Since graduating from my BA (hons) in Fine Art in 2000, there is one thing in my life that has remained constant, and that's painting. This is hardly surprising, for as long as I can remember painting or creating just about anything I can imagine has been a driving force within me. Thankfully my dad nurtured this from a very young age, and endlessly supplied my younger sister and I with art materials, by 8 years old I was using oil paints.
I get asked all the time how I reached the point where I can paint full time, and it's impossible to give a straightforward answer. It's been a complete mix of chance encounters, lucky breaks, and a relentless determination to just keep doing the thing I enjoy most. But underlying all the random events was always a self-belief that if I could produce artwork and get it out there, then surely things would have to happen? This became a mantra in my head, and I had more rejections than offers from galleries in the first few years; income rarely came from actually selling a painting. My first significant sale rescued me from my only stint in full time employment (stock room supervisor in a shop, it lasted 9 months, and was simply a means to save for an MA; which incidentally I didn't get into).
I was looking for somewhere to store the work produced on my degree. I'd just moved to Reading, and a friend and I were using some empty rooms (with no electricity or water) above a pub as studios, but as winter was setting in, and the brewery were kicking us out, I needed to find somewhere, or my degree work would have ended up in a skip. I had heard about a gallery called 'the Jelly Leg'd Chicken', so walked across town armed with a beachscape (approx 1m x 1.25m) and asked if they had room to store it for me. They not only stored it, they exhibited it, and within a week it sold for £1000.
Soon after I was offered a part time job in the gallery, and importantly my first opportunity to have my own studio. The deal was I manned an ex-florist whose business was relocating to a department store, for a small rental fee I could use the premises as my own shop/studio, and flog the odd bunch of flowers out front for them. It was tiny, and looking back I don't know how I coped seeing as it didn't even have any amenities! I spent everyday in the florist/studio, so got used to working alone, and during my time there produced a large body of work, leading to my first exhibition in a contemporary London gallery, and my first Affordable Art Fair. The AAF became my main source of income from artwork for the following 7 years; I exhibited at the fair when it began in New York, Melbourne and Sydney. After almost a year I found a more suitable studio with fellow artist Charlotte Hardy, and I continued to exhibit in galleries and fairs in and around London and Berkshire. I actually paid for that particular studio by working on the door of a local nightclub (wish I was joking), but having a fellow artist to bounce ideas off meant it was a great space to grow. Charlotte and I eventually became the curators at the jelly gallery, a fantastic experience from which I learned a great deal, eg how not to submit work to galleries.
Losing my dad to a frighteningly short battle with cancer in 2004 turned my whole world upside down, I moved back to my hometown of Hitchin, and my bedroom as a teenager became my studio. What felt like a giant leap backwards was made bearable by the fact I'd now invested several years in my practice, so giving up was not an option. My mum was incredibly supportive, but what should have been a temporary arrangement, turned out to be almost 4 years. I finally came upon a studio after sending a plea text to everyone in my phone. It was a specially converted village barn with daylight strip lighting, just outside town. It was a leap of faith, unsure how I would afford it I took it on, and thankfully the risk paid off as a month later I signed with leading fine art publishers Washington Green. Despite it's beautiful setting, it was very isolated, most days the only real sign of life was 4 cows in a field; and I've learned over the years that I need the buzz of people around me.
So I now lease a space in Hitchin town centre, it's fantastic, with lots of natural daylight, a separate mini studio for my photography, and an office for my husband who now works with me, and most importantly makes the best tea.
My mantra hasn't changed, 'make it and things will happen!', my urge to create, and improve my practice is stronger than ever. With every painting I always learn something new, life as an artist is an ever changing cycle of self-doubt, self-improvement, more doubt, and ultimately rare moments of satisfaction which make it the best job in the world.