My Art Story

When I was a kid, I drew horses. And horses. And then some more horses.  I was self-taught – I remember carefully tracing the outlines of the horses on the racing pages in the newspaper in order to practise getting the horse shape right.  I proceeded to copying Thelwell ponies and other cartoon horses – Jolly Jumper and some horses from Asterix spring to mind – and my teachers (apparently) all enjoyed the parade of cartoon ponies that decorated my copy books.

And then I stopped.  I drew a little during my college years, and made a valiant effort to get back into it in my early thirties, going to night classes for a while.  But small children are energy-sapping little things, and starting my own business meant that in my down-time in the evenings, all I wanted to do was sleep in front of the telly.

But now I’m in Provence, in the most amazing vibrant, artistic village. I enjoyed going to art exhibitions, looking at the works other people had done and thinking wow, they’re so creative in what they do and so brave in putting it out there.  I did a few pencil sketches in the first year I was here, but I wasn’t happy with them, I felt they were flat, out of proportion and not a good reflection of their subjects.

When the LSH suggested art classes as my birthday present last year, I said sure.  Maybe I’d learn how to use colour and how to get some depth in my drawings.

My art teacher, Valérie, was a little bewildered by me at first.  Unsure of myself, wondering if I’d ever get going with this art stuff, I explained that I used to draw horses had done a couple of landscapes in oils, nothing special. What do you want to do? Um, I don’t mind. What medium do you want to use? Ehh whatever you think… Pastels, she said.  And pick a picture out of this book that you like and just go with it.  I chose a landscape by Paul Gauguin and, after a huge initial hesitation (pastel stick hovering for ages over the paper as I wondered how do I do this?) I was off.

I went home that day and drew The Small Brown Dog in pencil, following up with a large pastel portrait soon after. I used to try to draw dogs a long time ago…

and portraits of Aero and Flurry were soon added to my portfolio.

Through the course of our lessons, Valerie explained about the planes in a picture – background, middleground, foreground.  She showed how famous artists use various techniques to add depth to these planes.  She taught me how to use pastels – I had tried pastels before, using them like a child uses crayons, but I had never discovered the notion of building up layers and layers of colour to create shapes, depth, light and dark.  I stuck to non-equine subjects in class, trying to improve my technique in subject matter that I was not comfortable with.

I haven’t looked back and I haven’t stopped.

There have been milestones – the elephants, for example.

I can draw animals that aren’t horses or dogs! What a revelation!  My owls quickly followed, and I made my very first sale.

My own discovery of using watercolours for backgrounds was another breakthrough – I’m no longer afraid of backgrounds! I loved showing strangers photos of my work on my iPhone and having them switch from polite interest (Oh, you paint?) to genuine amazement (Wow! That’s outstanding!).

I’ve got two and possibly three exhibitions lined up for this summer, so I’ve been very busy trying to produce enough quality pieces.  The first exhibition starts on July 2nd… not long now.

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