometimes there is hardly room for me to fit in between the piles of tape, open stretchers with rough cut canvas draped over them, dirty palettes, rolls of paper leaning in corners, three easels, unfinished or abandoned paintings and an overflowing plan chest. Still when it has become routine for galleries to only show what they think they can sell (called ‘dumbing down’ in other industries) rather than trying to lead public taste, or to become so avant-garde that there is nothing for a collector to hang on their wall, maybe it was something I should do?
I asked around. Some were cutting back their participation as it was too intrusive or conflicted with new paying gigs. Some were a little overwhelmed by the number of visitors they had in their spaces. All were enthusiastic about having taken part. “You must” said one. “Go on” my partner said, “what have you got to lose – you could probably still work in it as well as showing some work”. Sounded like a good idea. Lewes ArtWave was looming as the annual festival season started to get under way. I just caught the last day of application, becoming one of 130 odd venues opening their doors across the area.
“You must finish that painting” said she who must be obeyed. Got her eye on it, I think. Oh dear it has been sitting there for two months with the last bit of white canvas daring me to cover it. I caught a faint tremor of the fear Cezanne was supposed to feel that led him to always leave a small piece of canvas unpainted unless covering it broke the painstakingly constructed colour relationships in his painting. How often I scanned his works for the small unpainted piece. How often I thought this was just an art historian myth. How I now sighed and picked up a brush
I also reworked a small section of the last peg painting and took it outside to photograph it in daylight. The previous version had glowed in the sun, looking almost radioactive. Just one piece I altered colour and it was more subdued, although a bit of cloud modulating the light helped too. More photographs of washing and pegs have been taken. An interesting one of the peg basket sits on my table now as a next step alongside an interesting view of the washing line contrasting pure plastic colour against fabric patterns, but they will wait until the show opens to see if they move forward – I’ll be working on them when you come.
The pegs, I decided must form one wall of the show, the flower paintings on a second wall. My series of images of harbours and other photography had to be there too. In my head I started to shuffle stuff around. Oh dear, this is only going to work if I empty the whole space, and maybe I will have to hang stuff on the outside wall too! It certainly looks as if the idea of keeping one wall to work against throughout the show was not going to be possible. If I am to empty the studio then I should really turn it into a gallery and open every day I can.
It took days. Not just a matter of filling the boxes with the studio kit but finding somewhere else to put them safely. Rolls of paper and canvas, boxes of stretcher pieces, easels all having to be found new homes. Gosh doesn’t the studio look large emptied! Then the task of getting the work down from the storage rack in the garage. Two-man job I think, wondering how it was possible.
A fortuitous phone call – Jim and Nancy wouldn’t be able to be around during #ArtWave, not for #CoastalCurrents either, a later festival I had joined to extend the opening period to nearly a full month. But they could come down early to look at what I am going to show. Nancy has bought work before, a patron, so I wasn’t going to say no. But Jim offered to help, a blessing. I had a small fall off the ladder to the storage rack recently and the bruises on my bum still hurt, so a helping hand was welcome. Jim to help lift things down the ladder, Nancy with her Interior skills to help arrange and hang the stuff – always good to have a dialogue with another aesthete when hanging a show. We had an enjoyable if tiring day with OH making lunch, and by the end of the following day I had most of the show finished. It is still not all done – that bit I don’t like doing working out prices, still needs to be done. There are some gaps still. Some signage is needed too to take people through to the studio, so I don’t have to keep answering the doorbell. People visiting the studio, of course – that’s you.
So opening Saturday at 11 a.m., let’s be having you, opening days listed below. I will manage to work there I think, and I’m happy to talk working methods and where the work is going – indeed where it has come from too. Even career advice for those seeking a career in the arts – I have spent 50 years successfully practicing now. Maybe one day the practice will make perfect. Perhaps some of it already is – but you are the critics. So, come along, and try some of the other 130 studio/showrooms too. Seaford is a lovely place to walk around, and Onneke in the High Street will give you a guidebook and map. Or the tourist office.