Well, what can I say? Gobsmacked was an understatement when I saw the cardboard-backed brown A4 envelope on the kitchen table. I had only popped out to the supermarket to get a few bits and wasn't gone long. Typical of our postman. I could wait in all day for a parcel or letter to arrive and the minute I leave the house, he appears. It's as if he is watching the house, waiting for me to leave. Today he had an extra special envelope to deliver once I had gone out.
My name and address were handwritten on the envelope and I was totally baffled as to who it could be from. Instead of any sane person who would open it, I stared at it, trying to guess the sender. I even asked my husband who it could be from. I eventually opened the envelope to find the letter, certificate and two complimentary tickets for the event. I had to read the letter twice before it actually sunk it. I handed it to my husband who read the letter and certificate, too. Yes. It was true. My oil painting, "Ena Harkness" had won the Flowers or Gardens Category of the SAA Artist Of The Year 2015. Or I should say I had won the competition, the painting hadn't won the competition because it didn't paint itself. It is a cracker, even if I say so myself.
And it is because I, and a lot of others, thought "Ena Harkness" was (and still is) a cracker that I entered it in the SAA Artist Of The Year competition just before Christmas last year. I subscribe to the SAA (Society For All Artists) where I receive a monthly magazine, and can download my artwork onto their website for all and sundry to have a nose and leave comments should they wish. They also sell a decent array of art supplies, too. It also mentioned the upcoming All About Art Event 2015 and the competition that runs alongside it. Hmmm. Ena Harkness is as good as any and it's ALL MY OWN WORK, so I filled in the online form, paid my small fee and downloaded the image and forgot about it... until a letter arrived in March of this year telling me that my artwork had been selected to go through to the next round of the competition and could I post the original off to the SAA so it can be judged in person. Luckily, the artwork was hanging at my friend's house five minutes up the road so wouldn't be a problem to post off. I just had to get it framed first to show it off in it's best light. So off I trotted to my friend, Joyce's house to tell her that I needed her beloved "Ena Harkness" back for a while...
The painting was a gift for her sixtieth birthday. I wanted something special to mark this landmark event (!) , so decided to paint a picture and I had a good few months in which to do it. It was summertime and she is a November baby, so lots of time to do it. John (my husband) and I had been round to their house a few weeks earlier and because the weather was scorching, we sat in the garden. And, like you do, we were admiring the flowers, plants and in particular the roses in their garden. Joyce's husband, Sid, just happened to mention the Ena Harkness red rose in the corner of the garden that wasn't in bloom yet, but what a beautiful velvety rose it was when it was. A very old rose it was, and they had transported it down from their native Scotland twenty-five years earlier and it was as beautiful as ever today, and it was one Joyce's favourites. DING!!! (This is my brain getting in gear). I quietly asked Sid to let me know when "Ena" was blooming so I could come and photograph it, as I would like to use it as a reference for a painting. No problem he said. And kept to his word.
With camera fully charged in hand, I went round to their house when Joyce was at work and Sid was home. The magnificent velvety petals were majestic in the hot summer sun. I had an idea for water droplets so asked Sid to get the watering can and fill it with water. I set up my camera's "burst" feature (which takes a quick burst of photos one after the other") and whilst he sprinkled the roses with the water I clicked for England. I think I came away with over one hundred shots. But it was so worth it when I saw the pictures. After much filtering, deleted, sorted and cropping my plethora of images, I eventually chose the picture I wanted to use. Now at this point, most artists would tell you that they went back round to the garden and sketched the roses in plein air, did a squillion study drawings followed by a sketch to sort composition, then a watercolour or acrylic to sort out tonal values, etc - a process many professionally trained artists go through before they do their final painting. No. Not me. Self taught, pretty much. I printed the picture off, drew it onto the canvas and off I went. It was a real work in progress and as any oil painter worth their salt will tell you (professionally trained or self-taught), took weeks due to the various layers you paint to build up the picture, adjusting as you go. Eventually it was finished and I couldn't wait to present this gift to one of my oldest and cherish friends (note: she is not the oldest, our friendship is rather old, spanning over 25 years). The birthday came and I raced around to her house with it. Of course, she was overjoyed and it has taken pride of place in her living room ever since.
Until I turned up in March and asked for it back, that is. The painting is done on box canvas so was never framed as I had painted the sides of the canvas to integrate the whole thing. But now I felt it needed framing to show it off
Cheshire Framing was my framer's of choice because Mike is so helpful and his prices very reasonable, especially with the professional quality framing he does. We went through just about every frame going before settling on the black and silver one. This guy obviously knows his onions because I believe the framing of it really helped to bring out the water droplets in the painting. And it obviously made quite a splash with the judges as it was the winner!
So it's off to the SAA's All About Art Event in London in July. Luckily my lovely cousin, Diane, and her family live in Greenwich so John, Jean-luc and I will be staying over for a few days so we can enjoy some famiy get-together time before hopping on the tube over to Islington. I am so looking forward to attending the event itself as I have never been to one of these things before. I cannot wait to see all the different paintings, events, stall, artists - I am so excited. This is my sweet shop. My own personal sweetie "Ena Harkness" will be exhibited over the entire duration of the event which is three days from 23rd July 2015 alongside all the other category winners and we will be presented with our awards on Saturday, 25th July at the event. I do not know who will be presenting the award but I do know that Lachlan Goudie, the judge from the BBC's The Big Painting Challenge, will be there, as will some other wonderful artists whom I have followed on Twitter (and may I add that they follow me, also, ahem!) so am really looking forward to meeting them. Might even get a selfie with Lachlan, who knows?