30 May 2009 Art shows in London

We went up to London today to see the Untitled Art Fair in Chelsea.

The photo here is from the Untitled website showing last years show. This is a very crowded space filled with 150 artists and their work. The show is run by an artist who was sure that he could do it better than established art dealers. Each artist is allocated just a few square feet of wall and floor space. Exhibitors are risking more than £1000 each to show here for one evening and a couple of days. It is probably nearer £2000 each when all costs are considered.  
The weather today was hot, and the atmosphere inside the Chelsea Town Hall was stifling. The aisles were crowded, but I reckon that there were actually more artist exhibitors than visitors. Some good work, some not so good. A few red dots visible, just a few. We met friends who were exhibiting, who were feeling hopeful that things can get better.

Then we went along the Kings Road a few hundred yards to the Saatchi Gallery. The contrast was extraordinary. Vast empty air-conditioned spaces on three floors. Exhibits have acres of wall and floor space each. Superb cutting edge exciting art on show, and entrance is free. No pressure to buy anything. The gallery is home to the private collection and personal display of a very rich man, who supports the arts generously.  He is very established and very very influential in the high art market. Saatchi has made a fortune for some artists, and dashed the hopes of others.

Here is my grandson Marlon contemplating an amusing  sculpture at the Saatchi.

On reflection I  cannot easily say which show I liked best.

29 May 2009 North Gate from inside the Pavilion gardens.

Yesterday I went plein air painting with Alan Furneaux in Brighton Pavilion gardens.
This is the other painting that I did, which again I tweaked a little when I got home.
Tweaking is sometimes neccessary because the paint needs to dry before it can be painted over, or because a different technique is required that is impossible while painting outside.
Glazes and washes of colour can fall into the first category. You cannot glaze or wash over wet paint without messy results. And I am so impatient.
Another constraint for the pochade artist is that very fine detail might need a very fine brush, and a steady hand guide like a mahl stick, and a solid support. That combination would be a bit impractical for outdoor painting with a pochade and a wobbly easel.

This painting is another acrylic on 8"x10" canvas board. 
We will be adding the two new Pavilion images onto our www.crabfish.com website as soon as possible. 
Plus it will be published in the  series of limited edition prints dedicated to this daily painting blog images. 
There are 25 small prints of each chosen picture, published as a 5"x7" giclee on watercolour paper archival collection.

28 May 2009 Plein Air again

My mate from Cornwall, the artist Alan Furneaux, came to visit.
So we went out together to paint in the Pavilion Gardens.
Here is Alan hard at work.

And here is my picture of the Pavilion Gardens Cafe.

Alan has put up his version of events on his blog.
Have a look!

27 May 2009 Mug and Knife

Here is another small painting showing stuff on our kitchen table.
This time it is a knife, lemon, tomato and mug.
I did it very quickly in the evening after another day sorting out the aftermath of the Open Houses exhibitions.
In the cold light of day this painting needs more work.

'Aftermath'? Where did that word come from?
Suggestions on a postcard please.

26 May 2009 ... the clear up

Some days it is very hard to find a positive image for this blog.
No-one did any painting. We didn't go out. 
We just cleared up after the last four weekends Open House events.
Here is a pile of boxes with stacks of small paintings and prints.
Not very interesting is it?
However, it was a good day, with plenty of fun things to do. 
Orders to sort out from the final weekend.
Phone calls from publishers wanting pictures in a hurry.
Emails with requests for images. 
Mike Embden came round to collect his work which we had been showning.
Money to sort out for him, which made him happy. 
Cheques to write, banking to do. 
Reframe, print, and do paperwork.
Pack foreign orders for post office.
So we were very busy.
But no nice images for you, sorry.
We will try harder.

25 May 2009 Philip Dunn

Bank holiday monday after the festival, so we went to Philip Dunn's birthday party as usual. 
And, as usual, it rained.
Philip is very well known for his deckchair paintings. 
His wife Carol used to run the Window Gallery in Brighton, selling Philips work, and mine as well.
They closed the bricks and mortar Window Gallery and opened the online version a couple of years ago.
Now Philip works from home in idyllic surroundings, with Carol, two donkeys, and a dog.
His barbeque birthday parties are legendary, his garden is wonderful, so we all had a jolly good time despite the english weather.

24 May 2009 Last day of Festival and a UFO

Actually the official Brighton Art Festival finished with a big bang and firework display in the evening of Saturday 23rd. 
We could hear and smell it two miles away. 
A strange high bright orange light [UFO] went silently and slowly eastwards across the sky after the fireworks. 
However, the Artists Open Houses extravaganza continues on for the last Sunday.
An early visitor was Janice Jones who came to collect her prize.
As you can see she chose 'Cat and Two Flowers' from the Collectors portfolio.
So, we have had eight hectic days of exhibition, with a guestimate of well over 1000 visitors to our house. During that time we sold plenty of cards and prints, plus a few original paintings. All 5 artists showing here sold something.
Eight visitors won a prize, a choice of framed print from our collection.
The final winner, on Sunday 24th, was Breda Dunne.
Thanks to everyone who visited us, and thanks for all the comments and 'my favourite' choices that you wrote on the prize draw entry cards.
Now the clearing up!

23 May 2009 final weekend

Saturday 23rd May is the start of the final weekend for Artists Open Houses here in Brighton.
A professional artist, John Nolan, from Ireland left a nice comment on yesterdays blog. Thanks John. I agree.
[Just click on the comment link under this blog entry to read, or send comments.]
The flowers that we got three weeks ago have wilted, so we needed to replace them. Todays image shows one of the flower bouquets. This one is in front of the fireplace in our living room, under Fran's landscape paintings.
We have seen these growing in Australia.

Funnily enough, overnight we had an e-message and loads of photographs from my nephews wedding in Oz. Good to see the family basking in the sun.
Then we had a website order from Japan for one of my new small paintings, and onother from Australia for some prints. 
I feel quite international today.
The penultimate winner of our daily prize draw is Tim Shawcross.

22 May 2009 another happy winner

Kate Lewis holds her choice of framed print from our Collectors Edition print.
Kate won the prize in our daily draw on 10th May when she visited our Open House event.

Once again the cat pictures are proving to be the most popular images for draw winners.

You can see the portfolio of images by visiting our website www.crabfish.com

21 May 2009 The Stinking Rose

No one knows why garlic is called the stinking rose. 
'Rose' is obvious, because sometimes it looks like a rose when the dry outer layers peel off the garlic bulb. 
But 'stinking' is a puzzle, because garlic smells so gorgeous.
My explanation is completely opposite the version obtained from Google when I looked it up.
They must have misprinted it.
I used this particular big fat bulb when I cooked 'chicken with forty cloves of garlic' later.
The recipe for this wonderful feast can be found on the website for the Stinking Rose restaurants in San Fransisco and Beverley Hills.
However I included the two little plum tomato halves to add flavour to the dish.

The painting was on canvas sized 6"x8".
You can now find limited edition prints of these new still life paintings on our website, click here on www.crabfish.com

20 May 2009 Orange Peel and Plein Air

Two pictures today. 
First a new still life kitchen table top painting.

I started with a clementine, peeled it, noticed how good it looked, got out my paints, started painting, ate a segement or two of the fruit to improve the composition, painted for a while, ate another segment, painted over previous parts of the painting where segments were missing, ate another segement, ooh yummy, finally finshed the painting with just one segment left, which I ate.

The second picture came in by email from Switzerlad thanks to Josef and Ruth Meli. They took this photograph of me last week while I painted the view of the City of London from Tower Bridge.
I admit, this is not a very flattering portrait, it exposes my usual disregard for sartorial elegance.
You might be shocked, especially after yesterdays pictures of me in full award function finery.
But hey, this blog is about the real world of professional picture making, paintings and prints.
Youv'e gotta be comfortable to paint pictures.
So yesterday I bought myself a small folding camping stool so that I dont have to stand up while outdoor sketching.

19 May 2009 Guild Awards, the official photographs

The Fine Art Trade Guild website has published nearly 100 photographs of the winners of awards last weekend. Here are some that we are in.   Click here to see them all.

Colin Ruffell with 'Best Mount Design Award' winner Katie Herriman GCF from Towngate Framing.

Colin Ruffell [Master], with Fine Art Trade Guild MD Rosie Sumner, at the podium.

Artists, Marialuisa Marino, Colin Ruffell, and Fran Slade.

18 May 2009 Anish Kapoor

Today we are recovering from the weekend.
We did some housekeeping, delivered parcels to the post office, and took the rest of the day off.
We went to see the sculpture by Anish Kapoor installed high on the downland hills above Brighton as part of the Brighton Festival.
There is quite a walk across soft grassy slopes up to the installation. There was a strong south westerly wind helping up a the last mile or so, which blew away the final cobwebs.
The views are spectacular, and the piece is awesome and unique.
The walk back downhill into the wind was easier.

17 May 2009 Henry Moore at Wisley

The morning after the Awards dinner event provides more essential networking as hotel guests assemble for Sunday breakfast. It usually takes several hours as winners, sponsors, runners-up and friends sip buckets of coffee or tea to revive tired brains before setting off homeward bound.
This year attendees came from Italy and Sweden, as well as far flung corners of the UK.
Fran and I made our way from the hotel late in the morning, stopped for a break at nearby Ryton Organic Gardens, then off towards Brighton. We stopped for a late lunch at Wisley, just off the M25 road round London.
Wisley is the home of the Royal Horticultural Society. They serve a good lunch and Fran was very keen to introduce me to some of the highlights of this gardening mecca.
Todays image shows the huge Henry Moore sculpture that looks down 'the long border', [which is what Fran wanted to see]. My snap was improved by the chance positioning of a group gardening enthusiasts, also undetered by pouring rain, who added scale while sported a very colourful umbrella.

The winner of our prize draw from visitors to our Open House was Anna Parsons from London.

16 May 2009 ...and the winner is....?

It is the day of The Art & Framing Industry Awards 2009. This is where the great and the good, leaders, innovators, and the talented, congregate for a special annual shin-dig and recognize the best among them.
Yours truly, being the current elected Master of the Guild, was co-presenter with the MD Rosie Sumner.
The winners got their respective trophies in a variety of categories like, Sales Promotion Campaign, Customer Service Award, Art Retailer of the Year, Framing, and Innovation. The highlight is the unveiling of the Best-Selling Published Artist, who this year is....[drumroll] Mary Ann Rogers, an artist whose work is available from Alpha 1 Marketing. She beat runners up Rolf Harris and Paul Tavenor.
Our photo of one of the ceremonies was taken by Fran in tricky conditions. It shows twins Chris and Steve Rocks posing after getting their award sponsored by Daler Rowney for Best-Selling Up & Coming Artist.

All went well. A great time was had by all.

Meanwhile, another winner in our daily draw from entry cards filled in by visitors to our Artists Open House in Brighton. The prize, a print of the winners choice, was won by... [another drumroll] Janice Jones from Brighton.

15 May 2009 Lara Bowen joins in

Lara Bowen is a friend, and fellow professional artist, who joins our Open House show here at 182 Springfield Road this weekend.
So a lot of re-hanging and sorting out!
Here is a wall of Lara's paintings.
Lara has stepped in to hold the fort with Shyama, while Fran and I go north for the Fine Art Trade Guild award event, where I will be presiding, as the current 'Master', and handing out the trophies.
Many grateful thanks to Lara.
This is a great chance for you to see her work displayed here.
Her work can also be seen on her www.four-walls.co.uk website

14 May 2009 Garlic? Ugh!

My mothers generation would have been shocked by the very suggestion that garlic tastes good.
As far as my Mum was concerned garlic was extremely sinful, made you reek, frightened horses, and lost an empire.
So,with great pleasure, and a childish delight in naughtiness, I share my love of the stinking rose with you.
Here is yesterdays painting showing our faithful chopping board, a duck egg, and a gorgeous head of garlic.
The painting is another 6"x8" canvas.
The original is not yet on the open market because my favourite gallery people in Norfolk [Flint Gallery, Blakeney], get first choice for their upcoming still life exhibition.
But I will be adding the image to our print portfolio.
Watch www.crabfish.com

13 May 2009 Second thoughts, and second opinions.

In the cold cruel light of day, especially the day after, I am having second thoughts about the painting on yesterday's blog.

The folk who watched me paint the City Skyline picture were very complimentary, and I was pleased when I got it home, and when I posted the picture and told the story on the blog.

BUT, I am not so happy with it now.
It seems a bit over fussy and complex for a small 8"x10" painting. There is too much squeezed into it.
Also the colour is a bit drab, and although reasonably true to the actual scene, I feel dissapointed that it doesn't convey the excitement of the truly spectacular view across the Thames.

So, shall I work on this painting and simplify it, adding colour and contrast etc to get it right?
Or, shall I sigh and shrug and paint over it?
Or shall I bite the bullet, stay excited by the potential of such a super view, and re-do onto a bigger more suitable size canvas in my studio?

Your opinion would be greatly valued.
Please will you click on the comment link below and let me know what you think.

12 May 2009 City of London

I went up to London to deliver pictures and visit a couple of the galleries that sell my work.
And, met up with an old buddy Martin Aynscomb Harris who has been an inspiration since early years. I used to admire his work in Heals Gallery in Tottenham Court Road when I was just starting out as a professional artist. Then our paths began to cross through mutal dealerships.
Now, forty plus years on, we are often shown by the same galleries in London.
We met by chance, had a drink together, and talked about trade stuff and the price of fish etc.
It took time, and was great fun.
So I didn't actually get into paint-a-picture mode until quite late in the afternoon.
It was windy and so I hunkered down in the lee of Tower Bridge and painted this view of the City of London skyline across the Thames.
8"x10" acrylic on canvas board.

11 May 2009 Hot stuff!

Here is another little [6"x8" on canvas] kitchen painting.
The lemon pieces were left over from todays lunch.
Smoked salmon and home grown hot green leaf salad.
I bought the chillie this morning from a local turkish food store.
This is where I usually find the best big fat garlic bulbs, and the chewy bread that I painted a couple of days ago.
Then I saw a single bright red scotch bonnet among a tray of green ones.
Such a bright inviting colour .... but.
The scotch bonnet chillie is a dangerous thing.
This one will go into tomorrows dinner!

10 May 2009 Cheese

The second day of the second weekend during the Open House month, and Shyama and I were holding fort on our own because Fran was away at a wedding.
Jeremy Sales who won our prize draw on 3rd May came along with his wife and chose to take a free print of Shyama's 'Looking Up'. [see picture].

Meanwhile I started a second still life in the kitchen, [see picture two], but it wasn't finished by the time we opened the doors at 11 am, so it remained on the table for most of the day. I grabbed opportunities between visitors to do a bit more here and there.

Finally finished it about 4 pm, then ate the cheese, tomato, and olive. The bread had gone hard.

The winner of the prize draw was Kate Lewis, from Lewes.

9 May 2009 Kitchen Table

Yesterdays winner in our Artists Open House prize draw was Vanessa Cooper from Brighton.

Four other things came together yesterday.
1. An email from The Flint Gallery in Norfolk asked me to take part in a future exhibition featuring still lives. "Had I got any still lives?"
2. Fran is away for a family wedding up country leaving me on my own to amuse myself overnight .
3. During yesterdays busy Open House I had been grabbing snacks from the kitchen without putting away the bread after me. The loaf shape was intriguing.
4. My new pochade is a mini-studio, and could be got at quickly.

So, after yesterdays visitors went home, and I had popped round to see a couple of other exhibitions in the evening, I just thought that I wanted to paint this picture.
So I did. It is a 6"x8" canvas.
What fun! Ain't life great?

8 May 2009 The shrinking small world.

One of my enjoyable tasks as Master of The Fine Art Trade Guild is to sign membership certificates. Yesterday I did this for new members in Bejing China, and Queensland Australia.
Then my email auto robot told me that I had sold a copy of my e-book 'How to Make a Living as an Artist' to an aspiring artist in Florida USA.
To cap all that I received an order from our website for 'Busy River', one of my London Gold limited edition prints. The order came from The Cayman Islands. We printed, certificated, and sent it same day. [See picture.]
I have never visited Bejing, Queensland, Florida, or Grand Cayman, and I dont really know where The Cayman Islands are! So how did all that happen?
The mind is obliged to boggle at the speed and scope of modern international business.
How could we have explained all this to our grandparents?

7 May 2009 Card Spinner

Today I am going to introduce you to our card spinner.
One of the most effective assets that an artist can have during the month of 'Open Houses'.
Our ' handmade' cards are a super product that visitors really crave.
We sell them for £3 each, or 4 for £10.
The cards featuring Trevor the Cat are always a winner during Open House.
But we found that our stocks of popular images had run right down after last weekend.

So Tuesday morning I asked Philip, our local printer from The Brighton Print Centre, to help us out.
I am prompted to write about this, because good old Philip, has delivered more card blanks right on time.
The cards are not actually blank, because Philip prints the back of the card with a monochrome mugshot, potted biography, and contact details. We create the 3"x4" giclee image and stick it onto the front.
Philip's prompt delivery means that we can now print more giclee prints, stick 'em to the blank cards, sign them, put together cards and envelopes, stuff the clear bags, and stick on sticky lables, so that we can top up the spinner after last weekends sales.
Ready for the coming weekend.

6 May 2009 Paella

We held our sponsors and artists party last night. The weather forcast was favourable so I cooked a paella outside in our big 32 portion Spanish paella pan. But it was windy and chilly which kinda took the edge off the fun. None-the-less all the paella was gone by 7 pm, so I cooked another one straight away. They queued up for it. It was nearly mid-night before the last guests left to go home.
Two pictures from yesterday. First the second paella during the cooking process, and second a red dot from a sale made during the party! Now how bad is that?
Oh yes I forgot. Fran wants me to add that I drank too much. Now the clean up!

5 May 2009 Going fast!

These blogs are usually written first thing the morning after the day in question. It seems to makes sense to look back very soon after the event and see what the daily life of a painter actually is/was. Yesterday [5th May] was typical of the days that could easily be forgotten. I didnt paint any pictures, we didnt go anywhere, but instead we hunkered down in the office and cleared out the in-tray which had grown like a mushroom in the corner.
But during the day we got three modest orders from galleries for prints. One of which was for Blackfriars Bridge which sold from a gallery catalogue. And that prompts our message heading for the blog.
'Going fast' describes the imminent fate of my first giclee limited edition image. Blackfriars Bridge has now sold 236 out of the edition of 250. The first print was printed on 1st September 2000. Nearly nine years ago. It was a big print on canvas which we exhibited alongside the original at a trade fair. You couldnt tell them apart.
There are now just 14 left in the edition. In the early days of self-publishing we used a printing service to make the prints. Later we bought into Epson printers to do the job ourselves. But in the beginning we were well served by UIS Art in Colchester who printed the first Blackfriars Bridge for us. Many thanks to them. Very soon we expect to sell the final print in the edition. No more will be printed worldwide ever. Ah, shed a tear.

4 May 2009 Ned Hoskins

The bank holiday monday after the first weekend of 'artists open house' is the first chance in weeks to relax.
So we went to see one of the very few houses that were open for the whole three day weekend. A cracking house in Hove called 'Collectors Selection. I recommend it.
In the evening we went to Ned Hoskins 'sponsor party'. [See todays picture of Ned with one of his paintings]. Ned has a special status because 28 years ago he founded the whole concept of an artist showing their work in their own house as part of the Brighton Festival.
The sponsor party tradition stems from the earlier days of the growing Fiveways Artists Group. We artists realised how difficult it was to actually see each others exhibition because we each had to be at home manning our own show. So we took it in turns to host a midweek evening party for fellow exhibitors, plus this was a good chance to say thank-you to the generous sponsors who paid for our advertising and printed brochure. The sponsors were invited to bring their guests to the private parties.
The tradition continues but nowadays it often gets all mixed up with 'private views' where special customers and friends and neighbours swell the ranks.

3 May 2009 Shyama Ruffell 'Misty Mood'

We are four artists exhibiting at 182 Springfield Road, and the most successful one this weekend is Shyama Ruffell. 'Misty Mood', shown here, is one of her paintings that sold.

The first Sunday of the 2009 Artists Open House season is in the middle of a long bank holiday weekend. The weather this year is surprisingly good and the city centre and seafront provide plenty of the usual seaside attractions.
On top of extra bank holiday crowd activities, and Brighton Festival, the city is the focus for a rally of old commercial vehicles which is filling the roads from London. So we are amazed and very pleased that we had so many visitors to our house.

The daily prize draw was won by ... Jeremy Sales.

Sunday evening saw the first arrival of migrating swifts flying high overhead. This is always a sign that summer is here. This year they are 3 days ahead of schedule.

2 May 2009 Day one.

A nice sunny day to start the Festival off with a bang. The Childrens Parade takes over the city. 70 schools make floats and parade round the town banging drums and having a good time.
Meanwhile the 200 open houses open their doors.
We had the usual good numbers of visitors.
Pictured here is the composer Jocelyn Pook.
Her visit was a super surprise, because by coincidence we had been playing one of Jocelyn's CD's just before she arrived.
We organise a prize draw for visitors. They are asked to fill in a contact card and then get a chance to comment on our exhibition.
We collect the cards and make a daily draw which gives the winner a choice of framed print.
The winner today is; Christine Raven from Egham in Surrey.

I May 2009 Open House

Ready at last.
All flagged up. The Artists Open House season starts here and now.
Actually it starts at 11am on 2nd May.
All over Brighton and Hove there are similar scenes as 200 houses open their doors with over a thousand exhibitors showing art and craft.
In our local area our group are called The Fiveways Artists Group. This is where the whole thing started 28 years ago when artist Ned Hoskins couldnt find a venue to show his art during the Brighton Festival. Fran and I moved into our house and joined the Open House pioneers twenty years ago as the seventh open house.
In our area alone there have been over 70 houses open over the years.

30 April 2009 Open House preparation

It is frantic, back breaking and tiring work, hanging a show. After a days cleaning, moving furniture, hanging, etc we have made good progress, and somethings are nearly ready.
These shots show the dresser, and a wall with exhibits.
About 100 pictures to be hung altogether.
Then we have to get labels, lists and all the other bits and bobs together.
And banners and flags outside.
As I write this I am reminded that we open in 25 hours time.
Onward and upward.