How my winning a simple competition changed my life…
Here is a round up of my journey into becoming an artist… From a girl who was repeatedly told by society that “art was just a hobby” and consequently embarking on a life of office work, to deciding, screw this…. art is the life for me.
Before I get to the competition winning part though, a little background…
One day, it dawned on me, that my happy-go-lucky, carefree days, I’d lived before having children somehow seemed a distant thing of the past.
I had completely underestimated just how life changing having kids would be! Love em to bits, but lets be honest, these little people don’t come with a quick start instruction manual.
I was a frazzled Mum in need of support.
Circumstances led me to a local art group in January 2011, I couldn’t have been welcomed by a kinder, happier bunch of people.
I looked forward to those sessions all week every week.
Something began to change inside of me. Those weekly art sessions helped me regain some balance in my life. I knew deep inside it was time to make some changes.
My small selection of art supplies sat unused in the spare room, desperate for a proper airing.
Then a pivotal thing happened.
I entered a competition at TATE MODERN, a last-minute, on the fly thing, just as I was leaving to go on holiday.
Whilst sunning myself by the pool, my phone pinged, and I got the news that I’d been selected to paint for the day at THE TATE!
I was hopping around like an excited six year old for the rest of the week, and kept re-checking the e-mails to check it was for real!
When I got there, the people I met weren’t exceptional; just normal people. They were kind, happy, and simply, living my dream life.
That was it. I decided there and then: I was having a slice of that, and my journey as an artist began.
Momentum built after winning that day at The Tate.
I jammed as much art in as I could and worked on creating a website.
I rented a nearby art studio.
Our young families got in on the excitement, they also loved to paint and draw, and wanted ‘a website of their own’…. so I added a page to my site to display their work, Joe aged 9, etc!
It seemed to strike a chord, and I was contacted by Three Counties Radio, to do an Interview and Painting with Wax session live on-air, in an Olde Worlde Pub. It was totally crazy, and I kept thinking somebody was having me on, but turned out to be totally legit and very fun!
There was also a Hertfordshire Life feature shortly after, discussing my wax practices, and how they link to the 2,000 year old fine art Encaustic Wax Mummy panels in museums around the world.
It all tied in perfectly with my beliefs around art; that it should be for everybody. Young and old, enjoyed by serious artists, AND just for fun of it….
I continued to throw everything at it, I had exhibitions in London, Oxford, Arts Festivals, I met some amazing people, and the momentum was building and building.
Then the next pivotal moment came….
I doubled my studio space overnight, quite out of the blue….
Doubling the size of my studio terrified me, it was a step up, but, excited me in equal measure… This was past an expensive hobby now, and I was determined to make it work…
I started following a number of people online, and inspired by their success, set about creating my first online course. It was really well received, and I was utterly delighted when people started buying it, and telling me how much it was helping them!!!
I mixed this up with selling my art, selling wax supplies, running workshops, and things were going up and up.
A lady came from Norway, and spent eight days 1-1 tuition with me. We had a whale of a time, and I pinched myself that this crazy wax dream was really starting to work out. She went home delighted with all the tuition and supplies she couldn’t access in Norway, and held a successful encaustic exhibition in a gallery back at home a few months later.
I was asked to repair some giant encaustic wax paintings, by Hiro Yokose, they brought me some sleepless nights I can tell you! But it was equally a privilege to work on them, and experience such works of art up close…
I signed up for Bucks Open Studios, everything was organised… could life get any better?!
One week before the final print deadline…
I got the news that my studio would be closing. *!@&…?!
So, from Tate Modern, to doubling my studio, to having to hastily move out and put everything into storage… all during a huge house renovation.
As the song goes… I get knocked down… but-I-get-back-up-again…. Dadedadadadada… 😉
And I got knocked down a number of times over the next two years, I can tell you.
I worked from my whatever venue I could find. Church halls. Local venues. My undecorated spare bedroom. I shared with another artist in Chesham, using his studio on days he wasn’t in.
One day, it dawned on me, I was trying to design a house, live between a building site and a hotel, and continue to run my art from temporary venues.
I was understandably, frazzled again.
For sanity sake, I frustratedly parked my art during this turbulent period, until things were more settled.
I thought I’d simply pick up where I’d left off, but then, I had a nasty wrist accident, which left me wondering, would I be able to paint again?
That injury woke me up, made me more determined NOT to put my art down to the lowest of priorities, and not allow days and months to pass me by…
I made the time to create art. There were many failed attempts that will never see the light of day, works in progresses abandoned at a frustrating place, gripping was an issue, my wrist couldn’t cope with too much pen, iron or brush holding, and I would get shooting pains at the most unexpected moments, but I was being creative, and that was all that mattered.
If nothing else, creating was returning me to my more balanced, un-frazzled state.
So… How does this story end…? Well, one thing I’ve discovered on this journey is, you never know what is around the corner…
An amazing, new, better than before, studio opportunity came up out of the blue… and my new ‘Arty Heaven’ emerged.
This new studio is just idyllic. On a farm in the quiet Hertfordshire countryside. I walk through the door, and every worry or concern I have seems to melt away.
Since moving there, I’ve run workshops, mini art retreats, held open days, created and sold lots of new art, and helped people with wax supplies.
Covid recently threw another spanner in the works, but, some fantastic lessons have come out of that, you can read about them here.
One thing is for sure, my art is back up the priority list.
It’s great to share online now, it’s fabulous seeing peoples reactions to wax… and so many more can experience it this way, rather than the few in person. Viewers leave inspired and love this new found medium!
I will be forever grateful for that day at The TATE in September 2011, where experiencing that excitement of working with other artists, being behind the scenes, and in the staff rooms. Seeing that this is what these people did everyday, and that art wasn’t just a hobby! It motivated me, inspired me and gave me the confidence to break outside my grey safety zone of office life, and HMRC returns I’d landed myself in, which make me shudder to even think about these days!
Whilst showing up online has taken me well outside of my comfort zone, connecting with all these new people, has been amazing. A new audience, who it turns out, love encaustic just as much as me, and really appreciate the hand made aspect and quality of it…. it’s simply a joy.
So, despite a few detours in the road, and adaptations along the way…. I’ve discovered that creating one off, bespoke artworks for people, and sharing the hows of encaustic painting, shining a light on it’s amazing healing benefits…. lights me up like no other.
You can see my latest work, and find out more about working with beeswax here: https://artyheaven.com/julie-anns-art/