Monday, August 20, 2007

Artist in Residence at Nature In Art

On Sunday 29th I got the call to say that all was ok for me to stay at the farmhouse B&B Nature In Art uses to board the artists in their Artist In Residence programme. It had been cut off during the flood, but now there was normal access and plenty of bottled water. I was delighted… Sally’s, or ‘home’ as I often find myself calling it when I’m there, is a fabulous old farmhouse set in surroundings of rolling fields and beautifully kept gardens. It’s a fabulously restful place to be in with great views and a friendly homey atmosphere, so I was really happy to be staying there again… makes my week away feel like a real holiday.

So all Sunday and Monday morning was spent running around getting all I needed for the week, personal and work-wise, up together and ready for loading in the car midday on Monday. As usual I questioned my preparations…. ‘Did I have everything?’ ‘Was all the reference/art materials I needed packed?’ Did I have enough cards and promo leaflets printed?’ “Did I have enough labels?” etc, etc, etc. Too bad if I didn’t – no time left, I had to leave.

Setting up the room on Monday afternoon at Nature In Art was strange…. My friend Julie wasn’t able to be there until the next morning to set-up her stuff, and I had forgotten my CD player, so it was all a bit quiet really… we usually have great fun doing our respective displays at the same time with some music cranked up loud (as the place is shut on Monday’s we can get away with this behaviour) and us chatting-full of enthusiasm at the week ahead.

My expectations of the week, to be honest, weren’t high for this year. With the flood waters only just receded, many homes having no mains water and many businesses in Gloucester shut down for the duration…. I wasn’t expecting many people to visit and certainly wasn’t expecting anyone to be spending money as such. I figured there’d be too many other things to sort out and finance for most people in the area – even if they were aware that Nature In Art was open.

Much to our surprise, the week went remarkably well. Firstly the weather was on the whole beautifully warm and even hot for several days. Once again our luck with the weather had held out! This was a bit of a shocker considering the previous two to three months had been of almost daily rain. And the weather since our residency week has turned back to cooler temperatures, rain and cloudy days! How lucky were we!

The visitor numbers weren’t as high as they normally would be, but nevertheless I was surprised at the good attendance under the circumstances. Once again we met some lovely people, both new and ‘old’ faces, artists and non-artists. Some come in and wander round, others watch you work, some chat for just a minute or so and then there’s those you have really good long conversations with about art –your work and their work, travelling, and obviously this year a frequent topic was the flood situation and how people coped.

We even had a local news TV crew come in and film us on our second day there! The idea was to show that Nature In Art was open again to encourage visits; so they interviewed, Jackie, the Education Officer and filmed us for a little bit. As the cameraman was right at Julie’s shoulder and seemed to be focused on her… I carried on painting behind my tabletop easel thinking I had got away with not being filmed. Only when I spoke to my Dad later that evening did I find out that I hadn’t and could be clearly seen across the table… although my Dad did say I looked very serious and joked that he didn’t recognise me because of that fact!

I even got some work done! I managed to do some more of a pastel commission I had been working on and also get back to that wildebeeste calves oil piece I had started back earlier in the year!

The whole point of doing the residency is for people to be able to see an artist at work and to chat to them. However, now and again, sales are made. In the past my sales have always been with my greetings cards… but this year sent me into somewhat of a shell-shocked state, as I sold five of my framed originals! See my next post for images) I felt incredibly elated and embarrassed at the same time. Julie usually does much better on the sales than me and I know how I felt in previous years when my work didn’t ‘go out of the door’ in the same way. Whilst I’m dead chuffed for my friend’s good fortune, it can be somewhat disheartening and depressing not to be doing in any way as well. So with the tables unusually turned this year, I felt for my friend… I know she was happy for me, but I knew she must have been feeling down…. After all we all need the cash to keep us going and paying the bills and though she sold a couple of pieces, it wasn’t near what she usually sold during our residency week.

To add to our good week, we both came away with the contact details of a couple who run a wildlife art gallery in Holland, who were interested in taking both our work at some point. So that was something else to smile about and look forward to in the future.

And how did we get on with the water situation? We used bottled water for the whole week for drinking, brushing teeth and food prep and cooking, although the mains water supply was functioning again early in the week enabling proper flushing of loo’s and the all clear was given for using the tap water for drinking etc, but only after it had been boiled, during the weekend. We faced no hardship or inconvenience at all. However the reminders were abundant that, prior to our arrival, things had been different. There was the sad sight of houses, pubs and businesses with household items, computer equipment, carpets, furniture etc piling up on front lawns and driveways. There was a very strong ‘wet dog’ smell coming off the land left muddied by the flood waters. Crops flattened, rotting and covered in silt in the fields.

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