Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Garden Gallery December Featured Artist at Studio 61 Gallery

Studio 61 Gallery is changing in the new year and our exhibitions will be all about fundraising!
So please read the final featured artist blog for a while with Francis Daunt of Garden Gallery.

I am Frances Daunt, married with four children, two dogs, five chickens and a guinea pig. I am an artist specialising in felted animal art – I am a member of The association of Animal Artists (see http://associationanimalartists.co.uk/artists-biographies/frances-daunt/ ). I get a lot of the inspiration for my work from my frequent walks in the Derbyshire countryside.

 I have always been creative and enjoyed drawing and painting, but as I home educated my four children I had very little time to pursue my interests. However, as they grew up my free time increased – I knew that I wanted to do something creative, but was unsure what route to take. I experimented with photography and sculpture before finally settling on felting. The past two years have seen my felted pictures develop into the work I produce today, and have also seen me return to painting.

 My medium of choice is wool. I use merino tops to create my felted pictures, using the process of wet felting and adding the final details by needle felting. I love working with wool as I start off with a pile of wools of different colours and end up with a picture.

 I always enjoyed felting as a process, but had never really made pictures with wool. The way I work is just the way that has developed over time. Before creating felted pictures I experimented with many different media.

 I like things that are different and unique – there aren’t many people creating felted animal artwork, so I feel that I am offering something different as well as something I love doing.

 I am inspired by every artist I see. There is something for me to learn from every single piece of artwork I see.

 I went to the Art Materials Live show at NEC Birmingham – it was huge and I hadn’t realised that there were so many different art materials available! Felting was completely under-represented.

 I’ve never really tried collaboration work.... I tend to work in my own messy way and am not very good at taking direction, so I probably would not collaborate unless I was given a lot of space!

 A lot of my custom comes  from USA and I now have a lot of contacts there.

 I would like to be living in a cottage by the sea in Northumberland with my family (and other animals) still doing pretty much what I do now. But, things progress – I am learning new things all the time, so actually to be doing what I do now suggests lack of progression! But certainly still doing something creative. I hope to continue to improve my painting skills over the next 5-10 years too.

If you won a £1500? I would love to have £1500 to spend on art materials so that I could experiment more, but basically for felting I don’t need much more than I have. Once I had spent some on new wool I’m not really sure.....

 For each piece that I start I have a very clear vision of where I am going with it – each piece is always destined to be my best piece yet. Sometimes, my work has a different idea and as it progresses it takes me in an unexpected direction, which can produce something quite different. A good example is a recent lion picture. My vision was for a very majestic, realistic lion, but as I started felting I realised that it didn’t want to turn out like that. I ended up with a very stylised piece which I added sequins to – completely different to my normal work, but just as valid.
The art world can be rather snobby and some look down on art that has any craft element – I would like my felted work to be recognised as art. It is after all painting – just with wool rather than paint!

 I invest a lot of myself in each piece of art I do, and always feel sad when pieces are sold (especially when commissioned pet portraits are sent off). So yes my work does contain a lot of me.

What do you love? My love for animals and what I do, other people’s love for their pets.

 I usually let my ideas whirl around my head for at least a few days, sometimes many months, before starting a project.

When I’m wet felting I have loud music on – Arctic Monkeys, Green Day or similar – as it’s hard physical work but with the music it feels more like a dance! The rest of the time, well, I work in a mess! I am completely focused on what I’m doing, so even if I have a conversation with somebody I have no idea what was said.

My greatest weakness is that I am impatient. I expect that I have developed lots of new techniques in both felting and painting by refusing to wait for anything to dry. And I don’t care for rules – sometimes a strength, sometimes a weakness!

I had two submissions accepted for the Derbyshire Open Arts on my first ever try (2014). This year I had one accepted that received a commendation. I have expanded my Facebook base to over 5,000 people, many of whom buy from me. I have become a member of the Association of Animal Artists.

My short range goal is to continue to build up my on-line presence which I do by networking. My long term goal is to develop my local customer base as most of my work is presently sent overseas. I intend to do this by increasing my local networking, attending events and marketing Garden Gallery a bit more.

Strengths? That’s hard. From my Facebook feedback I would say hard-working (I post a new piece of work most days) and generous (I do donate a lot to charities).

I am very haphazard. Quite often I will be in the middle of lunch and decide to paint something and start straight away. I do get up at 6am each morning and do an hour’s exercise before starting my day – that energises me for the day and is about as organised as I get!

I am a pretty laid back person in general and don’t tend to feel pulled in all directions. If I did I would just get up earlier or go to bed later!

I get a lot of my inspiration from the surrounding countryside and its wildlife. I am also inspired by the obvious love that my clients have for their pets past and present, and their gratitude when I present them with their completed pet portrait.

 If I can continue to do what I love doing then I consider that a success. I need to sell to make enough money to live, but I felt and paint because I love doing it – I don’t need any external measurements of success.

I am a bit of a rebel !

Thank you Francis!

Please come along to Francis Daunts meet the artist event on December 5th 1-3pm here at Studio 61 Gallery.