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SHELAGH ASHLEY

watercolours

A BRIEF SUMMARY OF MY PAINTING CAREER

I have loved drawing and painting ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil – and Art was always my best subject at school (my second was maths) When asked about possible career choices at school, I said my ambition was to be a freelance artist; I was told that wasn't a sensible option for a girl, and to go into banking instead as I was good at maths. Ironically, although I took their advice, I ended up achieving my ambition anyway! 

I took Art A level at school, but apart from that (and two years of watercolour evening classes) I am largely self-taught. I continued to paint as a hobby, painting commissions of portraits and houses for friends. I joined a local Art Society and began attending portrait sessions where a model was provided and everyone just painted for their own enjoyment. Portraiture had always been one of my favourite disciplines, but I could see that other people were struggling with getting a likeness. This prompted me (in 1990) to approach two local authority Adult Education Centres to offer to run portrait classes. One centre agreed; the other needed someone to teach watercolour landscapes – and so my teaching career began with two evening classes.

At the same time I began exhibiting at local craft fairs, selling watercolour landscapes and doing ‘on the spot’ pastel portrait sketches. I also spent 25 years visiting Art Societies and groups, giving landscape and portrait demonstrations.

The number of classes I taught gradually increased until at one point I was teaching six daytime classes and four evening classes. However, as the demand for accompanying paperwork increased (for both myself and my students), in 2010 I decided to take the plunge and run private classes instead, renting a room in our local cricket pavilion. The classes remained very popular, and featured in Channel 4’s ‘Village of the Year’ in 2018 ( I have lived in the very picturesque village of Blunham in Bedfordshire for 35 years).

In 1998 I organised the first of many painting holidays for my students in France, in the South Charente region. In addition I have organised painting holidays in this country, in Aldeburgh and The Cotswolds. In 2001 I was approached by The Fareham Gallery, and since then have tutored many holidays for them in Provence, the Isle de Re, Italy, Lake Como, Menorca and Corsica.

Last year I decided to give up my painting classes to concentrate on my own painting, and to allow me to take on more painting holidays.

Next year I look forward to working for the first time with Alpha Painting Holidays, in the historic town of Wells in Somerset.

I work mainly in watercolours, and especially enjoy pen and wash. Although I love all aspects of landscape painting, I am particularly interested in architecture. I try to encourage students to use sketchbooks; I have a huge collection of my own which for me are a much more evocative reminder of places that I have visited; in addition, they provide me with valuable reference material to work from at home in the studio.

For the past three years I have been Chairman of the Biggleswade and District Art Society, one of the most popular and successful Societies in the county, with a waiting list of people waiting for membership.

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