Updated: May 28

Today I am SO excited to share with you the news that my 'Red Delicious' painting is featured in this month's Art Showcase for Color magazine; the world's leading coloured pencil publication. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am to discover that not only was this painting selected, but so also were two other pieces of my work that I had previous entered: 'The Night Watchman' (lion) and 'Pickles' (budgie), this is the greatest honour that a coloured pencil artist could wish for and now my work sits next to the very artists that have influenced me over the past few years...absolutely awesome!

  • Janine Lees Art

I've been selling my artwork at the Art & Soul Hub in Beverley since last October now, just a month after they first opened and its fair to say that the owners Jane and her husband Rog have had a pretty bumpy start due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Who would have guessed that they would have spent as much time closed as they have being open, and like almost all other high-street stores, they would have to focus more attention to their website than they could have ever imagined to keep the business going.

The time that I have spent in lockdown has enabled me to think about my artwork and how I can make improvements. Previously I had one unit which displayed the pen and ink illustrations alongside the coloured pencil art, all of which were mounted and framed. Initially I put all of the pen and ink illustrations in white frames and the coloured pencil artwork in black frames, but after a little bit of experimenting things were less regimented and frame colours varied on all of the prints.

After speaking to Jane we decided that it would be great for me to take on a second unit so that I could dedicate one to the contemporary ink illustrations and the other for the coloured pencil fine artwork. This feels like a whole new chapter as it involves doing twice as much artwork and maintaining stock levels for both of them. It feels as though I am moving forward and am progressing and I fully appreciate that this is a wonderful opportunity for me to experiment with my artwork and gain valuable feedback from the people who want to hang it up in their homes. For me, there is no greater honour.

I worked really hard creating lots of new designs for both collections during lockdown all ready in time for the store's re-opening this month. It wasn't easy as all of the artwork that I do takes up a considerable amount of time to complete. At the moment, I have displayed the new British Wildlife prints on the top half of the unit and domestic pets on the lower shelves but I intend to separate the two eventually, so this will be my focus over the next few months. I also have some very exciting new ideas for the pen and ink illustrations which I can't wait to get started on.

It was also really exciting to be able to design the unit and consider the best way of displaying the framed artwork in such a way that it was accessible for people to look at and take off the shelves. I came up with the idea of a crate with a picture shelf attached, that way the crate can be used as storage behind the display and had them specially made to fit the units exactly. And, just to add a little bit of springtime magic to the display, I have added a sprinkling of some flower-filled foliage!

A last-minute commission of a little blue and white budgie was a fitting end to a difficult year!
Pickles The Budgie - Small But Mighty!

As we are now fresh into January 2021, many will be glad to see the back-end of last year due to the challenges faced by almost everybody on our planet in one way or another! For me personally, last year was probably one of the most productive I've had in a long time due to having the opportunity to sell my artwork to a much wider audience both online and offline in the Art & Soul Hub and also on Etsy.

By experiencing something that I had once only dreamed of, I have learnt many new things along the way and by spending more time at home, I have had time to think about the directions that I wish to take, moving forward. I guess for most people, their past endeavours will affect their future plans whether they like it or not and that is no different for me. For reasons of survival when I was a single-parent, the education that I never had at school needed to be acquired, this was done slowly and surely over many years until eventually I was sufficiently qualified to take a degree. The choice of subject was dictated by my circumstances and my 'head over-ruled my heart' leading to a degree in marketing as opposed to fine art which would have been far more enjoyable!

This year has challenged me in so many ways and I have definitely had to come out of my comfort zone to get myself out there in an attempt to get noticed, something that doesn't always come easy to artists who are quite often private people with fragile egos! Putting your artwork on public display for the first time is daunting and I'm referring more to physical products as opposed to virtual online images. So many seeds of doubt pop into your head and that's quite hard to push to one side when you're just starting out.

Sales at the Art & Soul Hub have been much greater than I could have ever imagined and on some occasions it's been hard to keep up with the demand which is beyond fantastic! This has given me the encouragement that I need to push forward and continue to create more art. It has also shown me which pieces of art are the most popular and of course, which are not! The outcome so far has been quite surprising and I am glad that it has given me the opportunity to look up from my easel and to 'listen' to the opinion of others. Quite often artists are surprised when their most treasured artwork is not so popular, this is especially the case when an artist will place more stead on artwork that has been the most challenging or has taken the greatest amount of time to produce. Sometimes we work so closely and so intently on a project that we forget to take a step back and look at it with fresh eyes!

So what's this got to do with a last minute commission for a budgie? Well, not a lot really! But this little guy was a bit different to anything that I have drawn before in coloured pencils, 'Pickles' was a fraction of the size of some of the large wildlife pieces that I have previously done and therefore took a lot less time to complete (two days as opposed to several weeks). This last minute surprise commission has turned out to be the most popular piece that I have done to date on all social media platforms! Who would have thought it? So, for me the end of 2020 was only blue in colour and not in mood thankfully and I am so grateful for the opportunities that came my way in what was such a bleak year for many! Here's to a healthy, happy and prosperous year to all, thank you so much for swinging by and taking the time to read this! Janine x