Lea – Lea Williams

Author: Lea

10 things an aspiring artist should know

I’ve been creating art as my main job & income for over 5  years now (yes its totally possible to earn a wage from your art!) and more recently I’ve been doing more teaching and getting involved in helping some younger artists start their creative journey. I have put together my top ten bits of advice, either having learnt through own experiences or wisdom passed down to me by my peers & mentors. Quite often I wished someone would of told me all this at the beginning….

  1. You DON’T need university degrees and formal qualification to make art. I failed my art GCSE, not by a massive margin but enough to think I wasn’t good enough, enough for it for me question if I was making a right move heading to college. Take a look around social media, there are literally thousands of artists who have never studied art formally and they are smashing out AMAZING art, either in paid employment or making their way as self employed. There are of course advantages where a formal education can help propel you quicker to where you want and into certain artistic sectors but it really isn’t be be all and end all. Pay attention to your English, Maths and Science qualifications as a minimum. These you WILL need to guide you.
  2. Don’t take opinions personally. Very early on this journey I remember when I started doing portraits on converse, I had done loads, but this particular pair had been shared around quite a fair bit on social media and  I followed the trail. On the whole comments were positive, but there was 1 by a man who I didn’t know that had made quite a rude comment and compared the image to something rather uncomplimentary. I was devastated, until this point I had only really good comments, but, the reality was it was just someone’s opinion – everyone has them and is entitled to air them however they see fit – and that’s all it is, a snapshot inside someones head which conveys a thought at that time. You can also think about it this way, there are genre’s of music that we don’t all like or enjoy, it doesn’t make it bad it just means its not to everyone’s taste and that’s just fine. It’s better to true to yourself than trying to be something you’re not just to get approval or a positive comment/like/share etc. Opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one.
  3. Don’t compromise yourself.  There seems to be a trend for ‘controversial’ art, could be something of Trump or something equally high up in the world news that is garnering attention. Ask yourself before you get caught up in believing its what you need to do to get noticed – Does it fit within your own beliefs and values? What do you want to gain from it? Are you really creating something you WANT to just being a sheep and following the crowds? Go the long route – work HARD at what interests you, if you were be propelled to heady heights of being a ‘viral sensation’ on just 1 piece of work that was a stab in the dark, how can you maintain that level of work and continue to give people what they assume and expect of you as normal? Think about it… what is given is so easily taken away. Be consistent.
  4. Its normal to have ‘off’ days. Ever heard of writers block? the artistic equivalent is totally a thing too. I have gone weeks on end just simply not wanting  to create or ideas simply not forming. Embrace the time, watch films or read books, blog, go meet with friends and enjoy the time and don’t stress about it, otherwise you’ll build brick walls that get bigger and higher to overcome the next time it happens. Been there, painted the t-shirt.
  5. Buy the BEST materials you can afford. This does make a difference to your work and confidence. Paint, brushes, paper and canvas should be where you spend your cash – easels, boards you can source for peanuts on selling groups, ebay and charity shops, even frames to an extent can be up-cycled and create a wow factor. Don’t be drawn into purchasing from discount and pound shops as the quality is poor, and it WILL show in your work. And don’t rely on whats on Amazon – find a good local supplier – is cheaper overall too. This is a whole new blog of its own! trust me on this one….
  6. Don’t expect everyone to understand. My art is my entire world. I live and breathe it, its the first and last thing on my mind each day – there is nothing else in this universe I want to do, but now and again you’ll encounter people who simply cannot grasp the concept of turning it into a full paid up career… ‘Get a proper job, you know where you are with that….’ ‘you’ll NEVER make money!’ ‘urgh, messing around with paint isn’t a REAL career’ ‘What? you’re drawing THAT again? WHY?’ and the list goes on.. and on… and I still don’t listen to any of it.
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice. That really is how you get better. Even a few minutes a day, doodles, sketches, anything. It ALL counts, it counts because it keeps your mind thinking about what it is naturally going to do next, it keeps that desire alive, and it doesn’t stop there – suddenly you start to develop your own style, your signature and refine it each time you go to start again.
  8. Network and meet people. Working alone can become isolating, lonely and altough peace and quiet is rather lovely when you need to really concentrate on something, it really is VERY important to meet people both inside and outside the art world in person. The best way to get yourself started here is to get to know who runs your local independent art store, they have their pulses on what’s on in your local area and what groups meet up, there are lots of opportunities to meet other local artists and join in events. Don’t rely on social media for interacting with people all the time. The bigger your network of people, the bigger your opportunities to learn and grow become.
  9. You will doubt yourself. Being your own critic isn’t always a bad thing, I find that it drives me to improve and want to seek out how I can overcome obstacles. What you don’t want to do it get into the habit of trash talking yourself, being too critical isn’t going to do you any favours. It is totally normal to dislike your work, natural – sometimes pieces I have hugely disliked have been the most popular! On the flip side you’ll fall in love in some of your pieces and no-one else does. Weird, true and totally normal!
  10. Be YOU. This is the BEST piece of advice you can ever get. Just be yourself, with your work, with your opinions and your choices. The world is FULL of people trying to be like others, so do yourself a favour and follow your own path. Look at point 3 again. Think freely.  BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. There is only ever one go at this life. You’ve got this!

Misconceptions – Why Stoke-On-Trent should be proud of Robbie Williams

Most people who know me are aware that i’m a Robbie Williams fan. I have been since the 90’s and his days in Take That. Aside from being from Stoke, ( I am connected to Stoke with my family and spent a huge chunk of my childhood & teens there ) I kind of ‘got’ him, slightly mental but very clever. Far more so than he credits himself for.

Today I was on BBC Radio Stoke again to talk all things superfans. I don’t consider myself a ‘superfan’ in the way that some may label, but i’m a fan non the less. The discussion surrounded the question ‘Why doesn’t Robbie Support Stoke More’. Rob hails from an area of Stoke called Burslem, otherwise known locally as The Mother Town of the 6 areas that makes up the city, and sadly just like alot of areas has been hit by decline. Stoke is famous for its pottery, and as manufacturing has left the area over the years so has a huge chunk of the city’s income. If you believed some of the newspapers and (some) locals, its Rob’s duty to support the City. HE should be doing MORE to support his fellow stokies and be giving chunks of cash straight from his pocket. Just to name a few things he has done for the city in the past –

*Invested his own money in local football club Port Vale

*Give it Sum – £6 Million of his own money to the area via his foundation

* Donating his own tour clothing, awards and more to the RWFanfest organisation where events bring tourism each year to his home town to support The Donna Louise Trust of which he is patron. Total is now at 60k for that charity alone.

*High profile & public auctions of personal belongings and legendary pop memorabilia supported by Bonhams. All money to charity.

*£30k of his own money towards Sneyd Children’s Park

There are a whole ton more that went under the radar. More than I could fit on this page. Rob doesn’t shout about his charitable & city contributions because that’s not his bag. Is that the problem? now that social media has such a great impact on peoples lives maybe that’s how the negative comments can be disproved with factual stories of his kindness and giving. Is there a journalist or reporter willing to take on the task of writing a comprehensive and informative article about everything he has done for the city? Maybe I will do it myself.

It makes me sad that a small amount of people cannot see past the negative media stories. He shouldn’t be expected to have a blank cheque ready to fix the city problems. What do these people want him to do exactly? i’ve yet to hear anyone be specific about that – you cannot throw money at something when you have no clue exactly what you’re throwing it at? Does he knock on Mrs Jones door down his old street with a huge paper faux cheque and his cheeky grin? Stoke needs more than 1 man and his back catalog of hits to regenerate it. He has a job and a family just like the average man, the difference being he is incredibly well paid for it and famous to boot, if the shoe were on the other foot would YOU be willing to fix all the problems of your home town? Stoke is a big city – over 469,000 across the borough’s – so he will never please every one of them. But I really believe he has had such a massive impact on the percentage of people that his money has touched. Employment of nurses and carers needed for children that won’t live into adulthood. Income to public houses, hotels, pubs and local business profiting from the tourism generated from local events in his name. His work goes further and beyond what you see on the surface. The press and media can do wonderful things but sometimes they choose not to, instead fueling misconceptions that don’t deserve to be so wildly thrown about.

Putting aside all the monetary aspects, he has done so much more for the people of Stoke. He has given hope to artists, musicians, performers – hope that you can come from a small town and be a big success. Imagine what would happen if all those inspired and talented people became rich and famous? they too are likely going to be proud of their city that nurtured their talent and supported them, but right now all I can see with all these negative assumptions of Rob is that it casts a real downer on creatives trying to make something of themselves – they need the belief of their people around them more than ever right now.  Lemmy was a famous Burslem born son, Slash also hails from the city and they never get half the grief that Rob gets.  I cannot help but wonder why this is.

Maybe you’ll want to go and research this a bit more yourself. I don’t write this as a fan trying to convert anyone to also become one, or even to justify why so many of us are willing to support what he does, I write from a respectively informed point of view and facts.

I hope that even if 1 person changes their thoughts then they will encourage others to at least look beyond the end of their noses and really look at what this man has brought to such a vibrant and welcoming city. The people of Stoke truly are the nicest you’ll ever meet, and every single one I know personally is proud of Mr Williams. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my own RW journey with everyone, maybe I’ll make them proud too!

Lea x

My modern day art world

 

I know NOTHING about the art world. I have no idea who the movers and shakers are, whats hot and whats not. The best galleries? most sought after artists or work? no idea. Does that bother you as a reader or my friend/client/buyer/potential investor? It doesn’t bother me but for some reason it does bothers some people. Apparently it makes me fake, unknowledgeable, lacking in education or ignorant. I’ve encountered artists with a few decades of painting under their belt looking down their noses at me because I don’t know the ins and out of all the movements of the art history this world has offered up. They’ve mocked my choice of subjects, insinuated that I was somehow bit dim to be following my instincts and interests and shock horror be paid for it! Don’t get me wrong I do know plenty that’s relevant to me, I probably know alot more than I think and I research and look out for the opportunities that suit me – but the gates are down and there are no keepers anymore. Evolution is in the air.

Let me tell you the TRUTH.

Alot of artist don’t either. Many are happy to tell you (like me) that we don’t know some of the finer points of art and such like, but there are far more than won’t dare admit it at any costs. Back in school and college we were taught about the historical figures that dominated the art world, I based a project on Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, took trips to galleries across the UK, even over to Paris for Paris Fashion Week in 1999. In the here and now this means zip all to my career as its stands. I often asked myself WHY I just couldn’t take it in, why couldn’t I retain all this wonderful history and fact? honestly? because I didn’t know what MY why was! Now all these years later I do. Now I understand alot more that’s far greater in value than just facts and pretty pictures. In school you are taught hard facts and information about art, what pencils do what, paints etc – that is all very well and good – but why are there no teachers helping to bring out students WHY?!? why do you pick that portrait or landscape? does it fire an emotion, or  feeling of euphoria once you put your marks down? because if it doesn’t then you are doing it all wrong – you might as well take the employment route and be told what to do and get paid that way.

I can give you all the facts and figures about the materials I use, I can teach you a ton of techniques and what to use to achieve them, I can advise you that you are making a huge mistake by cutting corners on the quality of the paint and you can sit and take it on board but unless I am specific about the WHY behind it then you’ll revert back to buying based on price. The same goes for the art that I produce. My WHY is simple. I am in love with my subjects, I understand them – they have impact on me – I can relate to them, I can resonate with the people that enjoy the same subjects and take pleasure from them, its a very strong bond. Whats important that i’m creating the art I want,  forged life long friendships from it and my career is going from strength to strength.

The short is that it really doesn’t matter if you know how much a Lowry sells for, or where the Mona Lisa lives – your job as an artist is to make it clear what makes YOU tick.  Stop feeling embarrassed about what you create (heaven knows I lived with that for a very long time). Show everyone your WHY. A very wise man once told me that in order to really fly I had to undo the clips to my wings. No one could do this for me, I had to do this for myself.

Be(lieve) in You

Lea x

The truth about this mind.

 

It’s been a strange few weeks. So much activity. See, when you’re self employed and you feel unwell or you’re injured there is very little you can do but carry on. Keep going. After a while it becomes second nature and an automatic way of life, and when shit hits the fan it’s common to just bury your head in the sand and hope you come out the other end ok, blissfully disregarding the oncoming train.

What happened last week? Alot of you know that I was supposed to be painting live at the Hope & Glory event in Liverpool. Yes, the one that hit the news. Why wasn’t I there? Truthfully – the organiser abandoned me on the day at the venue. Having spoken to him on the phone as I arrived telling him where I was stood, he was allegedly ‘doing a bank transfer and would be down in 2 minutes’. The 2 minutes turned into 2 hours. I had no stand and no idea what was going on, other than I was on the receiving end of a variety of pitying looks from the production staff and other stall holders. I gave up and went home. I bet you’re thinking ‘WTF’. I did at one point, which turned to anger, then upset, a quick trip down pity street and then disbelief and then I settled at nothing. I felt NOTHING. Not even suprise crept in to say hello, I had been here before. Treated like a second thought by other people who’s intent was making money from me. I’ll point out here I was working for FREE and had forked out on fuel, ink, canvass and importantly my time to attend, and research. Their ‘charity’ would profit from the art I would produce. I felt NOTHING, here I was just carrying on like it was normal.

I have that many tabs open in my mind at any one time that it’s highly probable that I’ve become immune to all the big stuff and related emotions that are supposed to bring stress and instead get consumed by all the irrelevant daily crap that most let fly. All these open tabs – artist, teacher, parent, mother, friend, wife, home, health, hobbies, bills, business, pets (you get the picture) then sub tabs – projects, events, diary, travel, supplies, research…. as 1 close another 4 open. The art tabs alone have 20 million sub tabs – will they like it? Why? Can I change this? How? Why? When? Who? What? But…oh but look… uh that’s awful… new idea! Bad idea… maybe… I’ll just ask… can I? Will I? Would they? Day in day out without fail these tabs remain open and don’t get closed. Creatives are expected to have their mind switched on all the time, we are supposed to know upon being given a brief or subject what to do. Not always the case, we can refer back to a tab we’ve never closed and hope we can refresh the screen, or, turn it down if we just can’t open fresh new tabs anymore. Cue overwhelm. In truth this event began the ‘caterpillar of doom’ on my internal screen (you know, the circle you seen when nothing is loading?) I couldn’t take anything on-board. Considering I’d just had a weeks holiday my head was blank for all the wrong reasons. I have a book bursting full of ideas which suddenly meant zero, they were just words. Picking up my paintbrushes and my head just didn’t engage with my hand. Oh dear, now this was the waving of the white flag.

I’m very aware of whats likely to happen next if I carry on in this way, trying to carry on avoiding the oncoming train. The biggest positive here being that I have identified it and can act on it. Because I am so emotionally engaged to the subjects I paint, my instincts kicked in shouting and screaming that it’s time to put on the brakes and close some tabs. Let’s be logical and turn down some noise. I’ve taken some steps to close off alot of tabs that may shock and surprise some people, others not so much, but they are nessesity and not choice. I DO however have the choice to make the difference now before it’s too late.

A creative’s mind is a complex one. We can be excessive, expressive, loud, … but we are mostly incredibly insecure and basic. Not that we’d admit it regular and bruise our egos or show the world that our talent actually hurts us sometimes. We don’t deserve the abuse from others or do we deserve to abuse ourselves for that matter.

Selfish as this may sound I am focusing on myself and 1 goal from now on . I won’t be a cog in anyone else’s clockwork.

Time to ride that oncoming train!

Lea x

 

 

Back to the beginning. Part 1

 

Recently I have just started teaching a young lady from a local high school. A very capable and talented girl, she is very certain about her journey with her art and how she approaches it. We talked a little about our experiences at high school and it made me feel a bit sad that she is going through a very similar time that I had where you were instructed to do something, given a specific task to complete and within certain boundaries. Now I totally understand that in the wider understanding of mainstream education that school kids are taught the fundamental need to be able to take instruction and follow it through to completion. To a degree this forms the basis of my own classes, I create a scenario and develop a task for the students to follow. But that is where is stops. I don’t want them to copy it exactly, I want them to take the task and make it their own. If I wanted a class full of sheep that follow crowds I would go and sit in the local farmers field with some real ones. This, in my own personal opinion is what creatives are all about. We don’t fit a mould, or boxes. We cannot be shaped into a specific type of person. We are born with something that cannot be manufactured and its takes very special people to help shape the development that we need. I have a desire for my classes to really get to grips with themselves.

I didn’t come out of my GCSE art very well, in fact I don’t remember much about it other than some was under exam conditions and I made the best out of what I meant to do. My final piece was inspired by the Bon Jovi single ‘Blaze of Glory’ and I created a CD cover, a dark cowboy riding a black horse heading into a flame with a dark mysterious Harley Davidson & rider heading into the same bright flame creating the illusion they would somehow meet in the middle. I spent ages researching bikes and horses – there was no such thing as Google then – but the concept was so obviously lost on the examiners who didn’t feel the inspiration I did and why. Something changed. It dawned on me that this is what my purpose was, creating my art from what I loved and was inspired by.

Now at 16 years old, I was heading for college. That picture above? I would walk that route every morning on my way to London Road Studio’s laden with my art box (which I still have and use) with my big heavy leather (yep still have it!) with Guns n Roses, Bon Jovi, all the music I loved all on a mix tape in my Sony Walkman, creating a fantasy in my head that I could be good enough to work with these hero’s of mine, and dreaming up pieces of work that maybe I could get featured on an album cover or on some kind of merchandise. I held a belief and hunger that I was one day going to achieve that and each day for 2 years I listened to the same mix tapes over and over again whilst I walked that journey. 2 Wonderful years passed of pure creativity and zero boundaries with tutors who allowed students to express themselves however they needed to. The following 2 years changed it all. I decided to major in fashion. Mathmatical, rigid and specific. I hated it. I knew I had made a mistake and simply made the best of what I loved and winged the rest. But my artistic journey came to an end in 1999. I had been accepted into Salford University on a fashion degree but my instinct told me to stop. Stop because I knew the system would try and mould me into something I didn’t want to be – everything was about computers and I just wanted to create art in MY way. I went and got a full time job, never picking up my paintbrush again until 2012.  Something emotional triggered my need to pick that brush up again……

Back on the road – Guitar shows!

 

What an amazing couple of weeks! i’ve traded at 2 guitar shows in the past 3 weeks and what a fantastic few days I had at them both. The first one was in Bristol so it meant a 5am start to travel from home and down the motorways. Thankfully the weather was fantastic and it was a really nice journey down, I passed some unusual convoys of cars too, it dawned on me how people of all walks of life and with different passions love to make pilgrimages with like minded people. It was no different for me today!

It took a while for me to get the courage to get back out to conventions after the last one I did – not only was it a waste of resource and prep time but a massive financial loss. I learnt a very valuable lesson! Armed with the information that I had learnt in the past, I looked at this with fresh eyes. New locations and audiences to enjoy. I really did meet some truly wonderful and talented people! not just that, the events were seamlessly organised, nothing was too much trouble and I had a ton of fun enjoying the music that was going on around me. A touch of coincidence happened though, as I was setting up at Haydock there was a huge collection of guitars (of course lol) just in front to the left of me. Straight away I spotted an all familiar signature and knew exactly who it belonged too….. as you can see in the picture above it was obviously fate that I would get to see such a beautiful 1986 Ferrari Red guitar signed  by Slash himself at the Whiskey A Go GO in 2000.

In all, a couple of very successful days. I’ve booked onto more events, Autumn is looking busy. I love being out on the road, meeting people and having loads of fun!

Lea x

p.s – I never bought the guitar lol, but one day….. how cool does it look next to my painting =D

New events

So I’m off out on the road again!! It’s been way too long……

I’m actually really looking forward to these. A fresh challenge, opportunity to meet amazing people, swap notes on being a creative and getting myself out again! I think my last convention was October last year. It didn’t go well at all and I felt very dejected about the whole process of what and why I was doing what I do. I cancelled all the other events I had booked into and simply stopped actively looking for events to attend. When I take a confidence hit I take it hard and retreat back. But I can’t allow that to happen anymore. Nothing is gained from stagnation. Time to rock on!

Right from the start – Progress – Part 3

November 2012. I was now officially self employed! When I look back over periods if my lifetime, lots of significant things always seem to happen around me in November – special people have passed away, pregnancy, meeting special people.. ..I won’t bore you with specifics but there is far more to come in future blogs- and here we are with a fresh start and unknown journey ahead.

First things first. Realisation there is no going back. No safety net of a guaranteed income at the end of the month, just a mixed bag of feeling somewhere between excitement and pure fear. During my notice period and leaving I had managed to sort myself out on all the social media platforms and build some relationships with suppliers and local customers. Thankfully the feedback was fantastic and people were happy to share the Art work on the shoes and the experience they had. I was very fortunate to have such supportive friends and family backing this new adventure I was on.

We had a mortgage break for a short time whilst I was setting up. Only a few months but it really helped balance the payload. Harsh reality hit soon after that time that passed in a flash, that it was obvious I wasn’t prepared for what came next. No income. No plan how to get an income. What now? I spent hours upon hours researching what was current, what were other people doing? How can I get a piece of the action? Marketing. Am I doing this right? What if… but… ah shit let’s just carry on. I was doing ok, people were talking about what I was doing. This you cannot buy! I really thought it would all be ok… That first year was a baptism of fire – I wanted MORE. Extra research, longer hours and expense trying stuff out, most nights crawling into bed at 1am and working that second Christmas from 9am to 3am 3 days straight to meet the demand. What I didn’t realise back then was the quality of my stuff was less than I really wanted, I could see competitors standards were much higher. Stupidly I lost sight of the artistic side and spent too much looking at the crystalisation. My eye had been turned down a path that I hadn’t planned to go down. Having invested heavily here I knew deep down it wasn’t where I was meant to be. It brought undesirable and bitchy behaviour in competitors who tried to copy, not that I was bothered as there is room for everyone but some of the stories I was reading about these people and their opinion of me was strange. I carried on regardless. 6 months later and I could see a huge improvement in my work, and, I had discovered there WAS a range of paints that was so exclusive, you couldn’t buy it on the high street. This was an eye opener, suddenly I felt part of an exclusive club that was loaded with knowledge. A secret. All that research paid off!! One big investment later and my paints arrived. It was like Christmas day, I flew down to my local art shop for fresh brushes and a top up of pens. Hot footing it back home I knew I had to test these and fast. What better opportunity than on my own converse for the up and coming Robbie Williams tour. They took me about 3 hours from memory and I felt a huge sense of pride and achievement. Bingo. Suddenly it all made perfect sense. Lightbulb moment of the most extreme.

I remember vividly that day a happy chap coming in looking around the art store. I knew he was buying it. I KNEW something special was happening – a wider plan was forming. The future was calling my name…….

A day in my life

‘But all you do is paint pictures all day, its not hard is it?’

If I had a quid for every time I heard this line i’d be pretty well off so I thought i’d actually keep track for a day exactly what goes on in my life on an average Monday. Buckle up!

8AM : Up and showered, prod the child to get out of bed, probably about 10 times before she actually gets up and dressed. Dogs sorted out, fed and watered, lunch made and ready for the off. Kind of…

8.40AM : School run. I actually hate it and the scramble to try and get on and off the car park in one piece.

8.55AM : On a good day i’m back home by this time, later if the council yet again decide to dig up the lights at the top of the hill for the twenty-fifth time this year. Brew and sit down with laptop to start prepping for the day – check social media platforms and set up scheduled posts for the week, prepare my images for the day that were prepped last week. Start to look at what i’d saved over the weekend, interviews or TV shows that I hadn’t seen or press clippings. What are fans looking at right now? Head back over to Facebook groups and see if there is any news or announcements. I question what I thought I wanted to do today, come across some images that arrived in the post last week that I had forgotten about and totally re write my days work. Give myself 10 images to play with and roughly gauge what effect I want to go for. Pack up my paints, laptop, paper, inks and whatever else I can cram into my boot. Package up some originals that have sold over the weekend and ring my printers to arrange for some print orders to be fulfilled and posted.

9.45Am :Head over to Winnington Hall. Bec’s hasn’t arrived in yet so prepare everything we need for the day, fill up all the water pots and set up my space. Look back over the past weeks work. Where did I end up? what was the flow? do I want to to continue with that or try something new? Usually with a continuation I can pretty much pick it from where I left off, but today I choose a new direction. Back to the images and changing my prep again….

10.30Am : Prep done for the 3rd time today. Becs is in now and we have a brew on the go. A set of Canvases drying which should be ready to use this afternoon. Looking at these blank canvases I can see exactly in my head what I want to do and how they ‘should’ look – Maybe I can turn this into a seperate collection? We start flinging some ideas about that covers backgrounds and techniques – wait – we can use that in class too! more notes for our up coming courses and classes.

11.45AM : Work is well underway for us both, music playing its a very relaxed atmosphere and ideas are bouncing around. Even though we are opposites with our themes, we can very easily feed of each others energy and thought processes. We have a visitor from the local college to come chat about what its like to be a working artist and how a studio works. Topics covered are things like marketing, how we work together, coaching and teaching and lots, lots more. The conversation quickly changes to the business side of art and just how difficult it is to make a living in this industry and the impact of social media on our careers.

1pm : Lunch. Working Lunch. Social media check – 3 emails to answer – and a planned meeting for Friday has just cancelled. Post a quick ‘work in progress’ shot to all my currently platforms, post a few questions in my class facebook group to find out what images they want to work on this evening. Time to grab our note pads and start to jot ideas down about what has to be done for the week ahead. How many do I have for tonight’s class, what are we working on, how much printing is needed? a stock take shows I need supplies for the night so its a trip to Northwich Art Shop for extra paint and a top up of my inks.

1.50pm : Back from town. Roadworks again! Back to actually painting. I manage to get 1 ink done and the basics down on 2 of the canvases. Start to think where and how to build this collection. Prints won’t work because of a metallic element, the scanner won’t pick it up. Maybe it’s a hand finished collection only? Maybe I can try something new!? Pick up the phone to my printer….. Yep, a new idea has formed and about to grow legs. This could be a really good piece to develop further.

3pm : Call in home to let the dogs out quickly and onto the school run.

3.20pm : School run done, post office next. I’ve built a great relationship with the team there which makes the trip a pleasant one rather than a chore, they are always passing on news that’s likely to affect my postal charges.

3.40pm :Back to the study with Ruby in tow. She has an ongoing picture that she is working on herself of a rather large donkey that she got inspired by from watching Bec’s and her brilliant animal pieces. Ruby is very tuned into her art and crafts, since I have been coming into the studio she has really been inspired to do well at school with her homework and turns all her tasks into a creative one. Even a small amount of time here has changed so many paths. Actually remembered to order more hard backed envelopes. Time for me to carry on with a bit more painting! I had set myself a target of 6 paintings by the end of the day – currently heading towards 5pm i’m way off that target…..

5pm : Home to cook for tea for us all. Shovel down my dinner as quickly as possible, scoop up all my supplies for tonight’s class that I had forgotten to pack this morning for class and print out additional pieces of work.

6pm : Back to the studio to prep for the evening class. Canvases out, paints, brushes, pallets and water all ready for the arrivals. This class is aimed and designed to be fun and relaxing. Generally they like to look at doing some kind of portrait. Just recently they have been bringing their own family pictures to work from which has been a challenge for them and me as some pictures are many years old and out of focus.

6.3opm : All students are settled in well and ready to crack on, some will bring work that they have been doing at home that we all take a look at give some feedback about. We have become a close knit little group, each one trusting not only me as a tutor but also their peers in gaining valuable feedback and suggestions about how they can take it to the next level. They are also looking at their artwork in a different setting and lighting perspective. Now that everyone is set up and ready to paint, I can pick up my own paintbrush and join in, pausing throughout the session to give advice and guidance to each student. Often I will be working with a different medium and different subjects which the group will pick up and try and add into their own work, stopping their own work and watching me demo a few techniques. This builds nicely into prep for the next class, they would like to try what I am working on themselves. I down tools and make some notes with Bec for next week.

8.30pm : As we are nearing the end of the class, i’m starting to pack away whatever isn’t being used and my own stuff. Time to take pictures of all my completed works and some snaps of what the group is working on. Upload everything to the relevant social media locations and our group. We start to look over our evenings work and assess the progress made. Some may finish their pieces, some may take theirs home to carry on – everyone works at their own pace and structure. No 2 of the group are the same, each has their own journey. I start to scan in all the paintings that I managed to finish.

9.00pm : Everyone is packing up ready to leave. We have a quick feedback session talking about what technique they want to develop further. Lots more notes to take forward to next Monday. Time to empty the bin, pack up the room and lock the doors.

9.30pm : Back home to the laptop. By now Ruby is in bed and (sometimes) asleep. Reply to emails and messages. A little more research for my projects, i’ve been thinking all day about what my printer can now do for me and have the images ready to send over to test.  Upload my completed work onto my website and adding links to my my social media. Within about 10 minutes 2 of the paintings I finished today have already sold so a few more emails to complete.  Each painting needs cellophane wrapping with my business card and enveloped up ready to post in the morning.  Set up a couple more scheduled social media posts to go out when I know I will be otherwise busy – its vital that I have at least 2 – 3 as minimum posts going out daily to ensure that i’m actually reaching people who want to see what is happening.

10.15pm : Laptop closed, time for bed….Not before checking in with my friends just to say hello. Read a few newsletters and see what my other artist friends have been up to today, its not unusual to find that artists are night owls and working/posting at similar times. I think the last time I look at the clock its 23.55pm.

This is just an average working day. Often I have to force myself to take some downtime and try and switch off, but, its virtually impossible when paying all your bills relies on the success of your business activity. I am VERY lucky that I have a good network around me that support what I do, without that then I wouldn’t be writing this now. I have a plan for where I want to be, and what I want to achieve. Building a career in the arts IS doable, however it doesn’t happen over night and comes at a huge cost, financially and personally. This is now my 5th year being self employed and truthfully its no easier or less stressful. It is however what I will be doing for the rest of my life, and I doubt I could ever go back to being employed in a conventional sense. So yes, I do paint pictures, I think I do it pretty well too, and I hope this dispels the myth that us artists ‘just sit and paint all day’

Until next time

Lea xx

Right from the start – Back to the beginning part 2

I keep forgetting that when I meet new people, that they really don’t know much about me. who I am, where I am from, what I actually do, it goes way beyond simply painting a picture.. so this is hopefully will change that.

A bit of background to start with, I was quite artistic as a youngster, always copying cartoons, animals and seemed to exceed in projects that had that creative requirement. As much as I loved high school, I struggled in some academic subjects – I did well enough in my chosen subjects at  high school – apart from 1. Art! Yes, I FAILED art at GCSE level! I remember getting my results and checking for this one first. Gutted. What on earth was I going to do?? I was meant to hit a certain mark to be able to enter onto the GNVQ course that I had picked. This REALLY wasn’t meant to happen. Thankfully I did OK in my other subjects, I got a range of B’s C’s and a few D’s so at this point on paper I technically got onto the course with thanks to these marks and a good portfolio (lets touch back on this another time)

So fast forwarding a bit. Completing 4 years in total in college, 2 on a general art and design course, then 2 years following that specialised in fashion. I picked that because I really enjoyed life drawing, maybe it was an underlying natural instinct? it became apparent though that the sewing and pattern side of it was not my thing.. just hated it and wanted to simply draw. At the end of the final year in 1999 there was a place waiting for me at Salford University on a specialist fashion course. Turning it down was the best thing for me at that time, choosing instead to go full time as a store manager for a mobile phone company. This then progressed to customer services for a local transport company, then banking. During that time, not once did I touch my art supplies. Never. I kept all my work, and my box of equipment.

Here we land at 2012. Alot of time had passed in the world of being an employee, bought 2 houses, got married, started a family, holidays etc. The standard pattern I guess. 2012 marked the start of something. Change was happening – at the time it felt like everything was in a mess, at the end of 2011 I had major surgery and on leave from my job for 8 weeks, a job I loved and was a top performer. Coming back was hard, and it wasn’t how I left, new people, new policies and coupled with a massive issue legal issue that came in like an atomic bomb at home –  suddenly I was in a freefall that I couldn’t control. It was pretty obvious that there was a problem that needed to be fixed. How could it be fixed? I was so unhappy, so the obvious answer at the time was to look at training myself out of the role so that I could progress, settling on heading to university to get my degree in Business Management. Why that? why not. Maybe going into teaching could be a pathway? I applied to Manchester Metropolitan and got accepted as a mature student on a part time basis to start in the September of 2012.

Summer time 2012. Holiday time! We have 2 giant Labrador dogs and are treated like our children so we holiday in the UK in the main. On a shopping trip to an outlet village my daughter wanted a pair of sparkly shoes, sadly none were in her size. This was around the time that crystalisation was becoming popular so I thought ‘I can make them’ and picked up a much cheaper pair of high tops. When we arrived home went to a craft store to buy what I needed to do the job. That was that it, I made up the trainers – took me HOURS!! Showed them off with Ruby in them on social media and thought nothing more of it… until a friend suggested I could make a little side income from selling them? Back to the craft shop. A few weeks later, a chance conversation with a good friend in work happened. She was telling me how she had seen the trainers and could I do something for her son? He was mad for Spiderman. For some reason I said I could paint something onto hightops. The weird part is that I had never thought of it before, or even what dark recess of my head that particular idea  came from. Something was suddenly born. In spite of the awful time I was having this gave me a new focus. Little did I know what was coming next…..

It was at this point I was told to make a choice. Family, work, university or my fledgling hobby, which was attracting attention. Also at the same time I had my daughter starting school and changing my working pattern was essential. Painting on shoes was a thing, a thing I enjoyed! the reality was this was the end of my road as an employee. I chose to leave an incredibly well paid job in business banking with a company that I had been with for nearly 10 years. As of end November 2012 I was officially unemployed and ready to start a new journey.

i’m going to leave this here for now. There is way more to this story.

Lea =)

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