Gripe of the week…..!

Work in progress, 'Towards Beinn Toaig ..winter'

Work in progress - 'Towards Beinn Toaig ..winter'

No nice walks or interesting trips to report this week I’m afraid …it’s just been a week working away down at the studio. So I guess this is going to be a rather short blog.

Normally at this time of year there are quite a few visitors on the harbour side in Irvine and we normally expect a few of them to call into the Courtyard to have a look at what some of the artists are doing. This year though, it does seem to be quite quiet …partly due I’m sure to the rather damp summer we’ve been having. But along with this, few of them seem to be calling into the studios. Until last summer we used to have good signage on the studio building ….not just saying Courtyard Artists Studios …but also saying ‘visitors welcome’. Then, last summer we had the long waited ‘make-over’. The builders moved in (while I was away in Germany), and completely transformed much of the studio building … creating new studio space in the roof, adding much needed windows and therefore light and heating and water to all the spaces. On top of this new doors were fixed, the wee kitchen space and toilets re built and the structural problems fixed. Finally the building was completely painted to make it look so much better from the outside. When I returned from Speyer I was really impressed by what they’d done My studio space which had had a big problem with damp and rotting floor boards was now dry and with a new floor ….it was looking good for 2011.

With the addition of the new studio spaces we’d also had several new artists and craftspeople move in and this was very good. The one thing though that they’ve not bothered to do after all this good work ….is to replace the signage. Now then, this may seem a minor thing after spending £150,000 on building work …and perhaps a bit of a gripe on my part …but it’s been a year now and we still haven’t got any signs saying what we are …and, as importantly …that people are welcome to come in….and purchase work if they wish. Hence, this summer we’ve seen a drastic reduction in visitor numbers and with it …sales. Of course this could be put down to the general state of the economy …but even so, if folk passing don’t know what we are …they’re hardly likely to come in and buy a painting. It seems sad but interesting to note that one year on, four of the six new artists have already left ….finding it difficult to pay the rents …which are still very good value but are still difficult for young artists just starting out, to meet. During my time at the Courtyard I’ve always made sure that I invite people in and made them welcome. Through this I’ve always managed to sell a good number of works directly from the studio …at the same price as they are up in galleries. By doing this and giving a little of my time each week to show people what I’m doing, I have always managed to cover my studio rent each year. Of course I realise that to say there is a direct correlation between these artists leaving and the fact that we have no signage and visitors, is perhaps stretching it a bit …but I do think that after doing so much good work on the building, this final lapse has done much to undermine some of the very artists the building is supposed to help. I do realise there are planning regulations etc, but surely all we need is a new version of the old signs, no new snazzy designs …it surely can’t be that difficult. The summer of course is now nearly over …visitors will have gone by the end of October and so a whole season has been lost. We have our Studio Open Weekend coming up on 1st / 2nd October ….so any guesses as to whether we’ll have our signs up for then?!!

Right, that’s my gripe of the week over and done. As I said, I’ve been painting all this week. The first four of the thirteen new 80 x 80 cm paintings have just come back from the Waverley Gallery in Prestwick where they’ve been framed. Five more are currently being framed and I’m working on the last four right now. One of these, based on a smaller piece I did three or four years ago, is coming on quite well. I bought a special ‘thickener’ for acrylic paint the other week and have been using this recently. It gives the paint a nice sticky and slightly granular texture and when dragged down using a big brush, gives just the kind of marks I like. The painting still has some way to go …but I took this photo of it just before leaving the studio last evening.

Finally ….good news. My five paintings have arrived safely at the Green Drake Gallery and Arts Centre in Pennsylvania. I don’t know why I worry so much …but I always find it a little stressful when shipping work. Anyway, that’s that, …..just wait now until the exhibition opens in a few weeks. More details to come nearer the time.

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