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Thinking of taking part in Swindon Open Studios this year?

Read on for how my first ever open studio went for me in 2022.

After stepping back from my career in 2021, I spent some time developing what had previously been a lifelong occasional hobby of painting. In February 2022 I attended a short portrait painting course in Cornwall and the tutor suggested that I took part in my local Open Studios event in order to develop further. I had done occasional paintings as gifts for friends and family, but the idea of opening my home studio (dining room) for anyone to come and see and comment was somewhat daunting, and I didn’t give it a lot more thought. Then one day in the Town Gardens I bumped into a friend who had previously been involved in Open Studios and we got chatting about possibly participating. He was very encouraging, demonstrating the friendliness and supportiveness which I would go on to discover to be typical of the Swindon art community. I attended a couple of meetings of the Swindon Open Studios group where the experienced participants shared their advice and wisdom about taking part. Eventually, I plucked up the courage to give it a go.

Leading up to the event, it was great to learn about loads of new things- most not essential, but which nevertheless helped me to make the most of the event. These included starting to post my art on social media (Instagram and Facebook for me), how to get giclée prints, greetings cards and business cards made, presentation of work (everything from finishing work to the right level to framing and hanging), insurance (easy and cheaper than expected) and promotion of the event. Each of these areas could be an article in itself, and there is a lot of support and advice around them both from the Swindon art community and online.

I went into the Open Studios weekends with no great expectations - whatever happened, it would be a great learning experience. As it turned out, it was a wonderful time, meeting lots of new people as well as seeing a lot of friends and family. We really enjoyed seeing different members of the community meeting old friends and also making new connections at the event, or just having fun sitting round drinking tea and eating cake. It was much busier than I had anticipated, and I was enormously grateful to friends and family who helped out, and most of all to my wife, Julia, who baked loads of cake, served refreshments and chatted to visitors if I was already occupied.

As well as the wonderful social time, Open Studios was also instrumental in my development as an artist, not only from the new skills developed as mentioned before but also from a painting perspective - producing a lot of work for sale forced me to raise my painting game. It also served as a great place to sell some paintings, cards and prints, take on commissions and increase my exposure.

If you are an artist in any medium, I would encourage you to consider taking part in Open Studios. Please feel free to contact me or any of the Open Studios Committee if you would like to discuss possible participation.

Steve Sewell

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