Since moving to Bristol, I’ve occasionally been going along to an evening called ‘Chat and Draw’. As it says on the tin, people meet up and draw. It’s upstairs in a pub, you grab a drink, draw and get to know people. Not only was it weird going along to something like that not knowing people but also I felt like I hadn’t drawn in ages either. So it was strange getting back into it. You can draw anything you like, so as predictable as I am I’ve been drawing houses! Eventually I hope these drawings will inform a new set of works similar to the painting Two Up, Two Down which was such a hit on the arts trail. Painted on cardboard and mounted on wood the images of ordinary houses. #newworks
There is one thing I managed to squeeze in in-between teaching. In November I got involved in an event called the Totterdown Arts Trail. The weekend of the 19th/20th, me and my auntie-in-law opened up our home to the people of Totterdown and showcased our art work! What a feeling it was to open up our home like that and have people wander in and admire our artwork! I’d chose to exhibit in the hallway of our house, setting up The Great British Caravan along one wall and placing two older paintings (Two Up, Two Down and The Outhouse) on the others. As visitors came in and out they could also take a look at my cards just below the mirror. We had plenty of visitors and lots of kind words. It was lovely to speak to new people and hear their views of my work. It’s the first time I’ve put myself out there like that. I’ve had exhibitions before, but usually the work is left and you don’t hear the opinions of the people who see it. I wasn’t expecting to sell. I was proud to be showcasing myself in Bristol, proud that I had professional cards with my name and artwork on, (cards that had envelopes and cellophane wrap!) and after selling a few of those I was very happy.
However in the very last hour of the two day event, interest started to grow in my paintings! A lady walked in asking ‘where’s the lady who paints the caravans?’ I’d never been described as that before, word was spreading! She loved my paintings. She was about to buy a few cards, but I thought what the hell, I’ll ask her how much she’d be willing to pay. She ended up getting herself a bargain, she was so happy- saying she’d put it in her kitchen. I suppose it was good karma because minutes later another lady came in enquiring about the caravan painting with the E.U flag- and she was happy to pay full price! What a feeling! Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any better, a lady who I’d spoke to earlier came back wanting to buy one of my older paintings- Two Up, Two Down. She said ‘it was the most striking thing she’d seen on the whole arts trail!’ What a compliment! She paid full price and took it home to put somewhere everyone could see it. So in just an hour I’d sold three paintings! Some might I’m an artist.
So what’s been keeping me so busy all this time? The reason it took me so long to update my blog was mostly due to how busy I am in my new job. I mentioned I had a few things up my sleeve for this year and this was one of the big ones! Relocating to Bristol in September I began this incredibly exciting job. I now teach primary school kids fun and engaging art lessons. I am an Art Specialist teacher, teaching alongside the curriculum throughout the academic year of 2016-17. Travelling to four different schools all over Bristol, can be quite a challenge- I have a lot of names to remember to say the least. I plan and independently lead what I hope are really creative lessons that the kids love. It’s a testing yet thoroughly enjoyable role- most of the time! But I do love it when a child comes over bursting with pride with what they have achieved that lesson. Or I see one of them in the corridor, they ask if they have art that afternoon- which they do, and they give me a huge smile and say YES! We’ve made some pretty cool things already, these are some of my favourites.
You’d think there couldn’t possibly be anymore for me to write about the summer. But it just kept on coming! I’d thrown myself into so many things it just got more and more exciting. I wrote a blog post asking; Could I be the next Cumbrian Artist of the Year? Where I explained the brilliant news; that I had been shortlisted for the award! Being shortlisted meant I’d been given the fantastic opportunity to exhibit in Carlisle. But it also meant I had another exhibition piece to organise. This was much easier, as I submitted the piece I had already made for Greystoke “At a Crossroads in Life.” I’d made new planks for piece down at Ullswater (which was still on display at the time) so I gave the original a touch up and sent it off to Carlisle for the exhibition. Which was held at the University of Cumbria’s exhibition space; Vallum Ditch Gallery, Cumbria Institute of the Arts.
Again I had the novel experience of handing over my work to someone else, and this time it was to be curated amongst the other shortlisted artists. I was so disappointed I couldn’t make it to the exhibition. (Unfortunately by this point we’d made the move down to Bristol and I’d started my new job.) And I was even more disappointed I couldn’t attend the opening night, especially when that Instagram Post went up and I found out some rather exciting news… I’d made it into the TOP 5 artists! I couldn’t believe it, I was so honoured to be recognised like that. Although I felt like a celeb that couldn’t make it to the awards ceremony- I was really disappointed. I would like to take this opportunity now though to thank everyone involved in C-Art, Young C-Art and congratulate the well deserved winner Adam Story.
C-Art ran from 10th September- 25th September 2016. After all the years seeing these yellow signs about at that time these ones were finally pointing towards my art work. What an amazing feeling. I had some great responses to the work, families sending me photographs with them in it etc but my favourite one of all was from a complete stranger. A lady called Norma. She found my contact details from the catalogue and emailed me this wonderful email-
Whilst on one of our favorite walks, the Ullswater shoreline at Pooley Bridge we came across some puzzling signs and realised they were the C-Art signposted at the beginning of the walk. Being in our middle to late 70s we are not really “into” modern or conceptual art but on reading your text all became clear. Having been born in 1942 and spending 6 years in the sixties in Australia we found your installation not only moving but very thought provoking. Like any example of good art I felt better after viewing it. Well done you. We wish you much happiness and success in your future signpost 2017. Grab everything in life that comes your way and make every day count (but I feel you already do.)
Yours most sincerely
Thank you so much Norma! We shared emails back and forth where she later said she told her book club about me. I was overwhelmed with happiness reading this email the first time and even more so now. Such kind words, so inspirational-thank you Norma, and thank you to all those who wandered down to see it when it was up!
Looking for a Sign?, Rachel Fenwick, 2016
“The first year I came to work at Ullswater I saw an installation by the lake by an artist called Robyn Woolston. It feels incredibly humbling knowing that during those five years I have now graduated in Fine Art and can say I have had my very own installation by lake. A very proud moment for me.”
This post is all about thanking two amazing people- my grandma and granddad! I honestly couldn’t have done it without them. They came up from Lancashire to the lakes just to help me install. We really had a brilliant day and although we faced some challenges, got a few funny looks and at times my granddad wasn’t too sure what on earth we were doing with these strange signposts, it really was great! The paint had only just dried I was cutting it so fine, and installing on the busiest weekend of the summer, (August Bank Holiday) we definitely set ourselves a challenge. We did have to change location slightly for softer ground and there was a lot of discussion on the positioning of the posts, mostly me changing my mind- I’m sorry! But grandma and granddad were so patient with me- thank you. I’m still in awe of both your fencing skills. Look at that power in Granddads swing!
Thank you again, it meant everything to me that you were there to help.
Once the plan was in place it was time to get making, in between late shifts and planning for my new job I somehow managed to squeeze in some time to make. Sawing wood at sunset and painting in the dark, my ‘outdoor caravan studio’ became signpost heaven. Using scraps from the junk yard on site I managed to salvage some wood and more posts. I think the newest signpost used to be a headboard before I found it ready for the bonfire. Not anymore! I cut it down to form the shape I’d imagined and I have to say I really love it. Although initially I planned to use the same sculptures I’d made previously I had to upgrade them using much bigger poles. Poles with pointer bases for them to fit into the ground and much taller ones have a bigger impact, so there were more stripes to be painted too and more gloss paint to dry in time!
As soon as the The Great British Caravan series was complete, it was time to get ready for the next big thing! And the next big thing was something really exciting. I wrote back in August, that I was going to be part of C-Art; Cumbria’s largest visual arts event. The catalogue had been printed and my Installation titled ‘Looking for a Sign?’ was to be featured as an Extraordinary Place on the Ullswater Shores. I was so incredibly excited about this, I received permission from the owners of the campsite, (they own a small part of the lake shore), that I could go ahead and install, and on my morning walks I slowly began to imagine it forming. I began thinking about what I wanted my installation to say. From the title, you can probably guess that this work was to follow on from the contemporary sculpture I’d made for Greystoke Church. I wanted this work to be a reflection of the time I’d spent at Ullswater and the questions I was asking myself at that time. I’d envisioned three signposts to feature in the installation. The two I’d already made, ‘At a Crossroads in Life’, ‘A Place in Time’ and a third sculpture yet to be made. I wanted this last sculpture to use the lake to reflect upon the last five summers I’ve lived at Ullswater and speak about my future moving on. I’d had the image of another sign I’d seen in Australia in mind. Pointing two ways, the sign stretches itself out between two long distances. It was that sign I wanted to replicate, yet using dates rather than places again. <2012-2016>. In some ways the dates may be recognised resembling a gravestone scripture however it doesn’t mark a sad occasion just points towards the past, (2012 marking the summer I came to Ullswater), but also towards the future, what the rest of 2016 and onward will bring…