Thursday, August 03, 2006

I should explain myself

The first post is always the hardest isn't it?

I feel I should explain a bit about myself and how PictureDreams came into being....

I am a self-taught artist and mother of two, and built up my painting business (PictureDreams) from scratch over the last 18 months, working it round being a full time mum and teaching myself Dreamweaver in the small hours.

I have just won a huge International Art competition sponsored by MyArtSpace which means I will be off to an artists' retreat in a couple of weeks in the South of France, and will be taking part in an exhibition in New York next Spring.

As you can imagine, I am over the moon about winning such a prestigious international competition, and owe a lot of my success to the tremendous support from my clients and fellow forumites. To go from painting in the kitchen to preparing for my first ever exhibition in the Westwood Gallery in New York in such a short time is every artist's dream.

Being self-taught, I don't have your usual artist's CV and to explain my painting career, you have to go back to World War I and to my Welsh grandfather. He had dreamed of being an artist and had an exceptional talent. He drew and painted constantly and I think hoped it would mean earning a living above ground. In those days in South Wales, nearly all the boys were destined to work down the mine. The War started and like so many in his village, he signed up at 17 and was shipped to France. He did a fantastic self portrait of himself as a gladiator to pass the time on the boat.

In France, he was badly injured and sent to a remote Red Cross hospital where he was initially left for dead as a nurse had put a German coat over him. There were only limited spaces on the ambulance and the majority of them went to the British wounded, he later told me. Fortunately for him, when the stretcher bearers were taking those who had a chance of survival to a hospital in safer territory, they knocked against his unconcious form and his arm fell out from under the coat. A sharp eyed doctor noticed my grandfather's sleeve bore the three feathers symbol of a Welsh regiment and he was added to the lucky few to be taken to the main hospital. In all the confusion, my great grandmother got a telegram saying he was dead. In her grief she destroyed all his paintings and drawings. He returned eventually and refused to ever paint or draw again. His self-portrait sketch is all that remains of his work.

Years later, as my sister and I were growing up, he would spend hours instructing us on how to draw and paint - but would never do it himself. When I was a teenager he finally told me why he never drew again - he said that he had seen such horrors in the trenches it was all he could see whenever he lifted a pencil and it just overwhelmed him so much it was easier not to draw at all. Very tragic I think. But he did tell me shortly before he died 10 years ago, that I should always follow a dream and to keep drawing and painting.

So I did. I had done all the 'science' subjects at school (as my parents wished) and gone to University to get a degree in Microbiology. I had a series of jobs mainly science related...the latest being to train as a science teacher. I got my teaching certificate when I was seven months pregnant with my second child. It was then I realised I had a chance to do some painting again. So, I went and bought myself a set of acrylics and a canvas in November 2004 and started painting in my kitchen when the kids had gone to bed. And I haven't stopped since.

At first, the paintings were for around the house, and gifts for friends and relatives. Encouraged to sell them, I made a bet with myself - if I could sell a painting on Ebay I would build a website and have a go at marketing my work.

Well the Ebay painting sold to an MD of a New York Ad agency and I built my website ( More orders came in and the kitchen was beginning to look like a paint spattered besieged studio rather than a place where you could produce meals.

Well the orders keep coming, and the clients keep coming back and I've moved out of the kitchen (much to the relief of my family) and into my very own studio.

So, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I couldn't be happier - I am so lucky to be able to paint and be at home for the kids, I couldn't ever consider going back to working in a lab or office ever again.

I am finally earning myself a living from painting - I think my grandfather would be proud.

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