I had no interest in art until 2004 when I was inspired and wanted to have a go, and after much moaning at home about wishing I'd got some artistic talent, I was presented with a watercolour paint set for my birthday to get me started.
At first I wondered what to do with the set, the tubes of paint looked colourful and inviting in their wooden box but where should I start? Eventually I managed to work out which end of the paint brush was which but my first efforts weren't great because I didn't have a clue about painting technique, so I tried drawing and had a go at copying a picture in a children's book by Jane Hissey, the result is the Teddy on the right which I was pleased with as my first attempt at using coloured pencils.
I messed around doing a few sketches until 2005 when I saw an advert for an evening course of six watercolour painting lessons which was run by local artist Stephen Coates who I went to school with. I signed up and really enjoyed myself and with my new found confidence I challenged a friend to enter "Art in the Gardens" but I didn't seriously think I'd go through with it.
At Christmas in 2005 I saw a card with "We Three Kings" on it, which made me think what if the kings were fish? Don't ask me why I made that association, I've no idea, but it made sense at the time and gave me an idea, so I painted a picture called "We Three Fish", followed by "Dodging the Waves". They were a little bit unusual but I had enough good comments to make me enter them for "Art in the Gardens", plus I had my honour to uphold by keeping my side of the challenge!
Art in the Gardens
On selection day I was very nervous unpacking my paintings for the selection committee, my hands were shaking as I looked round at all the "proper" art and thought I was about to be laughed out of the room. It was a very nerve wracking day waiting until the afternoon when I had to go back to collect my paintings and see how I'd got on, but to my surprise both had been accepted. This was a very exciting moment and I felt very honoured to have been chosen to exhibit.
It was great to be part of the exhibition a few months later but I was brought back down to earth when I had to collect my unsold paintings at the end, but I was determined to try again the following year.
Thoughts of "Art in the Gardens" and wanting others to experience the same thrill I'd had from exhibiting led me to organise our first departmental art exhibition in 2007 and form the Physics and Astronomy Art Group as a base for us all to work from.
In 2007 I entered "Art in the Gardens" with another group member, Elham, and we were both thrilled to get five pieces accepted each although I still didn't manage to sell anything. Never mind, I exhibited four paintings at the 2008, 2009 and 2010 shows and sold them all.
I don't know anything about art history and although I'm beginning to appreciate their skill, the old masters don't do anything for me. I'm more interested in contemporary art and the inspiration for my animal paintings comes from Mackenzie Thorpe, Govinder Nazram and Toni Goffe.
I also enjoy seeing different crafts at art and craft shows and given the chance I'll have a go at anything - I've really enjoyed all our group's workshop sessions and I look forward to trying other activities.
I usually paint using a mixture of watercolour, acrylic and gouache paint and I'll happily use all three in the same painting. They're all water based so it works for me although I don't know if it's technically the done thing but who cares if I get the result I want. A lot of my earlier work included silver metallic pen and I've experimented unsuccessfuly with metallic leaf - very frustrating stuff which sticks to your fingers or anywhere else except where you actually want it to stick. For now it can stay in it's packet until it learns how to behave.
Currently I'm looking at techniques which are new to me, such as pouring and splattering paint and adding texture which I'm hoping to use in my paintings, but I'm not really into landscapes or realism so I think my animal pictures will be around for a while yet.