Meeting some artists taking part in Hampshire Open Studios 2017

PUBLISHED: 10:48 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:49 22 August 2017

Meditation by Sara Barnes

Meditation by Sara Barnes


August brings us a feast of art, with painters, potters, sculptors and other creatives throwing open their doors for Hampshire Open Studios. Sandra Smith spoke to just some of the hundreds taking part this year

Free exhibitions, hands on activities and the opportunity to meet a diverse range of artists – what’s not to like in this year’s Hampshire Open Studios from August 19-28? Just follow the pink direction arrows and take your pick of 250 venues where more than 500 artists are exhibiting their work. 

Sara Barnes

Romsey artist Sara couldn’t wait to give up a business career. Nevertheless she acknowledges the influence of her early working years on her development as an artist.

“There are a lot of painters better than me, but probably my strength is trying to get my work out and about. I’m quite happy to knock on doors.”

Her captivating images cleverly mix light, colour and atmosphere. The result? Canvases overflowing with depth and ambiance. During the arts fortnight Sara will open up the ground floor of her home to visitors with a range of canvases (£350 upwards) for sale as well as £35 prints.

“I’ve got braver about not needing a photograph to copy and I’m now confident in mixing colours. My subjects are based on colour and reflections while my work is becoming more abstract.”

Penny Spooner

“As soon as I threw a pot on the wheel I was completely hooked. What an amazing feeling to take a ball of clay and within a few minutes you have a bowl.”

Penny Spooner discovered ceramics at an adult education class. Soon she bought her own wheel, created a studio space (originally a tiny worker’s cottage) in Whitchurch and now sells all manner of tableware. But her ceramics are more than objects to admire.

“Everything I make is functional. For a new range I sit down with lots of clay and throw shapes, just experiment. It’s like drawing with clay.”

Penny, no stranger to Hampshire’s annual arts fest, appreciates the opportunities the event offers. “People like to see where and how work is made. HOS is a lovely thing to do. In fact, I’ll also go out and meet other artists.”

Wendy Bramall

Place Wendy Bramall’s painted pebbles or driftwood in your garden and before long you’ll be convinced exotic species have set up home. Not surprisingly, this Winchester illustrator is passionate about nature. Indeed, as a child she harboured ambitions to be a farmer. “But I couldn’t; I love animals too much. I like dinosaurs and geology too and enjoyed working with scientists at the Natural History Museum.”

For driftwood designs – kick started when a friend brought her a piece from the Isle of Wight – Wendy first sands the wood. egg white is then ground in with sandpaper before oil or acrylic figures are added. Gouache is favoured for pebbles which are varnished with a glaze. Wendy’s subjects also include wading birds and these, along with painted horseshoes, linocuts and cards will be displayed at her Winchester home where prices range from £10 upwards.

Andy Crowe

“Most of us walk around without noticing the world. Hampshire has such diverse building styles, particularly in market squares, and my mission is to draw people’s attention to the incredible range of building materials and colours.”

Andy Crowe’s background in developing and managing social housing, both in Hampshire and the South Atlantic island of St Helena, are ongoing influences. Architectural detail shape his subjects whilst a nod to naivety make them delightfully accessible. “There’s a lot of judgement comes into simplifying paintings,” he continues. “You have to decide whether to flatten out the perspective or edge the building in black. My style is continuing to evolve but I’m getting more adventurous.”

Andy, whose preference for oils he links to a sense of mortality, will be exhibiting daily (10am–2pm) in the dining room of his Bishop’s Waltham home.

Donna Stacey

At Donna’s Damerham barn studio there’s not only a selection of appealing animal images but also a menagerie of horses, dogs, goats and Shetland ponies. “The characters of animals inspire me,” she enthuses. “I love their softness, something that makes you smile. I don’t paint like a photograph; I get a certain expression and know what I want to work with. I like to put a cheekiness in there.”

Donna is a regular exhibitor at county shows and art markets throughout the New Forest, selling her acrylic images which are painted onto natural wood or reclaimed slate. “I like the idea of upcycling something. Acrylics work so well on slate, giving almost a 3D effect and they can be left outside.”

Personable, artistic and an animal lover – there’s no better combination for HOS supporters.

Russell Bignold

Kempshott portrait artist Russell has been painting for a mere five years. Nevertheless, his knowledge, achievements and ability to reflect the character of a subject suggest a maturity that exceeds his experience. Art enthusiasts will be fascinated to learn about techniques such as using garlic in the preparation of copper. He’s also planning demonstrations in this, his first Hampshire Open Studios.

“I have a great interest in art and art history. I spent a long time in business but decided enough is enough. I’ve had reasonable success in competitions and I’m determined to make this my career.”

Russell is articulate in manner and meticulous in his approach, sometimes taking up to 40 hours to produce a portrait, all the while absorbing his subject’s gestures and idiosyncrasies. “I’m looking to capture character rather than photo realism, but there has to be a likeness.”

Michael Peacock

In a Hayling Island studio Michael, creator of Portsmouth’s The Mudlarks, explains the origins of his work with clay. “From a small child I was attracted to mud and I’m a natural modeller. I went to art school and have been in art ever since, this was a foregone conclusion ever since my schooldays. My work is an extension of me. If you’re writing something you have the idea; when making a three dimensional shape you don’t have to, the thought is the thing in front of you.”

Michael uses a vast selection of modelling tools, some of which he’s owned since he was a student, others he has made.

Those wishing to meet this fascinating artist, who enjoys archaeology programmes and the notion of “something appearing out of the ground,” may also catch a glimpse of him sculpting during HOS.

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