April was a big month for me! I had my first solo show- first show, full stop!- at the wonderful Harbour House Gallery in Kingsbridge, Devon. It was a month of hard work, and high personal achievement, and a time that I will never forget. What on earth possessed me to pursue the idea of staging a show, when really I’d only just started painting in earnest. What about the fear of exposure, the fear of being ‘found out’, the fear of failure, that all we artists know and dread? Well, that was still there, but I decided that the dread of NOT standing up as an Artist was hugely greater than any pitfalls or disasters that might follow.
It happened like this. It’s notoriously difficult for an artist to find a commercial gallery to host a show, particularly if they have no provenance; no art school degree, no pages-long CV, no glowing reviews of previous shows. So, how to break in? Thank goodness for places like the Harbour House Gallery. The Gallery is supported by a charitable trust in order to enable local and emerging artists to show their work. I , like all the artists, was fully supported by the team there, especially lovely Alison Veazey, an accomplished artist herself. They helped with admin and marketing as well as lots or moral support. The gallery shares space with a yoga centre and a whole food cafe; honestly, I couldn’t have found anywhere better!
Everyone has asked, “Was the exhibition a success?”. It’s a natural question to ask and my answer has been overwhelmingly, yes. Not only did I sell enough to cover my costs and more, but in my own mind it marked a turning point, where I could stand up and truly call myself an artist. Even I couldn’t deny it now; there are 35 of my paintings hanging on the wall, after all! I had some wonderful conversations with members of the public, some of whom were a little nonplussed to see expressive, abstract work in a town more comfortable, maybe, with watercolour landscapes. But most were open minded and interested, asking some challenging questions, which helped me to rehearse in my own mind the whys and hows of my painting practice.
The greatest metric of success for me in addition to the confidence boost was the knowledge I gained of the practicalities of staging an exhibition. As with most events, preparation is key! I had no major disasters, having tried to think of everything from transporting the paintings from Chepstow to Devon (in the back of a camper van) down to the last pack of bluetack! Lists, lists and more lists, including a rota of friends who volunteered to come and man the gallery with me, A huge shout out to Richard, Oli, Ruth, Leo and Sarah (who also took some great photos for me.)
Seeing people’s reaction to the different pieces of work was interesting. Smaller framed pieces were popular largely I think because of their affordability; and yet two large canvases sold as well. And yet, smaller unframed pieces on paper which I thought would fly out the door, didn’t… I think possibly because there were so many, filed in a browser and the chore of choosing one was possibly overwhelming!
My sketchbooks were very popular. Some visitors sat for ages browsing through them. An the 5 metre long ‘Corris Scroll’ , a kind of sketchbook on lining paper that I’d made during my residency in North Wales, was a fascination for many.
It was exhausting, exhilarating, confidence boosting and fun, and yes, I would do it again in a shot.
In fact, next stop on the exhibition tour is Prague! Watch this space for a write up about that very different experience…