I’m delighted that with a chink of light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, I’ve managed to get out and visit another amazing artist, Karen Joy, as part of my enlightening discoveries of how talented people take inspiration from their art space.
Of course, our chat began by examining our differing pandemic lockdown experiences. I’ve found parts of the lockdown quite enjoyable, only having been out for local lovely walks and trips to the supermarket for the past 12 weeks until visiting Karen. She agreed:
“I’ve loved the long walks and a dip in our pool, the weather has been amazing at times. I’ve learnt to take an extra half an hour for a walk through our village though, as everyone wants to stop for a chat along the way!”
I told Karen that I’d been meaning to visit her studio, set in glorious Oxfordshire countryside in the little village of Piddington, which is the inspiration for her landscape artwork. One outcome of the lockdown is that Oxfordshire Artweeks, for which Karen is a regular exhibitor, couldn’t go ahead in the usual form. I asked how this has affected her:
“I usually open up the studio for the 10 days of Oxfordshire Artweeks and also do Bucks Artweeks from Kingsey for three weekends at this time of year. This shutdown has made me realise how much I love talking to people. When they visit, they are interested in the art and quite a few are regulars who return to see what I’ve been up to. It’s exhausting but it’s great.
“I discovered way before lockdown that however my art is going defines my mood. It’s not that I’m seeking a constant pat on the back but the feeling when you sell a piece of art really lifts me, it means that somebody ‘gets me’. I still find it gobsmacking that there is piece of me on their wall.
“I’ve always said that, as an artist, if you like a piece of work – other people will like it too. And I find that the art I consider to be my best, sell well. I also feel that my work sells better when people can see it in person, I certainly prefer to buy art that way – to see the dimensions, the textures and even the smell of a picture.
“So with fewer opportunities to exhibit and sell in the past few months, I’ve experimented with a more abstract style, exploring my love of impressionist and expressionist styles. This is very personal, it’s all about interpretation and says a lot about who you are and how you think. I’ve used the isolation time to just paint more abstract work on paper as there has been nothing to prepare for and no need to produce anything, it just didn’t matter.”
I asked Karen about her lovely art studio and the affect it has on her creative process.
“We were going to get a purpose-built studio for the garden but they take up a lot of room so about three years ago we converted the garage instead, replacing the doors with windows. The light is perfect for painting and it’s so nice to be able to just walk away from the house and get stuck in straight away. It can be a real barrier to working if you have to set up afresh every time you want to paint, like in a spare bedroom, I’m lucky to have this space.
As a well-established landscape artist, I imagine this change of focus to a more abstract style would feel a little scary?
“Yes it is, but this time has given me the chance to study others’ work and take a path to something different. I’ve still got some way to go but come next year, when people visit, they will see something quite different. Having no shows to prepare for has given me the freedom to express a different side of me and another focus to fill my time.”
“I came across people creating huge abstract paintings at art college a long, long time ago but I took the printing and etching approach and moved into picture restoration. When my three boys were grown, I was able to rediscover my art through an evening watercolour class with a brilliant teacher who encouraged us to paint how we wanted to.
“Then I found a wonderful acrylic painting workshop with an amazing artist called Susan Grey. She painted like I wanted to paint and I found that I could be more free with acrylics – I found it so liberating to discover this later in life, when you know who you are. I thought, ‘this is my time’ and painting was my saviour!
“I’ve been doing an online course recently to help me find joy in my work and to grant myself the permission to make this change to a more abstract style. I have to state my intentions and it’s quite challenging. My painting can now be totally me, if people come to see it, that’s great, but I’m unapologetically enjoying my new way.”
I am so looking forward to restarting our acting and singing classes again when the time is right. In the meantime, find out what we’ve been doing ‘virtually’ on Facebook and visit www.openstagearts.co.uk for details of the classes we run.