Dogs, horses and The Garde Républicaine

When we were in Lincolnshire I worked on about 600 commissioned paintings between 1992 and 1997. In the main they were watercolour portraits of horses and dogs but there were a few oil portraits too. To make sure that I had enough work I had to market! I hate doing that because some times prospective clients check out the work on show and just walk away with “that” look on their faces. I suppose actors must feel the same during auditions.

So screwing up all available courage we would go off to County Shows, Show Jumping Competitions, Point to Point Meetings and anything else we could think of with a five person tent as a mobile gallery and smile, smile, talk and every-now-and-again sell paintings or gain a commission.

When we moved to France we had to work an 18-hour day building up the painting holiday business, B&B, teaching, cooking, cleaning, and all the other 1001 things that cropped up on a weekly, sometimes daily basis so paintings took a back seat. Until recently!

The business had taken on a momentum of its own so we took a little time to market my paintings.

As you have seen I’m a realist, not a photorealist, I don’t really like that. I think if you want something that detailed, take a photo. Oh, I appreciate the skill… I just can’t see the point. So I paint real things but will leave brush strokes, leave blobs of paint and even leave bits of the painting unfinished. That means that I do not belong to the Avant Garde of contemporary art so very few galleries will look for long at my work.

We came across an absolutely stunning example of that sort of thing late last year when we called into a small gallery in Montpellier. The lady owner took some persuading even to look at my website and after a few minutes she looked at me, with her head on one side and one of those smiles you only give to a slow child and said a slow, slow noooooo, we don’t bother with portraits. The exhibition around her was about 50 badly painted portraits from India! Er, um.

So, how to market? We thought of  how shows had worked in the past, so why not try it again? Go back to basics.

Each year there is a horse show in Avignon so we booked a stand, took a car-load of paintings and publicity fliers and headed east.
Sal has been into P.R. most of her career so when she suggests something I’ll have a go…but…when she said you should paint on the stand it’ll attract loads of people, I thought …I don”t like painting in public…but I said…yes dear!

The main performers at the show were to be The Garde Républicaine. They are the formal cavalry regiment of France and are present at every special occasion. They provide colourful protection for celebrities (real ones not Paris Hilton).  So after finding a photo to use as inspiration,  I started a large watercolour of two mounted Gendarmes which did attract much attention. So much in fact, that the Colonel bought the painting and then invited us to his headquarters in Paris.

We went, we saw, we took about four hundred photographs, came home, looked at them all, made a choice of several and started to work.

Now back to the present. I decided that I’d work on five large and three medium sized oils, five large and two small watercolours, three or four pastels and a dozen or so drawings.

Last week we went back to Avignon to show works in progress to the Colonel and I was nervous…what if he said…what if he said NON!

Well, he really liked the watercolours and one of the pastels (well, it was of him).  But his boss, a General no less, said that he preferred the oils and invited us to show the finished collection in Paris in September! REEEESULT!

In the next episode of this meandering missive I’ll write about the how I did ‘em. Have fun.

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