I’ve been at the Sayle Gallery as Artist in Residence for 5 months now. My role means that I am working at the gallery for on average, 35 hours a week, 5/6 days a week. For half of these hours I am working alongside the two gallery coordinators, Carola Rush and Christian Hardman, in running the gallery. This can involve: hanging pieces for an exhibition (an art which I am yet to master…), taking exhibitions down, painting plinths and walls, general admin, advertising exhibitions, and running workshops as part of the gallery’s education programme aiming to connect the public to our current exhibitions.
What I love about my role at the gallery is that every week is different. One week could be setting up the latest exhibition, which helps me with my time management as we only have a few days to set up before the opening night, and another could be a whole week of diving into my own work, which so far has involved painting a series of conceptual pieces using the gallery as my creative workspace.
Finishing university was daunting in itself, and it was a strange feeling to be completely in control of a project with no briefs or guidelines from tutors or modules, but I have been so inspired by the gallery’s artists and exhibitions, in particular that of the late Simon Buttimore’s, “A Man Apart”. Seeing how free and open he was with his work, and life in general, totally inspired me to let go of limitations I didn’t realise I was setting myself and completely go for it by changing my project to something slightly out of my comfort zone, but something I am incredibly passionate about which will go hand-in-hand with my creepy, but whimsical style.
My final exhibition will be running from mid-July to mid-August next year, featuring traditional forms of animation, illustrated pieces and sculpts and will be on the topic of mental health and its connection to art as both a form of therapy and self-expression. I feel that the connection between the two is so important and awareness needs to be raised, as it allows both communication of emotions that can’t always be expressed, and a way for people who struggle with mental health issues to give themselves a bit of relaxation and therapy without having to always seek outside help, which can be a tough step to take.
I’m also hoping to work alongside the gallery coordinators to create workshops for people who may struggle with social interaction within our usual workshop environment, for example those with social anxiety or disorders such as Autism, so that we can educate people on how art can help them, using different mediums in a relaxed, quiet environment with some gentle guidance.
During my time as Artist in Residence, I hope to really get back to my Fine Art roots and bring an aspect of it to my work as an Animator, and to really combine my illustration work with it too; something I touched on during my final year at university and shall keep developing in the future.
I am also hoping to connect more with the public using the gallery’s social media, including a live stream of the animation in progress, perhaps a couple times a month, to show just how the process works, and share updates about my work and ideas.
Adding to the workshops, I will also be assisting in getting the life-drawing classes up and running in the new year, as I know just how valuable these can be for both practising artists and for those who want to start drawing and just aren’t sure where to begin, as well as coming up with some more long-term workshops or classes such as photography.
Future-wise, I’m hoping to enter a Masters degree in Animation next September, back at Staffordshire University; this will be a year to improve my skills and knowledge with the technology, software and business skills needed to be able to work as a freelance artist and animator as I hope to work part-time in colleges teaching traditional animation and art as well as selling my own work and taking on commissions. When I was at the college, Animation wasn’t a big subject within the Art Department, and so I hope to be able to share my skills with budding animators.
I’ve already learned so much in my five months at the Sayle as Artist in Residence, and though I’m still getting used to being “on show” to the public, it’s helping my self-confidence a lot and making me very excited for my final exhibition and future endeavours as an independent artist and animator.
Elöise White – Artist in Residence at The Sayle Gallery