Ashmead’s Kernels, oil on panel, 7 by 5 inches
I must admit I was a bit excited. I’d never seen apples as beautiful, as interesting, as these.
I had so many bags of them in my arms that I kept dropping them.
And I’d never seen so many apples in one place. They were everywhere. And not the usual apples you see in the supermarket, grown for high yield and selected for uniformity.
These were real apples.
Helen and Dave run Day’s Cottage Farm, a traditional apple farm just north of me, in the Cotswolds countryside. The farm has been in their family for generations. They make cider, apple juice and perry and they grow all the apples themselves, with no crop spraying or harmful pesticides.
They manage their old orchards of mature trees, where they specialise in historical Gloucestershire varieties, some of which have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
Their trees also supply homes for local wildlife; owls, woodpeckers and bats. They have yurts where they run courses on traditional tree propagation and management.
Day’s cottage is more than an apple farm. It’s obvious when you meet Helen and Dave and visit their orchards that what have and what they do is the product of a deep passion.
So when I offered to do them a painting of their apples, I knew I was going to do a good job of it!
After all, no-one knows traditional Gloucestershire apples better than Helen and Dave.
So that’s why I’ve been painting these Ashmead’s Kernels. And also why I’ve been painting them with gratitude.
This painting is a thank you present for Helen and Dave for letting me visit their beautiful orchards and showering me with such beautiful, characterful, just downright interesting apples.
They grow over 100 varieties there, so I’ve got plenty yet to try. Now I know the difference, I don’t think I’ll ever paint supermarket apples again.
My studio table is still covered with them, look:
I’m not just grateful for the apples, either. I have so much more to be grateful for.
When Michelle and I sold our house, packed up the kids and left for the Cotswolds a year ago, we had no idea how things were going to turn out. We just knew we didn’t want to (actually, couldn’t) continue to live the life we had.
Now, every morning I make my coffee and come into my own north light studio in the old converted barn we live in and start my day.
I make a point of starting every day with a few moments of gratitude. I’m grateful that I’m still alive. I’m grateful for my family, Michelle and our two boys, and for the way they they’ve bloomed out here.
I’m grateful that I get to do work every day that means something to me, like Helen and Dave do; work that I have have a passion for – painting and teaching.
For a long time I didn’t think I’d get to this point. Although we still live on a combination of what I earn and the money from selling the house, increasingly more of it is what I earn from my work.
It was a risk, yes, selling up and coming out here, trusting that we’d be able to survive on what I earn from painting and teaching.
But I believed it would work out, and it seems I was right.
A new kind of artist
You see, I think things are changing for artists, and it’s the Internet that’s changing them.
With blogs and social media, we can now reach like-minded people all over the world in a way that has never been possible before.
Social media gets a bad press sometimes, but for all the negatives there are huge positives. It’s possible to connect with people meaningfully across huge distances.
And that creates an opportunity for artists that has never existed before.
To be truly and completely independent.
To do the work we love, without being shoe-horned into commercially viable styles by galleries.
To share the knowledge we’ve earned in our hours at the easel without having to rent expensive spaces.
With the Internet and a smartphone, we can invite people from across the world directly into our studios.
And all that means that if we have something of true value to share, all we really need do is find enough people who appreciate it and are willing to support it to make a truly independent living as an artist.
I think that’s pretty exciting.
Yes, you too
Behind the scenes, I’ve been working on an idea I’ve had to help people, to help you, make something of this opportunity.
I’m hoping to have it ready in January (but don’t hold me to that, I’m doing my best but there’s a lot to do!) and if it works as I hope it will, I’ll be able to extend the opportunities that are allowing me to live as I do now to more people.
The two sides of the new artist
I’m deliberately making it very affordable. For a small-ish monthly subscription, you’ll get access to drawing and painting instruction that will help you make better work.
These will be live streams like the ones I’m doing at the moment, but will be private and scheduled, and focused on specific aspects of painting and drawing as well as painting demonstrations. You’ll be able to have input into what we cover.
But being able to produce good work is half the story. I’ll also be sharing, in detail, how I run my business online:
How I set up and run my auctions, manage and grow my email list, grow my contacts, and how I make sure I’m producing teaching materials that people really want and benefit from.
I’ve spent a good few years working in online marketing for some big companies, so I have quite a bit of background.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need massive follower counts on social media and you don’t need to be an “art star” to make a living from your work online.
You need to connect meaningfully with people. Authentically. Enough people to support yourself.
I think we’re all tired of traditional marketing, and what we all want now is authenticity. It certainly feels much more rewarding to do, too!
Why I’m so excited about this
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’ve run a drawing program, produced tutorial videos and free live webinars, and now live streams from the studio.
I’m going to roll almost all the learning materials I’ve made so far into this, so you’ll get everything as well as whats to come.
It feels like everything I’ve done so far has led me to this point, and I’m determined to make this the most outstandingly useful thing I’ve ever made.
And the knowledge that’s allowing me to live a life that means something to me, that allows me to follow my dreams, is something I”m desperate to share.
Does this sound like it’s for you?
So listen, if you want to be kept up to date on progress of this as I go, and to know when it’s live and ready to go, just pop your email address into this form and I’ll make sure you don’t miss anything.
You’ll also be able to give some feedback on what exactly you’d like to see most as I’m putting it together.
I want to make sure it’s relevant for you, so I’ll be getting in touch every now and again to let you know what I’m adding and to ask what you’d like to see.
When we moved here, we woke up on our first morning, all wrapped up together in a big quilt on the floor, and my eldest boy’s first words as he opened his eyes were:
“Its a new day”.
And I believe it really is.
Best wishes and thanks for reading,