Last month, our friends at ART Elements put on quite a show when they debutised at Hewsall Library, Wirral. Crowds had a wonderful time embracing the diversity in subject, style and medium in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. Below is what the group had to say about the event.
Reading the comments of visitors to our debut exhibition makes us feel very proud.
“What a joy! The artists’ love of art is very evident.”
Last year, I was approached by two friends, Jill and Anne, who were hoping to organise their own art exhibition. They’d already enlisted Jean, another friend, as a group member. We’d all exhibited for several years with local art groups but this would be a new and exciting venture for us. I thought I couldn't miss such a good opportunity and once I’d agreed, there was no stopping us!
However, turning the dream into reality was no easy feat. It required a lot of detailed planning and organisation. There followed many progress meetings when we would brainstorm ideas and develop our vision for a new kind of exhibition. We exchanged hundreds of emails. We spent long hours drawing and painting, till we(and our partners!) could hardly take any more. At times, we all felt swamped by the effort required but we all wanted to seize the opportunity to display our work in our own way and we knew we had something worthwhile to offer, so there could be no turning back.
It quickly became apparent that our local library in Heswall would be the perfect venue for us. It is centrally located in the village, with excellent transport links to surrounding areas including Liverpool and Chester. We would have the use of a lovely room with excellent light and space. It provided all the necessary facilities, including a lift for easy access, and we would only be charged commission on sales, so there would be no huge fee for hiring somewhere. This was important as we were self- financing our exhibition.
So, what should we call ourselves? After sharing ideas, we decided on Art Elements, a title which suggests the very components of art itself but also refers to the four of us, four different people with very distinct interests and approaches to our work .
Next came the branding. To achieve success, we knew we had to raise our own profile as a group. Having decided on our title, we collaborated to develop a striking logo which gave us an immediate public identity. We had fun with our photoshoot, and the resulting images were used on our leaflets, posters, table-talkers, in the press pack sent to various organisations and eventually, as a large, central image at our own exhibition. Local businesses agreed to display our promotional material in return for mutual promotion at our event and The SAA and a local cafe each sponsored us with a gift, which we offered as prizes in our free raffle. Heswall magazine featured us in their last edition and Radio Merseyside gave us valuable exposure to a wider audience before and during the exhibition.
We were very lucky to have a wealth of different but complimentary career experience within our group and the media knowledge and graphic design experience of Jean and Anne proved invaluable. We delegated tasks according to each person’s particular expertise but often we were all foot soldiers, sharing the work out as best we could.The weeks passed quickly, with regular meetings, endless emails and frantic framing but suddenly the exhibition was upon us. We inspected and measured the exhibition room to enable us to work out the best layout. Help setting up was provided by spouses. Steve, a friend and artist, offered to paint watercolours within our chosen setting. The adrenalin or nerves kicked in. We were all extremely tired but this was what we had worked for and we were determined to make our exhibition a success.
“Wow! What lovely diverse work! Unique! “
It was very important to us that we created something new and different in our exhibition. We decided to theme our display space as a working artist’s studio, using props to create the appropriate ambience, our ambitious plans curtailed only by health and safety concerns.
We produced an eclectic range of pictures, using a variety of subjects and techniques. There was no predetermined theme to the exhibits, though we all have an interest in living things, whether plant, animal or human. We all generally paint in a realistic, yet identifiably individual style, which is popular with many people.
We dedicated a specific area for the display of our own profiles and business cards and another for our sponsors’ display and the raffle prizes. We each offered one of our own paintings as a free quiz prize.
“Very impressed! So professionally set up.”
The arrangement of pictures and the hanging, stringing, numbering, labelling and charting took hours but it was worth it when we surveyed the beautifully balanced array of work. We arranged our screens so that natural light flooded in from the windows, complimented by soft strip lighting. This meant every picture was seen to its best advantage and the display felt open and airy. Too often, pictures are shrouded in shadow from poor placement.
“Great pics - very friendly! Quiz-great focus.”
We didn’t want our exhibition to be stuffy or intimidating so we used background music to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. We didn’t sit like monitors at a desk but mingled with the visitors and we were always on hand to chat to them about our work or art in general, a fact we highlighted in our advertising.
We had some chairs in the room so people could sit and survey the scene, consider their answers to our quiz or partake of tea and scones, generously provided by a very supportive husband!
We set out to promote ourselves as serious artists and to exhibit a high volume and standard of work. We wanted to make our exhibition different from others, to raise interest and provide a pleasurable experience for our audience and ourselves. Did we achieve that?
Well, we had a high and constant footfall with over two hundred visitors, which kept us busy all week. We saw some people several times when they returned with friends. Our publicity resulted in people coming from Liverpool and even further afield. The feedback through the visitors’ book regarding our standard of work and presentation was very gratifying and complimentary. People lingered and talked and were reluctant to leave. Even at the end of our final day, we were unable to start clearing up because people were coming in up to the last minute.
We take great satisfaction from knowing that we worked together successfully to bring our style of exhibition to fruition and each of us achieved sales. Our detailed planning meant that the exhibition ran like clockwork.
So, as one of our friends wrote, this was “ a great exhibition – a real step forward.”
Immediately afterwards, we all felt exhausted and flat but already the creative juices have started to flow. This exhibition was a great experience for us all and we have learned a lot about our art and ourselves through it. Now, the desire to learn is leading us in different directions and it is only a matter of time before we shall each embark on some new adventure in art. Who knows where that might lead!
“ We are seeking, we are striving, we are in it with all our hearts.”
(paraphrasing Vincent Van Gogh)