For those of you that don't know me, you may be unaware that my artistic career all began due to a chance meeting with traditional oil painter James Gillick on his stand at Burghley Horse Trails in September 2008. If my Mum hadn't have done the classic embarrassing mum conversation starter of "my daughters good at art" with James then I might not be where I am today. Little was I to know that on that day a door to a whole new career would open for me.
A whole year later and having gained a degree in Rural Enterprise & Land Management from Harper Adams University, I was given the rare opportunity to became one of three art interns for James. With no real idea as to what I was letting myself in for, I just decided to give it my all and jump straight into the deep end... after all I had nothing to lose!
My year as an intern changed the way I viewed the artistic world and in particular my appreciation for traditional oil painting and the masters behind it. During my 11 months with James, I mainly focused on developing my oil painting techniques (which where non-existent before I arrived). However, this involved a far greater process than just picking up a paint brush, as was made apparent in the first few months, when not a single one was touched! It was made obvious that the importance of studying your subject thoroughly before a brush mark was even made was extremely crucial.
Months of continuous studying of the shape, formation and bone structure of humans and animals, as well as drawing any interesting objects I could get my hands on, built up my confidence in understanding my subject. On many occasions myself and the other interns would arrive at James' studio to find an array of strange and exciting objects, from delicate silver jugs, picked up from the antique shop just down the road, to various road kill James had found on his drive to work... no one day was the same!
Further shadowing of James during his working day really brought the whole experience to life and I found myself mesmerised by his work ethic and enthusiasm for hours on end. During the rare times I was able to sit quietly and watch James at work was the real turning point when I knew this was what I aspired to and made me realise how important it was to retain every inch of information I was to receive over the coming months.
During the winter, days were spent in the cold studio making paint from pigment, dissolving damar crystals to make vanish, preparing panels and trying to find our own unique style, all whilst try to keep our fingers from getting frost bite! It was in early January that we were finally allowed to pick up a paint brush and put all our hard work into practice. Having not worked with oil paint before, the whole experience was rather daunting at first, however it quickly became apparent that oils were a lot more versatile that other mediums I had used and my confidence rapidly grew.
Although I wasn't a fan of life drawing, I looked forward to these 3 hour sessions each week, as the heating was turned up and the studio was transformed into a mini paradise. With classical FM tuned into the radio myself and the other two interns would go into our own little worlds. Surprisingly time flew during these exercises and as the weeks went on I could see a vast improvement in my life drawing technique. However, this didn't change my love for studying animals, which is apparent in a lot of my work today.
As the summer months approached it was time to start preparing for the show season. Over the years James has become a valued artist at three prestigious shows; The Chelsea Flower Show, The Game Fair and Burghley Horse Trails. Fortunately, I was able to join James at the latter two shows, and it was an experience I will never forget. Behind the grandeur and elegance of his stand, was weeks for preparation. Over a years worth of hard work, long hours and late nights was to be displayed for all to see. As hundreds of people passed the stand, there was lots of admiring of the artwork, as well as the odd gasp at the price tags. However, it was made very obvious that James has a lot of fans, many of whom have been investing in his artwork for years. These few days taught me the importance of valuing your clients and forming strong relationships with them, as it is the people that invest in your work that will take you from strength to strength.
As my year with James came to an end, I knew that it was vital that I held onto everything he had taught me. If I were to make this a career and one day be as successful as James I would have to work extremely hard...and that is what I have done. I am now in year three of my journey to becoming an established artist and I must admit it's been tough as times and I am still finding my feet. I know it will take many more years, a ton of paint and the odd few pencils to firmly feel I have achieved what I intended too, but I am prepared to work hard to get there. I don't think I will ever stop learning and improving my technique, which excites me and drives me forward on this adventure.