What difference does it make if I paint for a winter event in summer? It’s my first time creating for the Artists Open Houses winter event and it raised a new challenge. How do you create work for a winter open house when you’re bathing in summer sun and sea swims, far away from the mood of cosy sweaters and fairy lights?

What to consider when painting for an event

I had been given requirements for the art by the host of the open house. She had requested minis after buying a few of them in a local gallery. This narrowed down the decision making a lot. When I work on these small deep canvases, I have a process I like and materials that I like to work with. This means less exploration of materials for the series and I can focus on the theme.

What do visitors to a winter event want?

The winter open houses In November and December support local artists and makers. It gives them a platform to share their work, meet other artists and find new customers. There will be people shopping for gifts and festive items which should be kept in mind.

This doesn’t mean going way off track and creating something completely different. But thought needs to go into what your customers might want to see at this time of year.

In the summer, larger pieces and tide clocks were selling. This winter, I expect small items that can be gifted to be more popular.

Getting in the mood

As awkward as it sounds, this is really important to me. I paint better when I know the feeling that I’m painting. So understanding the mood is really helpful. For me a winter mood can be a mix of gratitude and joy for the festive season, pressure (also for the festive season) and a sense of apathy or dread for the long winter ahead.

I want my art to offer happy memories of the seashore, a reminder of calm waves or bring the energy of the wild ocean to clear away our worries. I know these familiar feelings, they are easy for me tune into and this directs the emotions and the theme of these ocean paintings.

Stick to the plan

When painting a series for an event, it’s important to stick to the brief. It’s so easy to get distracted by an idea. I usually wouldn’t worry about this, I think it’s good to develop new ideas and do what feels good. But when creating for something particular, it’s important to stay on track.

It’s a fine balance to keep making art that feels good and personal but also fits what the host has requested and visitors might be keen to see. Running off to paint a 5ft canvas or experimenting with my latest whim is not going to work for this.

Paint from the heart not for sales

Here’s a personal note I want to add. Making art just to sell is not going to work either. I cannot overstate how much this does not work and it’s a mistake I have made many times. When I’m feeling under confident in my art or under pressure I can fall into this trap of creating paintings that don’t have my heart.

I might see someone else doing a thing that looks great and decide to do something similar. But it’s not me and it shows. If I feel pressure to sell I can also find myself creating work that I’m just not connected to. It will look soul-less and flat and viewers can see it too.

Opening day

The preparation for an open house event starts months and months in advance. Art has to be ready to photograph in time for flyers and brochures to be designed and printed. I was snapping photos under the August sun. Before you know it, it’s time to deliver the art, hand out the flyers and share the art. The first day will suddenly be here.

It’s just a few days until Bluebell Would opens it’s doors to visitors. Open houses in Brighton and Hove will show off the skills and creativity of local artists and makers for three weekends until the 11th December. Find all the details in the events page. Come along if you’re local, I’d love to meet you.

Three framed pictures on the shingle beach, taking photos in the summer for a winter event