FEATURED ARTISTAnne Swankie
Looking back, I feel I’ve been very lucky in my art career, a case of being in the right place at the right time. And a ‘right’ place for me inspirationally is undoubtedly a wet day in Piccadilly Circus. Has it helped fuel my obsession with rain? Probably, I really can’t remember, but it must have something to do with the way wet pavements act like a mirror reflecting the light in the sky. For some reason it always seems to rain when I go to Piccadilly Circus, so much so, it’s become a bit of a joke. That’s why so many of my paintings feature umbrellas around the famous statue of Eros.
A ‘proper’ job
Art was always my favourite subject at school but, at 18, a completely unobtainable career option – I needed to earn a living. Colour and composition were put aside for typewriters and trade union committees, office work that lasted 25 years. It paid the mortgage.
Leap of faith
Then I made a radical decision. I left my job and started attending part – time classes at Richmond Adult College. I was very fortunate to have some excellent tutors, in particular Jill Storey and Kevin Chapman.
A year or so on, a friend invited me to take part in a joint exhibition at Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. It was scary showing the public my efforts and when I first saw my paintings hanging on the walls, I felt quite exposed. Then people started actually buying them – lots of them – and it gave me a huge boost.
Once a secretary
In 1995, I joined Richmond Art Society and acted as secretary for several years. At the same time, I showed my work in their exhibitions and attended lectures. I’ve fond memories of typing up exhibition catalogues on a rusty old typewriter at the Vestry House and making last – minute changes in Tippex, then rushing to the printers to get them copied in time for the private view.
Like several other RAS members, I also joined the Fountain Gallery co-operative and took part in several successful shows. I was thrilled to have my work accepted for the Pastel Society annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries and the Society of Women Artists.
In good hands
My big commercial break came one wet Sunday morning in February 2002 when I went with my husband to the Watercolours and Drawings Fair at the Park Lane Hotel in Piccadilly – yes, Piccadilly and rain again. We got talking to John Iddon at his exhibition stand and, much to my delight, he offered to show my work at the next art fair. For the last 20 years he has sold my paintings at many of the prestigious London Art fairs. As well as being my agent, he is also a good friend.
On a final note
I still go to life drawing and watercolour classes with Kevin Chapman at his popular studio on the river at Hampton. I still find it challenging and get very frustrated when things don’t turn out how I planned but I’ve come to realise that with painting and drawing, and probably all forms of art, you never really stop learning.