Year end.

'Virtutis Amore'. Oil portrait on linen, life size. 2015 by Helen Davison

‘Virtutis Amore’. Oil on linen, life size.

Well, here we are at the end of another year. In many ways this has been my most successful in terms of exhibiting my work and making sales, and I’ve been lucky enough to see my work alongside that of some really fantastic artists. Above is perhaps my most ambitious portrait painting to date in terms of scale. It’s life-size and is another representation of the model George. I completed this before the summer and have been intending to post a picture of it for ages. I still haven’t got a good quality photograph of it, but in lieu of that I don’t think this is too bad.

This year I have also started a very small art collection of my own, buying work by Marc Dalessio (the painting called ‘Empty Chairs’), Tim Benson (look for the painting called ‘Hanging carcass, Marrakech, after Rembrandt’ on his paintings page), and Ian Sidaway (painting not on website). I also bought a couple of screen prints by Tiff Howick – a black poodle and a greyhound, simply because they really made me smile. I have derived a great deal of pleasure from these purchases, finding them inspirational and also enjoying the idea of helping to support other artists as they follow what I know is a very difficult career path.

As for my own work, my output has slowed down a little over the last few months. I worked very hard in the run up to The Cotswold Open Studios back in the summer, and I was rewarded with a lot of sales and lovely feedback. I intended to take a couple of weeks off to re-charge, but somehow I never quite got back up-to-speed. I have, nonetheless, been busy with Sarum Studio projects and of course I never stop thinking about the development of my work; it’s just that I haven’t brought very much to a satisfactory resolution of late. The result is a rather empty studio and a pressing need to now rebuild my portfolio.

Sophie and Meg

Sophie and Meg

One reason for my lack of productivity is the sorry state of my dearest Sophie, the Brown Hound for whom I named my business. She’s a few weeks away from her 16th birthday and has been in steady decline for over a year now, suffering from doggy dementia (yes that’s definitely a thing) and physically degenerating too. It’s incredibly difficult to watch but I’m in close communication with our vet, who wouldn’t argue if I decided it was time to let her go, but who is also supportive of us continuing to care for her. I’m conscious of what seemingly little quality of life she sometimes appears to have, and I want to spare her from suffering. She’s not being kept alive by medication however, has a hearty appetite and still initiates the occasional fight with Meg, so while there’s something that looks like a will to carry on, we simply keep going as best we can. It is emotionally draining though, and I constantly underestimate the effect it has on us. Coupled with this, we also learned in June that Meg too is unwell. She has melanoma, but is doing unbelievably well so far considering that statistically it is an incredibly aggressive form of cancer with limited treatment options. Following a lot of discussion and specialist advice, she has just completed a round of pioneering immunotherapy. It may not work, but at least has negligible side-effects whatever the outcome. It’s also nice to feel that she could be part of research that ultimately helps people as well as other animals, such is the potential of veterinary and human medicine working together.

Aside from that, what about 2016? Well, my priority is to get properly back to work in the studio. I want to be a little more experimental – both in technique and also composition – although I don’t think that’s something you can force. I’m not going to put pressure on myself to enter any exhibitions for a little while though. It’s a shame not to try and capitalise on the good fortune of this year, but I think it’s important for me to just spend some time doing work purely to please myself. I have found that when I’ve had half a mind to enter the more prestigious exhibitions, I’m always second-guessing what might have a better chance at getting selected. That can colour the work a little, so I’m making a conscious decision to just put that aside for now. I’ll also be continuing in Salisbury for the foreseeable future and have what I hope will be a good 4 week portrait project when the new term starts.

In the meantime, here is a work that is still in progress, although very much on the back burner. A shadowy portrait undertaken in the dark days of year’s end.

'Myles'. Oil portrait on linen, life size. 2015 by Helen Davison

‘Myles’. Oil on linen, life size.