My first art studio


Do I don’t I..?

I’ve been mulling over the idea of getting an art studio for a while. But there were always some niggling questions that would keep appearing in my head: ‘Would I use it?’; ‘Do I even need one?’; ‘Would I find something suitable and local?’… and so on.

As I already work from home I’m used to being there and had created a small space (in the corner of a room) where I could set up my art materials and work from without too much distraction. The pros being: it was local, tick; free, tick; and VERY convenient, tick. The cons being: I was still at home; the space needed to stay clean; it wasn’t very big; and distractions did occur.

Home studio space

So, I started to look around the local area, just to see what was out there. But I didn’t have much luck…some spaces were too big; some were too far away; and some were way too expensive for what I wanted. A bit of a Goldilocks story really. And then I heard about availability at some local art studios that were smallish, affordable and only a 15 minute drive away.

Hadleigh Old Firestation – HOFs

Moving in day at the studio

Hadleigh Old Firestation (HOFs) provides studio space for local artists. When I went for a viewing there were two studios available, so it was good to have a choice and a comparison. Both would have been suitable but this one felt right 🙂 With dual-aspect windows it has a view out onto the street and to the local supermarket (always handy). It has plenty of space for me to work and plenty of storage. The art studios, run by the arts organisation ACAVA, have a number of artists working there, so it’s good to have like-minded people around.

Moving in

Once the paperwork had been signed and monies paid, I picked up the keys in September. I was excited to move in and to start making the studio feel like a creative space. I already had furniture at home that I wanted to take (tables, stools, shelves plus books, art materials etc…) I just wanted some essentials like a mini fridge, a plan chest and a wheelie trolley for my art materials.

Window view and tea!

Have I made the right decision?

Well it’s early days yet but so far, I would say a resounding YES! This is how I’ve responded to my initial concerns:

  • Would I use it? I wasn’t sure if I would want to leave the comfort of home to go to a studio, but now I know it’s there I just want to be in it. I’m not there as often as I would like to be, so some changes need to be made.
  • Do I need it? Now I have a dedicated art space, I want to make it pay for itself, which is inspiring me to start work on a new business idea…
  • Would I find something suitable? If you know what you are looking for, it’s so much easier to recognise it when it comes along. I had decided that for my first studio I wanted somewhere low risk and easy to travel to. Moving to HOFs also has the benefit of being part of a ready-made artist community. Win-win 🙂
Working in my studio
Sketchbook work

Watts Chapel

I’ve been wanting to visit Watts Chapel, in Surrey, for a while and this year, I finally got there. Wow!

The chapel is a Grade 1 listed mortuary chapel built by the artist Mary Watts and the villagers of Compton between 1895 and 1904. The terracotta panels on the exterior are made from symbols taken from Celtic, Romanesque, Jewish and Egyptian traditions. The exterior is very striking but I thought the interior was absolutely stunning.

The interior had been created, in low relief, using felt, rope and other materials which were then covered with gesso and painted in rich colours. The design incorporated many symbols representing ‘growth and decay’, ‘the light and dark side of all things’ and the circle of the eternal ‘without beginning, without end’.

On the Watts Gallery website you’ll find a 360 degree view of the chapel.

The cemetery in which the chapel is located is itself Grade II listed, with many of the graves designed in the Arts & Crafts style.

It’s certainly worth a visit and, while you’re there, you can also see Watts Gallery, Limnerslease (the house where Mary lived with her husband George Watts) and take a walk around the village of Compton.

Silk Painting Workshop at the Embroiderers’ Guild

I haven’t tried silk painting before, so when I saw my local Embroiderers’ Guild were running a workshop I thought I would give it a try. The session was run by textile artist, Kirsten Yeates, from Denmark.

Kirsten began by handing out pieces of silk that had designs pre-drawn on them using gutta – a technique that creates a boundary that the inks can ‘bleed’ up to. Apparently it can be quite tricky to draw smooth lines of gutta so, as a beginner, it was ideal to be able to start with these pre-drawn examples. We were then given a short demonstration on how to apply the inks. A fine paintbrush and cotton bud is useful if you are painting a detailed design and a thicker soft brush if you need to cover larger areas with a wash of colour.

The silk painting inks are very concentrated and produce a really vibrant colour on the cloth. Painting with inks looked easy but the inks dry quickly leaving a hard edge of colour. To prevent this from happening you can either damp the fabric slightly with your brush, before applying colour, or water the inks down.

I’m more familiar with watercolours, so by diluting the inks I was able to create the effect of the colours softly blending in to each other. Here is the piece I made, before and after…

In a short two-hour session, these are some of the lovely pieces that the group produced.

For more information on the Embroiderer’s Guild, or to find your local branch visit

Loving Vincent exhibition – Het Noordbrabants Museum, Holland

Loving Vincent is a painted animated film based on 120 of Van Gogh’s paintings. Every frame of the film was handpainted by over 124 artists who created more than 65,000 paintings. The exhibition, held at Het Noordbrabants Museum in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Holland provided a delightful insight into the making of such an ambitious film.

Below is a selection of paintings on canvas complete with registration marks, frame number and production comments.

A close up detail shows how thick the paint was applied on some of the paintings, in the style of Van Gogh.

The exhibition included a 3D mindmap illustrating the thought processes behind the making of the film, from the initial resources used to the script writing and music choices, plus what ended up on the cutting room floor.

How did Vincent Van Gogh die? The film looks at the investigation following his death. The mystery board below shows the possible suspects and how how they’re stories connected.

For more information visit –

Visit to Dunham Massey, National Trust

Dunham Massey, in Cheshire, is an Elizabethan country house and deer park that is now run by the National Trust.

An old watermill in the grounds has recently been restored and opened to the public.

The leaves on the trees were just beginning to turn as autumn approaches.

One of the old trees lying on the ground had a very striking bark pattern.

The Motor House

When the 9th Earl of Stamford took possession of Dunham Massey in 1905 he instructed the conversion of the stables into a ‘motor house’. At the time only 16,000 cars were registered in the country and motoring was a hobby enjoyed only by the wealthy.

The Morris Ten-Four on display was a 1935 model, owned by Roger Grey, 10th Earl of Stamford.

The stables were sympathetically remodelled to retain many of the original features and character of the buildings. I particularly liked the texture of the brick wall…

…and the beautiful high timber-framed ceiling.