Figure 1: Part of the series Lying Portraits, by Jain McKay 2015, commended by RBSA
As part of my ongoing personal research and development I chose the Worcestershire Open Studios 2016 exhibitions as an event to visit. From what appears to be a national movement this particular event has now been running for a couple of years and this year featured over 100 artists based in 45 venues across the County.
The fundamental idea is that the artists open their doors to the general public to show their work situated, in many cases, in their own studio and workshop settings so I thought it would provide a great opportunity to get closer to working artists and to see how their practices run.
My only regret is that I did n’t have the time to get round more exhibitions as the whole experience was fantastic, seeing the work of different mediums, sampling different working environments and speaking directly to the artists who were very generous with their time, knowledge and advice.
Unfortunately there was only 1 local photographer Richard Nicholls who combines his photography with his day job as a graphic designer. Richard’s work was locally based with the main emphasis on the natural world with an interesting perspective on the elapsing of time.
He also had a varied interest within the technical boundaries of his photography ranging from the traditional analogue film format all the way through to iphone photography using Hipstamatic which is an application allowing users to create their own combinations of traditional and classic lens and film type.
This idea of combining what was the very traditional background that Richard has built up firstly as a darkroom assistant through to commercial product photography and into graphic design combined with the latest in mass media culture and technology.
What was most interesting about this visit to what was effectively Richard’s house was the extremely interesting impromptu tutorial that he gave myself on the subject of film photography which filled in many blanks that I had about the medium having only really had experience of the digital age. This fundamental grasp of the medium I felt was very helpful and he basically answered every question that I fired at him with equal enthusiasm. I duly bought a batch of photocards that he had produced which was the least that I could do for the time that he had spent with myself.
The next venue that I visited was strangely in the same street to see Francesca and Nicola Currie both painters; Nicola was based in the kitchen and Francesca in her studio at the end of the garden!
Nicola in her late 60s is currently the Head of Art at a local college and has recently started to market and sell her still life oil paintings which are made by using the techniques first made famous by the Dutch Masters. Nicola was great to talk with and she retold her personal story starting when she undertook an Art degree in her mid 40s which I took great encouragement from. The work was excellent with a beautiful rendition of natural light and I had wondered why she had n’t started to put her work out earlier; her view was that it was only in recent years that she had felt in a position to build a genuine body of work which would be identified, by herself, as genuinely her own. An important thought when we come to considering our own personal voice. So many times have I already believed that I was finding my own voice only to see that the focus and interest completely shift with the next module of learning!
Her daughter Francesca was an art school graduate who has already been signed by 2 galleries and is about the join 2 more. Francesca’s real passion is traditional style portrait commissions but with her own contemporary twist. We talked about the learning process as a student and the development of an excellent technical base as an essential foundation for developing a genuine creative fluidity. I also could relate to the idea that our stamina for artistic production increases as the basic skills become more automatic and that this ability can only be gained through continuous hard practise and repetition. Again, Francesca was extremely generous with her time and very helpful and informative.
My final visit was to the house of the highly experienced and perhaps most recognised artist Jain McKay who is a full-time artist who has successfully made a living from her art for nearly 20 years and from my little experience of the creative arts already seems like a massive achievement.
Meeting Jain was of particular interest as in her own artist’s statement her interest in human behaviour in both personal and universal terms is her clear focus and this seemed to have strong similarities with some of the broader themes surrounding my own assignment 3; so in short we had plenty to talk about!
Her work takes the form of several disciplines combining drawing, printing, painting, video and even making artists books. She has built a track record of solo exhibitions and permanent and temporary residencies and was very interesting to speak with. We have agreed to meet again and discuss some of our shared views and I thought that this was fantastic and something that I will definitely follow up on.
Whilst this event was not necessarily about viewing a well-renowned photographer artist in an established venue setting I set out to see perhaps a different side of the creative arts. I wanted to know how these people made their work, what was the actual practical reality of being an artist and where their motivations came from.
I also wanted to consider what might happen once we put our course study books away for good and was this something that I could imagine, was it exciting, motivating or just too much like hard work or not really where my motivations genuinely lie.
I must admit that I was very excited and motivated by speaking with these people and I really felt that breath of fresh air experience! Now back to the reality of trying to improve my own work.
To find out more about the Worcestershire Open Studios please visit their website:
To find out more about the artists please visit their websites listed below:
Francesca Currie: http://www.francesca-currie.co.uk/about/
Nicola Currie: http://www.nicolacurrie.co.uk
Jain McKay: http://prettypinkpumpkin.blogspot.co.uk/?view=classic
Richard Nicholls: http://www.richardnicholls.co.uk