You could scarcely wish for a more inspirational setting than the area – from the Downs to the sea – encompassed by Chichester Art Trail 2015.
Inevitably land and sea will be a huge part of the inspiration for many of the artists, 172 in all, taking part in 113 venues as the trail opens its doors this weekend.
During the first two weekends in May, including bank holiday Monday, artists and makers of all kinds will show their skills and diversity (May 2, 3, 4 and 9 and 10, 10.30am-5.30pm).
The website www.chichesterarttrail.org will be your guide as you unlock the trails within the trail. You can cover the areas – central, northern, southern, western and eastern – individually and exhaustively or you can flit as the whim takes you.
Always, you can be sure of a friendly welcome. The whole ethos of the trail is that this is an open studios event, your chance not just to see the art, but just as importantly to see the artists at work, ready to answer any questions you may have on their processes, techniques and inspirations.
Pop down to East Wittering and you might well stop by at Venue 32 where Jen Beuford Willis is offering acrylic paint, mixed media and collage in a celebration of colour, form and textures (3 Downview Close, East Wittering, PO20 8NS).
Jen is taking part in the trail for the third time, having joined it as a way of meeting people and establishing herself in the area.
“I work in acrylics, mostly large abstract pieces. A lot of my work is influenced by the sea. I am just up the road from the sea, and I stare at it constantly. It’s reflected in my work. Some of it is semi-abstract. Some of it is absolutely abstract, but the work I do inspired by the sea is semi-abstract.
“I do commissions for people when I might use colours I might not usually use. I will do whatever they want. But really, my work is based around texture more than anything. I like people to touch the paintings. They are all very rigid textured. People say ‘I want to touch it!’ and I say ‘Go ahead!’ The works are all sealed. They can’t do any harm. They can’t hurt them at all. It’s just part of what I enjoy doing. I put the paint on so thickly, I expect people to touch it. For my sea ones, I use shells from the beach. People like to run their finger along the ridges.
“I don’t talk in any arty-farty language. I don’t really know the names of all the colours. I just know what I like. I am 67 now. I have been painting since I was six. That’s more than 60 years, but I have never got into the realms of knowing the colours and all that. It is just a question of getting some colours in front of me.
“I don’t use brushes. I just use palette knives, fingers, whatever it takes to get the paint on my canvas.
“The other tool I use is a hosepipe. If a painting gets very tricky and is all going wrong, I just get the hosepipe out. You will be surprised what happens. Some of it disappears, but it leaves the traces of colours. I sometimes spray with bleach. That’s great. It’s a really great effect. It all bubbles up!”
Not so far away and also inspired by the sea are husband-and-wife team Peter and Angela Whiteman (Venue 40: 49 Howard Avenue, West Wittering PO20 8EX). Angela offers paintings in acrylic and oils, some semi-abstract and mixed media, life drawings and also artwork on driftwood while Peter offers hand-built ceramic creations with animal, bird and mythical themes, plus coil-built pots and birdbaths.
“I took a break last year, but the trail is something I have done for 11 years,” says Angela. “We have always done it together. It’s really nice, and as the two of us are different in what we do, we tend to attract different people. Basically, it’s just lovely to be able to show your work. Like other artists, you can be quite isolated through the year. It’s lovely to have the opportunity to meet people and also to inspire people. A lot of people have had an interest in art but have given up for some reason. It is nice to think they might be inspired to take it up again. It’s nice to be able to share that. It’s a two-way thing for the public and the artists.
“I work in acrylic and oil. I also do life-drawing which I have done forever and which I do in pencil and charcoal. I also do mixed-media work.”
As for subjects, the sea features large: “Like a lot of people, I collect driftwood off the beach and do weird and wonderful things with it. Sometimes it just tells you what it wants to be!
“Peter does hand-built ceramics. There are lots of birds of a quirky nature with large feet! It helps them stand up! But also it just gives them a quirky look. He also does terrier dogs, but also with a quirky look.”