In the last few months we have all been finding ways to stay mentally and physically healthy while adjusting to the pandemic. Like so many of you, we have been turning to the natural world and to the world of art. Both are well known to have a positive impact on our mental health. A walk in a local park or woods, or a cup of tea in the garden can help give us some space to breathe, reflect and recharge in times of a crisis. We humans have always been using creative activities such as painting, music, literature, dance etc, to process what is happening in the world around us as well as our inner world. Whether we create it ourselves or experiencing the work of others, getting lost in a painting, a piece of music or a book can make a big difference to our well-being.
We are fortunate enough to be working with so many talented and inspiring artists, and their work has always had a positive impact on our lives. Each year we attend a number of art society exhibitions at the Mall Galleries and Bankside Gallery in London. We are honoured to offer our Dry Red Press Award at a number of these exhibitions. It is never easy to choose between so many interesting works, but it is one of the most exciting things we do each year. The piece we select is then published as a greeting card with all royalties going to the artist. We have just published our first three prize winners of the year, with thanks to the Royal Society of British Artists RBA, the Royal Watercolour Society RWS and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour RI and would like to tell you a bit more about the artists and their work.
Our first Dry Red Press Award of 2020 was presented at the Royal Society of British Artists 303rd Annual Exhibition 2020. As usual there was a fabulous selection of works by both established and rising artists. We kept coming back to one of them, 'Stolen Stem X' by Bess Harding. We loved the simple but unusual composition, the ochre yellow, the pink tape holding the plain little flower and the shadow on the wall. We asked Bess about her work as an artist and 'Stolen Stem X'.
I started painting in oils at the end of 2016, when I did an evening class at The Art Academy. I was working as an illustrator at the time, and dabbled in acrylics every now and then, but never really got the hang of them. Oil paints gave me an ‘aha’ moment, this really felt like painting to me. After the course, I carried on painting in oils and had a great boost a year or so later when I had a painting accepted into the Columbia Threadneedle Prize. Since then, I’ve had work exhibited with the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Society of British Artists exhibition, where this painting was shown.
The ’Stolen Stem’ series started out with the idea that although an arrangement of flowers in a vase is all very well (and I do paint those too), I wanted to strip it back a bit and concentrate on the simplicity of a single stem. First I thought of using a clothes peg to hold the flower, something I may yet try, but I didn’t have any pegs to hand so used masking tape, and it seemed to work well. The restriction is that it has to be a stem I’ve picked, so in the winter it’s slim pickings, but I keep an eye out when I’m out and about.
The yellow background on this painting is what makes it stand out. I use an ochre ground for all my paintings, and once I’d painted the white flower and pink tape, the existing ochre wash seemed to suit it well, so I stuck to a mustardy yellow in the final painting. I’m up to about twenty in the series now, and although I only paint them when I find a good stem, it is something I keep coming back to. Bess Harding
The last exhibition we were able to physically attend before the galleries had to close was the RWS Contemporary Watercolour Competition, It took place at the Bankside Gallery at the beginning of March 2020. It was a very rainy day but we came prepared with umbrellas and waterproofs! The exhibition was filled with interesting and beautiful pieces as usual. After careful deliberation we decided on a beautiful little painting, 'White Anemone' by Jenny Handley. It had something delicate and special; the texture, the colour, the shape of the vase, which just pulled us in. Below the artist tells us more about herself and the painting.
I studied a foundation art year when I left school and only returned to painting around 10 years ago. I paint in Acrylics, occasionally using collage and soft pastel to create different effects. I particularly enjoy painting flowers, especially those from my studio garden which I love to fill with wild flowers.
I painted White Anemone in January this year when I created a small series of Anemone paintings. I scratched in to the surface of the painting with a knife to create more texture and define the petals against the blue background. I kept the background simple and bold so that then fallen petal would stand out. I was thrilled that the painting was accepted for the CWC at the Bankside gallery and couldn't have been happier to be awarded the Dry Red Press Award, thank you! Jenny Handley
At the end of March 2020 we would have visited the Mall Galleries to attend the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour RI 208th Annual Exhibition prize judging as usual. Unfortunately the gallery had to close, but the exhibition went ahead online instead. We both loved 'Kid in a Sweet Shop' by Teignmouth artist Des Maxwell Clark. There was the element of nostalgia which attracted us, but it was also fresh and colourful and it made us feel happy. We asked Des to tell us a bit about his background and his work.
I seem to have had a number of careers in my life - earth scientist, BBC studio manager, local government, and now artist. We moved from London to Devon fifteen years ago and never looked back.
There were two things that attracted me to this subject - nostalgia and light. The way the low winter light hit the jars in our local newsagents and sweetie shop was such a cheering sight and so full of childhood memories, but it was my wife who encouraged me to paint the scene. I love painting detail and observing reflections and refraction. I started off as a landscape and botanical painter (because of my scientific background really), but started painting food and more quirky subjects about four years ago.
I changed the shelves to make them look more rustic, and moved the jars around to make sure all our favourites were in the frame and to give an overall balance of colour. I must admit it took me most of the first months of 2019 to complete it. It was a real cheer up as I had cancer and painting took my mind off all the bad things. I'd like to think the cheer I felt has come through in the painting and would give a little smile and a boost to other people too. Des Maxwell Clark
We are so thrilled to have offered the Dry Red Press Award to these talented artists and to have their beautiful paintings in our card collection. We feel they all make great additions to our prize winner's range, and we are sure our customers will love them too.
Thank you for reading,
Laura and Kicki