Welcome to this teeny bit of cyberspace we call our own. After years of boat travel we’re now completely aground and loving our new life in St. Asaph, North Wales (that’s part of the UK)!
If you peek through the downstairs window you’ll see this:
Myrtle House Gift Gallery where we show our work as well as lovely things from other UK makers!
… our new studio and really enjoying the warm, light space. Fancy having a look at what we’ve been up to?
This is inside one side of the outbuilding in February 2017 when we viewed the house as prospective buyers. A sort of garage and utility room separated by a wall.
And here it is now –
It’s amazing how a new space can encourage new creativity – some very different work is evolving and we’re really excited! We’ll post when there’s finished work to see …
Best to you all in the meantime.
We have indeed been off the radar for a long time … life-changing events do that, don’t they? And we certainly have a changed life after the sale of our boat a year ago. But life moves on and earlier this year we bought a house with a run-down outbuilding … aah, that was the carrot for this particular property: we reckoned on a couple of weekends of spicking and spanning and we’d have a great studio to work in! Do you see the potential like we did?
Those couple of weekends turned into 8 months of daily action; at last the outbuilding is looking like a studio. Just a few more weeks of interior work and we’ll be arranging the easels. And the solid fuel fire works a treat!
Mixing muck, laying bricks, replacing roofs doesn’t leave time for much else so we haven’t yet updated our website or blog to reflect our new status as landlubbers … ignore all things salty: we’ve well and truly swallowed the anchor!
Now we’re in one place we have a chance to enter local art exhibitions and our studio hums with discussion about what to enter where. No glaring nudity, we decide; and none of the ummm, ‘a-little-weird-if-you’re-a-conservative-art-buyer work’, we agree. That’s because we’re in the lovely county of Hampshire and we really don’t want to scare the horses … or the children who (we hope) will be taken round the exhibitions and introduced to ‘proper art’ to become a new generation of original-art buyers.
Coming up next weekend is Titchfield Art & Craft Show and we submitted our entries well before the closing date. When we received the email of acceptance asking us to check our entries we did just that … and failed to see that we had submitted a pair of watercolours as landscape rather than portrait orientation. It was only this week, as we measured up the pictures for framing, that we realised our error. We debated calling the Art Fair but decided that this could well be one of those happy accidents and, instead, a new pair of watercolours needs painting right away.
As we can’t change the titles either, the portrait orientations of ‘El Campo 1’ and ’El Campo 2’ will be pushed along to become numbers 3 and 4 and new landscape landscapes of the beautiful Spanish countryside will take their places.
This is how the new El Campos are starting out and next week we’ll post the finished works. Stroll over to our website here to see the first two ‘El Campos’, which won’t be having a weekend out in Titchfield after all. Instead they will be framed and grace our gallery walls until the right buyer comes along to give them a whole new outlook on life!
The other day, a young woman came into our gallery to ask about drawing lessons. We talked her through the format of our classes and how our style of teaching developed through seeing how quickly it brings about results. As we chatted she was looking at our art work and seemed especially taken by a drawing of the old penitentiary on Île Saint-Joseph, one of the trio of islands that make up Iles du Salut (the film, Papillon made Devil’s Island famous). The drawing is called BACK TO NATURE, it measures 35 x 50 cm and is executed in pencil.
“I want to learn to draw like this,” she said. She gazed at the picture, went forward to look at it up close and then added, “How long did it take?”
And that is the thing about art; how long indeed! No matter how early or late one learns the techniques: practical skills in the use of media, line, colour, shape, texture, perspective etc., it is our lives that shape what we create, our experiences that define our art, as well as our characters that form what we produce.
There is no doubt that BACK TO NATURE would never had been made if we had not visited the old penitentiary on Île Saint-Joseph. And we would not have visited those Salvation Islands if we had not built a boat to sail across the oceans. And every event links to a preceding one and that’s why artists know that it takes our whole lives to produce each work.
Of course, we could not tell that to the young woman with the urge to learn to draw. We said that once you know what to do it doesn’t take long. And we said that learning to draw is like learning anything else … acquire skills, add practice and express in your own way. It takes only the first step.
She committed to that first step and we will enjoy welcoming her to our studio next week … and continuing our journey of learning to know what to do.
We first went to look at the room that would become our studio on a balmy October day in 2015. Stepping inside, the chill of the air was like a shock to the senses and the first thing we said to the landlord was, “If we take this we’ll have to install a wood burner.”
“Good idea,” he said, “That’ll be no problem to me.”
We like things with a bit of character so, once we’d signed the lease, we hunted about on the web and found a lovely enamel stove of vintage years. Thrilled with this beautiful object we gave it an overhaul, found some stove pipe in the local metal merchant and as soon as we had the keys for the studio we carted the lot down there and set about installing it. They hadn’t named this model ‘Espresso’ for nothing and it was quick to heat every morning. As winter started to bite outside the stove toasted the studio, giving us day after day of practical warmth and visual delight as well as a pot full of bubbling supper by evening.
And then … an email from the landlord with a form to fill out: questions about the stove and what about a certificate?
To keep things short let’s just say that the next 6 weeks were a nightmare of red tape and faltering on the edge of having to give up the studio as without the stove the place would be unaffordable to heat. We kept working on our creative projects in between the letters and phone calls and eventually the certification came through to keep the landlord happy.
The whole experience reminded us of why we’ve lived an alternate lifestyle for so long, of how empowering it is to make our own decisions, assess our own risks and not have ‘nanny’ ruling our lives.
One of the creative projects from that time is ‘WOOD BURNER’, a watercolour of a scene at Buckler’s Hard in the New Forest. The 18th century cottage seen through the trees would never be allowed to be built today … nanny would definitely say “NO!”
Click HERE to see more about this watercolour.
We are privileged to meet really lovely people through our art classes and many of them have become our friends. When we were in Spain we spent a couple of winters in the Mar Menor and gave art classes in La Manga. The hours ashore with those enthusiastic students led to the creation of a pastel drawing called ‘The Art Class’, a fun piece to remind ourselves of our time in Spain.
Starting from scratch in a fresh place where we know few people is nothing new for us: when you choose to travel the world on your own boat it’s what you expect and we have ‘started again’ many times. The difference this time is that we have taken on ‘premises’ with monthly commitments of rent and utilities. The studio has to pay its way and we have to learn how to market ourselves. So we’re studying business marketing, a deep learning curve, especially when it comes to online tools like social media. We’ve been thrown into the deep end, we have to learn new strokes to stay afloat and the water is cold.
Right … we have a pastel drawing and some marketing, where to next? Well, we decide to put them together to increase our visibility in the area. As the local art shop/gallery has agreed to advertise our classes in their window we take a chance that they might consider expanding their offer to include the pastel drawing as part of the visual enticement to get people to come to class with us. So we find an old frame, mat and mount up the picture and take it to the art shop along with our advertising poster.
The response to the pastel is so enthusiastic it feels like being dunked in warm chocolate and left in a field of wild flowers.
“But,” the shop owner says, “get rid of the awful frame and give me a price. It’ll go quick.”
“It’s not really for sale,” we reply, “it’s a marketing tool.”
“Make it for sale … get some prints done.”
Good grief! We’re very serious about so much of our work and here we have a whimsical little drawing that’s getting far more attention than we expected. What do we do?
- Take ‘The Art Class’ to the fine art printers for scanning.
- Order a frame and present ‘The Art Class’ in the best way possible.
- Get ‘The Art Class’ in the window to do its job of attracting new clients.
- Think how rice and peas can be a great daily meal until we fill the hole left in our budget.
- Thank our lovely friends in Spain, especially Angie who is such a meerkat enthusiast.
If you’re a meerkat enthusiast or an art lover, an art buyer or philanthropist or anyone who wants to have a better look at ‘The Art Class’ click here and you’ll be whizzed over to the Gallery page on our website where you’ll find the original drawing for sale and prints to order. Cards will be available soon.