You've made history
On Friday we had our club trip to the SAA HQ in Newark. What a brilliant day!

If you're interested, here's a brief run-down of our day - it really is brief! We packed so much in I could go on for much longer!

18 of us went and it was well worth getting up early for! Thank you to Kaye for the large tin of sweets that accompanied us on the bus, and that was almost empty by the time we arrived back in Hilton!

We were greeted by Gemma, the organiser of the day, when we arrived and taken upstairs to their large and spacious workroom to get settled in and have a cup of tea/coffee and a biscuit. A really nice touch was a welcome sign on the stairs for us and Carlton Le Moorland Art Club who were also there for the day, as well as one on the projector screen in the workroom. We were met upstairs by Richard who has been with the SAA since its inception (with his father and his sister who edits the magazine) and who made us feel very welcome.

In the workroom there were lots of tables set out with all sorts of materials: various brands of oils, acrylics, watercolours, pastels, varieties of paper, brushes, brusho and lots more, which we would be trying out later on. We started with a welcome and introduction from Richard, followed by a brief demonstration by Anita Pounder, the SAA's in-house professional artist, of the materials laid out on the tables as well as several other items including Zest It masking fluid remover, Mask Away, and a Pointy Mini pastel pencil sharpener. Anita also gave a brief explanation of brushes and what they do (eg. rake, swordliner etc) and the different types of paper and canvas available and passed these around us so we could see for ourselves.

We then split into two groups, with ours heading off for a tour of the facilities and warehouse. We visited the offices and met the staff whilst Richard explained about the SAA and how it works, giving us a good insight into their company ethos and professionalism. We then went into the warehouse where we not only saw all the products (they hold 96% of stock) but found out what happens from the moment you place an order until it is packed and posted, how they have refined this process, and lots lots more. Really interesting were their mount-cutting machine and a product called Artglass - developed from greenhouse glass it looks as if there is no glass there! (see www.groglass.com for more info). Intriguingly, we were asked to remember one member of the warehouse staff in particular - the 'why' was revealed later ...

Upstairs overlooking the warehouse is where they are displaying their latest challenge: all the trading card artworks sent to them in an attempt to break the record for the most original pieces of artwork in one place. So far they have received approximately 3,500. And Judy found hers! (see photos). They are noting the details of every artist that sends artwork in, and are planning to use a system that enables you to find your artwork on-line, using something similar to google earth.

We then went into the Film Studio, where we were met by Gary - Camera/Editor/Director of the SAA's art dvds as well as trailers and adverts for the Painting and Drawing Channel (www.thepaintinganddrawingchannel.co.uk) - who filmed a short promo piece for our art club. When asked for a volunteer to talk about the club, everyone looked at me! To my great relief, Andrea offered to do it with me, so we both stood shaking at the front, feeling like rabbits caught in the headlights, not quite knowing what we should say but managing to get through it! Gary showed us on Avid Media Composer how he edits and creates film and promised to make us look good! Just before we left at the end of the day, Gary showed me and Andrea the finished result. Everyone else will have to wait a little longer to see it! Our voices only shook slightly and we didn't look quite as nervous as we felt! Whilst neither of us will be winning an Oscar in the forseeable future, it definitely wasn't as bad as we thought it would be!!

After lunch, we descended on the tables of materials! There was also a kopykake machine to look at, different types of brushes to try, and books and dvds to look at. Anita was there to help, guide, advise, and share her expertise, and we were able to place orders if we wanted to that were then ready for us before we left. I particularly enjoyed playing with the oils - something I've wanted to try for a while - and with the Medium W Gel that makes them waterbased. Experimenting with the different types of paper was also very useful and I took advantage of the SAA's trial paper packs for oils and pastels in order to keep on playing at home. Unsurprisingly, everyone came home with something!

Towards the end of the day, Richard showed us the SAA's website on their large projector screen (www.saa.co.uk) and explained all the various features available for those who haven't used it yet. And then there was one last surprise: Anita gave a brief demonstration using a white conte crayon on black paper of how to create a painting using highlights only. The black and white photograph she used was of the young man in the warehouse we'd all been asked to take note of earlier! Then we were all handed a crayon and paper to have a go ourselves - and were given both the pastel as well as a black mount to take home, on top of a goody bag we had already been given on arrival.

All-in-all, this was a great day and definitely to be recommended. It gave us an excellent insight into the SAA and gave us the opportunity to try lots of different materials with the guidance of a professional artist on hand. If you get the chance to go, do so.

Note: thank you to Sean for sharing his photos of the day. Neither of us took any during the afternoon as we were both far too busy trying out all the materials!

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