Real Impression : Bethany Holmes
Second up in this Real Impression series is contemporary impressionist artist, Bethany Holmes. Beth is a wonderful combination of enormous talent and down-to-earth authenticity - something I hope the portraits and behind the scenes images capturing her craft tell. When chatting to her before/during/after the shoot and interview, we shared so many of the realities of growing something from the ground up. Sharing both highs, lows and most things in between was so refreshing. The lasting point, for me at least from chatting to Beth, was how important community is. So much so that I'd like that message to stay with you too. So, if you're engaged in a creative pursuit (or honestly, if you're not, we're all human), wherever you are locally, I'd highly recommend going out and meeting as many people as you can as often as you can. Particularly perhaps, those doing something even a little bit similar to what you're doing. Full time, part time or hardly any time at all, sharing all and anything will make the daily grind that bit easier. I found Beth's take on how to do that particularly interesting, but I'll leave her experience on how that might work for you to her words below.
Lastly, or those just joining and wondering what on earth I'm talking about -
Real Impression is a monthly series combining portraits capturing person and craft, alongside interview style chats about the realities of starting something from the ground up. From the perspective of artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and the like, 'Real Impressions' aims to be authentic, create community and give insight and support for those during the daily grind.
How did you come to where you are now?
I’ve always painted, it’s always been a large part of my life. I was regularly creating commissions for friends of friends & it was growing quite naturally. However, Seven months ago a change of circumstances led me to a point where I thought, “if I don’t take the leap now, will I ever take that leap?”. One weekend of pushing a Facebook group and making an Instagram page for my art, literally one weekend, I got a such a good reaction from people. From that reaction, I thought to myself “I could give this a shot, why not?” And then it’s just been a case of pushing it, people sharing it, friends telling their friends about it and it has just naturally got bigger and bigger. Really, initially it was a leap of faith and making the most of a change in circumstances. Now it’s bigger than I ever thought it would be, I actually can’t believe it, I almost want to have that moment of realisation that it has gone really well. But I haven’t had that yet, because I just want to keep working hard and proving I can do this. I never thought I’d be running my own business, it naturally happened and from there commissions have just built up and up. Some things happen in life, though it might not be a path you were intending to go down, that take you with it. For me that’s what happened, I love doing this, I love painting, this is the happiest I’ve been. I’m doing something I love and I just keep pushing it everyday. You look back and you realise, maybe this was my path all along.
Who, or what, inspires you?
All of my art is based on the British landscape. That is my biggest inspiration because it’s so changeable. I can leave my studio, which is in the Essex countryside, tonight and it’l look completely different to what it looks like the next morning. The view of fields upon fields upon fields and the horizons, they’re all different. It’s inspirational. Everywhere you go in the UK has got that. So, north Norfolk for instance, I love going there and painting. Actually the paintings I’ve done of there sell so quickly and I think it’s because it’s a place that really inspires me. I believe that carries across in my work, you can see how much love has gone into them. Or Sheringham for example, the horizon of the sea meeting the sky is just beautiful. All year round it’s just beautiful. The waves create another linear view, so it’s that line upon line upon line, up to the horizon that inspires me. I incorporate the linear views in each of my pieces. And at the Blakeney salt marshes, the way the tide continually comes in and out, just changes the view all the time. It’s a really lovely place to go, I love it. Again, when I painted a series up there the pieces just went, because I believe my inspiration carries across into the painting.
How does the process work?
I take my sketch book in my bag and usually take water colours to the place I’d like to paint. For instance, when I went to Morston Quay, we went for a walk along the quay when the tide was out and it was really lovely weather so I was going to sit down and paint. But then it started to look a bit stormy, so in the end we went back to the car and I just sat in the car and painted…which isn’t the same as sitting! The storm came over and it was just amazing, in the space of half an hour the view changed dramatically. I took loads of photos, I’m always taking photos because colour is really really important to me. There were so many beautiful indigos and deep blues and acidic yellows and greens. I sat in the car and got down a few water colour pieces, just to get down what was happening in front of me. Then I come back to the studio and painted a series in acrylic and emulsion, with the photographs and water colour paintings in front of me. It’s funny, I really struggle with people watching me painting. I think there’s a perception that an artist should be doing fine art and painting with a paintbrush, neither of which I do. I like to paint where I’m in, but I like to be isolated so I can be alone whilst I paint. I don’t like people looking over my shoulder at something I don’t want it to be yet.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Skeptical people. When I first said I was going to give this a go, so many people were like “why?" “you’re giving up full time employment to do what…?” That’s the biggest hurdle for me. Even seven months on I still get that. I think I’ve done quite a lot in seven months, and a lot of family and friends are really supportive of that. But I still feel like, I want to prove something to everyone that was ever skeptical in the beginning. I also think you have to reach a place where you just give yourself a pat on the back. What people think is a big hurdle for me, and it shouldn’t be but it does really bother me. You want there to be a eureka moment when they realise what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
What are you hoping for in the years to come with your business?
I would like to become confident in approaching art galleries, really I’d like my work in more galleries. I have my first solo exhibition in Devon next February (the 20th), which I am so excited about. It gives me time and an opportunity to focus on what I want to do, to explore the boundaries of colour and the British landscape. I’m going to Yorkshire soon to explore colour there, I’m going to Norfolk as well and I know I’m going to get two different colour extremes which really fascinates me. I would love to paint in my studio full time, and have my art in galleries across the UK. … oh and I’d also love a dog. Actually, my dream would be to have a studio dog! I’ll know that I’ve made it when I’ve got a dog!
What advice would you give to those who would like to take the leap into being a full-time/part-time artist?
If it’s something that you believe in, and are passionate about, you can do it. No matter what people say. Someone once said to me, and it’s stuck with me since, that if it’s something you believe in, enjoy, it can only be a success. For me, it was that I wanted people to have affordable, beautiful art in their homes. I believed in that and in the art I have painted. If it is worth it, be confident. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t panic about what other people think. Also, social media. I couldn’t be where I am now without Instagram. There is such an amazing community of artists out there that will respond to your work. You can ask questions on Stories, and be part of a wider group, which is amazing. It is hard to keep up with but you get messages from such lovely people, saying encouraging things. I’ve got quite a lot of commissions from people sharing my work on Instagram. It’s just been an amazing platform. If you’re starting out, I really would say it’s so important to get stuck in on Instagram. It will make you feel less alone, more connected and will build your confidence.
What does a normal day look like for you?
Messy. I get up, have a cup of tea (very important), I put the heater on in the studio, go back inside and do a bit of general admin, like website admin, sort art I need to deliver, do my social media posts and then go back into a warmer studio! I’ll then spend the day getting stuck into quite a few commissions. It’s never just one or two, I’ll jump around between them all as I work best that way. It gets really messy but ever so satisfying.
What keeps you going?
The view to getting a cockerpoo haha! I know that if I can do this, then I can get a cockerpoo! No but really I just love my paintings. I don’t mean that arrogantly, but I just think If I love them then it’s fine. If I ever feel like, “what am I doing…?” then I can look at the paintings and think, no, this is beautiful and I love what I’m doing, so that really keeps me going. I love all the emails and messages I get, every one means so much to me, every commission, every purchase, every social media message means so much to me and that really keeps me going – so thank you!