What is the best thing about your job?

For years, the best thing was the look on people’s faces when I handed over a painting. I get giddy on their shining eyes and compliments, thrilled that something I pour so much time and love into can bring them so much happiness.

But now I am not sure!

Last Spring, I had a stall at my local Village Fayre. I was there painting a Little Owl and selling my collection of cards, paintings and prints, when a lady asked me an interesting question.

“Would you ever try teaching?”

She said, referring to her nine year old daughter.

I was caught off guard. I had never even thought of teaching.

Being self-taught, I had no idea where I would begin. I don’t seem to create my paintings in a logical order – I flit from section to section, depending on what I fancy, or what paint I have on my brush.

We swapped details and I mulled it over for a few days. Why not?! I thought. It would be fun!

We agreed to start a series of six lessons in August. My boyfriend was being deployed, so it would be the perfect project to keep me busy and creative. Sophie (the nine year old) also seemed giddy with excitement.

Lesson 1

I went along, armed with a small box canvas, a bulging bag of paints and brushes, a ruler, a pencil and a gridded up photograph of a bunny. Not wanting to start off the lessons on a boring note, I explained to her that this step was by far the most important part of a realistic painting.

Under my lead, she gridded up the canvas into five centremetre squares, and into each one, copied exactly what she saw in each square on the photograph. I taught her to really look at the photograph, and appreciate all the sections of shadow, light and contrasting colours, and mark them all onto the canvas. I promised that next week we could get our hands painty.

Sophie 1

Lesson 2

We decided to do a green background full of vegetation. She was a bit timid at first, but with my encouragement, she started to mix colours and hesitantly dab them onto the canvas. I explained that the beauty of acrylic paint is that 1. If you made a mistake, you could paint over it and 2. That it was waterproof, so you could wipe off fresh layers of paint if they weren’t quite right.

“Woahhh I love acrylic paint!”

She said.

Lesson 3

I outlined the importance of getting down base layers of paint on the bunny.

“If you can see through it, you need more paint.”

Is my general rule of thumb. Together, we really looked at the photograph, and with my help, she was able to see subtle colours that you wouldn’t ever notice before.

“I think I can see some purple in there.”

I said, pointing at the bunny’s pouchy cheeks. She mixed and dabbed colours, using different techniques and different brush sizes as required. I couldn’t stop myself from getting stuck in, subconsciously mixing colours, and applying paint to brushes, before catching myself and handing them onto her.

Her confidence slowly grew as she spotted all the reds, purples and browns scattered throughout the bunny’s fur. I urged her to mix in subtle amounts of white paint, to which she asked :

“What does that do?”

“Think of it like putting cream into a tomato sauce.”

I said

“It makes it thicker, richer and paler.”

Sophie 3

Lesson 4

This week, we were ready to get started on the bunny’s face.

“III’m SOOOO EXCIIITEDDD!”

She said.

Together, we practiced painting eyes on a separate piece of paper. I showed her how to make them look 3D and alive, with a glint of light in them. We also practiced creating thin hairs with a little fine brush. After a few tries, she felt confident enough to have a go on the canvas. The result really started to bring the bunny to life.

Sophie 4

Lesson 5

This week, we painted in the nose, mouth, and continued making the bunny fluffier, using different shades of colour applied in short sharp movements with a little fine brush.

“I can’t waiiiiitttt for it to be finished!”

She said, anxious to take it into school and show off her work to her friends and teachers.

Sophie 5

Lesson 6

We had such a productive lesson, and really got into the swing of getting our hands dirty for the sake of art. I noticed with joy how much more confident my student, and how much more control she had over a brush after only six hours of tutoring.

She asked me how I made colours blend perfectly into each other in my paintings, and I admitted that the majority of the time, I use my hands! So that lesson, we did the same.

Sophie 6

Lesson 7

In the final lesson, we practiced creating very thin lines using acrylic ink, so that we could create realistic whiskers.

“Ooooh I’m scaaareeed!”

She said, unwilling to potentially ruin her precious artwork.

I reminded her that acrylic paint is waterproof, and if she got it wrong, she could wipe it straight off!

By the end of the lesson, she had marked on (and wiped off) dozens of whiskers, and painted on some grass around the bunny’s feet.

I was overcome with pride at the finished result, at Sophie’s reaction, at her mum’s reaction!

“I cant tell you how much she has enjoyed these lessons. This has got to be the most rewarding thing she has ever done!”

Her mum said to me.

I can’t wait to do some more teaching! It feels so good to share my skills with others!

Sophie 7

While the man’s away, the girl can paint!

I am now about three quarters of the way through my boyfriend’s deployment (touch wood)! Rather than spending my days clock-watching, I have been filled with motivation to paint, plan and socialise!

So what have I been up to these last few months… apart from working full time five days a week?

ART

Exhibitions: First and most importantly, I exhibited in the prestigious Marwell International Wildlife Art Society Exhibition! This is the largest wildlife art society in Europe, founded and organised by Pip McGarry. I was at the exhibition all weekend – with a stall on Saturday 30th August and as a steward on Sunday 31st.

Beauty WM

It was a really enjoyable experience, although it made me realise that I am a relatively little fish in a big old pond.

The plus?

I am a young little fish with plenty of time and enthusiasm to grow into a whale (or at least a tuna)!

Tutoring: Each week, I have been art tutoring a talented and enthusiastic nine year old girl. I talk and demonstrate her through the steps to create a beautiful and proportional painting of a bunny. Doing this makes me feel incredibly warm and fuzzy and has made me realise that I love teaching (people who are patient and enthusiastic about art).

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Workshop: Tutoring has motivated me to organise my first ever painting workshop!

On the 28th and 29th October (half term), I am delivering a two-day ‘Learn to Paint your Pet’ workshop at Framin’ Art in Downham Market for 12 – 18 year olds!

The workshop will be kept to a small group, and we will cover everything the students need to create a masterpiece:
• gridding up and drawing out the canvas
• painting soft-focus backgrounds
• mixing colours
• painting eyes and noses
• painting long and short hair
• painting shadow and light
• finishing touches

Places are still available – please email me if you would be interested in attending!

aaworkshop

Paintings: I have completed three paintings and am about to start on a Christmas commission.

Hob-nobbing: I went to fellow Wildlife Artist, Lauren Dobson’s, private opening of her exhibition at the David Shepherd Wildlife Art Gallery in Guildford. I met Lauren, got inspired to try out different techniques, and had an interesting chat with the gallery owner.

SOCIAL

I tell you, there is nothing like living on your own to give you a kick to socialise.

Hostess: I have already had five of my friends / family come to stay with me in Norfolk for weekends. This has meant I have got good at whipping up food for a dinner party, and has spurred me to explore my local area – finding the lovely Wells Next the Sea, taking advantage of the rail line to Cambridge, and seeing wildlife at a nearby Bird Sanctuary!

aawells

Home time: I have spent a lot of time at my family home in Surrey, seeing my ‘home’ friends, having dinner dates, going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, spending a weekend in Portsmouth with my sister, and going to a wedding! I am incredibly fortunate in that I can work from Norfolk or Head Office in Surrey, which means I can stay for longer than just a weekend.

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New friends: I have finally been making friends in Norfolk. God bless the WAGs! Having friends in the same boat makes this weird experience much funnier.

aawags

WHAT’S NEXT?

My diary is still chock a block, and so is my to-do list (with tidying the house and gardening taking a real back burner).

Paintings: I have a lot of painting to do! This includes:
• Christmas commissions – two booked, more expected.
• A couple of paintings for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Award – deadline February.

Marketing: I need to continue marketing my art workshop, buy all materials, prepare my canvases for demonstration… oh and deliver it!

Old friends: I have plans to see a friend from university in London, have a girly weekend with my three best friends before two of them go to South Korea and Spain for the foreseeable, and go for a nice dinner out with work friends.

Tutoring: I also have some more art tutoring to do! The bunny isn’t finished yet!

All I can say is BRING ON THE NEXT FEW WEEKS!
And then I can collapse in an exhausted heap and hibernate with my Jack.

What if all the good things came true.

An antidote to the negative what ifs that attack us all from time to time.

What if all of the good things came true?

What if you got everything you ever dreamt of?

What if you got that big white studio with the skylights that make it always looks sunny? What if your dog sat beside you in the basket? What if that studio was part of a shop and people were always coming in?
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What if big galleries wanted to display your work? What if you got a loyal following? What if people felt happy just by looking at your art? What if your art could bring back good memories? What if your art brought back loved ones?

Refer

What if you got the chance to see more and more beautiful wildlife? What if you got to go on a safari? What if you got to see a kingfisher in real life?

kingfisher ARTbyIMI

What if you went on amazing long walks with your man and your dog? What if you got to crunch through leaves and watch the birds fly? What if people recognised you and were happy to see you? What if you smiled at people and the smile went into your eyes and into your soul? What if they smiled back?

What if bad times led you to places you could never imagine? What if they are just a test? What if they are actually good in disguise?

What if you got to teach incredible people how to paint? What if you inspired people? What if you brought hope back to people? What if you could help other people overcome their problems?

Little brother ARTbyIMI

What if all the good things came true.

That’s my antidote, what’s yours?