Work, Rest & Play in Bridport
Every day I cycle to my studio at St Michael’s Studios to continue work on my large-scale landscape paintings inspired by the surrounding countryside. Each piece typically takes six to eight months to complete, so I only create a few paintings a year. It’s quite a challenging way to work, but I think it’s important to strive for excellence and to try to create works that will stand the test of time.
As you can see in the image above, 15 St Michael's artists are taking part in a 4 day Open Studios event over the Easter Bank Holiday, 6-9 April. I also now open my studio every Saturday from 11-4pm, so do drop in if you're in Bridport for our great Saturday Market!
I’m foremost an artist, but these days I’m also kept busy with a number of community projects. As co-Chair of the Spirit of Bridport I’m helping to organise our first “Festival of Culture”, which will celebrate the best of Bridport’s Music, Food, Heritage and the Arts from 11-27 August 2012. I’m also deeply involved in Enterprise St Michael’s, a community-led project set up to safe-guard Bridport’s much-loved Art & Vintage Quarter.
I grew up in rural north Dorset, and moved to London in the 90’s, where I established myself as an Abstract painter. I came on holiday to west Dorset in 1998 and chanced upon a remarkable community of artists living in an old rectory in Symondsbury, just outside Bridport. Within a month I’d left London and moved in. The following year I moved my studio to a warehouse in Bridport, on the St Michael’s Trading Estate. Other artists soon joined me and we now have 25 artists in the St Michael’s Studios complex.
Bridport is now recognised as having one of the most vibrant art scenes in the country and in 2010 I produced a book “Portrait of the Artist – 25 Bridport Painters & Sculptors”, with photographer George Wright and writer Lu Orza. I’m also deputy director of Bridport Open Studios and over 100 artists take part in our annual August event, including both established names and emerging talent. There are also a number of well-respected local galleries including Sladers Yard in West Bay, Artwave West in Morecomelake and the Pierrepoint Gallery in Bridport.
One of the great things about Bridport is its enterprising community, and this is most apparent on the St Michael’s Trading Estate, which has been an industrial estate for over 150 years, providing vital employment for the town. Alongside the art studios there are dozens of small businesses, a discount retail park and a growing Art & Vintage Quarter. This has become one of the best loved attractions in Bridport, cherished by the locals and bringing in thousands of visitors to monthly Vintage Markets. A recent attempt by the owners to replace it with a housing estate has met with fierce local opposition, and has led us to form “Enterprise St Michael’s”, a non-profitmaking organisation that hopes to buy the estate and allow the community build on its current success.
I joke that I have to go to London to relax, but it’s true! My life in Bridport is now so busy that I have to get away, and I love to spend 2 or 3 days in London, visiting galleries, enjoying the buzz of the city and seeing old friends.
I also meditate every day. I find it’s vital when we live such busy lives. It’s a kindness we can easily give our bodies, as you only need to set aside 15 minutes a day to release all of the stress and tension from your body. It’s also creatively stimulating and helps clarify my thoughts. I also enjoy cycling and we have a great local Aikido club.
I love Café culture and we’re really spoilt for choice in West Dorset. I often have lunch at the amazing Red Brick Café in the Art & Vintage Quarter and once a week I meet my brother and friends for lunch at the Bull Hotel. I also love to watch the sun set over the sea from the Ellipse Café in West Bay and eat at the Hive Beach Café in West Bexington. I’m now really looking forward to the newly refurbished Café Royal in Bridport - which is about to re-launch as a retro-diner!
The great thing about being an artist is that I get to play at what I most enjoy doing every day. I particularly love just being in my studio, but my ‘work’ also takes me out into the countryside to walk, draw & paint, and take photographs. One of my favourite places is Lewesdon Hill, and I often paint the magnificent views across the Marshwood Vale, as seen through the ancient beech trees.
I was asked to do the "Work, Rest & Play" profile for next months Dorset Magazine feature on Bridport, but to cut a long story short... the deadline was too close for me, so they've decided to do a big Bridport feature in the August issue instead. Of course it's great Blog material, so I've found time to finish writing the article.