Geoff Butterworth – Resident Artist
These last few months have been hectic to say the least, due in no small part to Rochdale Rotary Club, who sponsored a pop-up gallery through August into September last year.
It put me in the public eye and got a pile of paintings out of our lounge, which we were having to edge around to sit down. That was the first improvement; the second was that my life got busy. The setting up of the exhibition took a good week and the day-to-day running of it got both me and my wife out almost every day.
The exhibition was a success, as it raised £2,000 for the NSPCC and brought me a number of nice commissions. I also did some painting while I was there and was able to give a talk about my work. It lasted for six weeks, (the exhibition, not the talk) and when it was over our lounge reverted to a store room again, minus a few sold paintings.
One of the commissioned paintings was really good to do and proved a winner as the client was more than happy with the end result.
Last Christmas was a busy time too with more paintings to do but we were able to have a week off for once and start again in 2015.
It seems strange to be so busy after so long in an artistic recession. Many galleries have closed down, struggling to survive as the first thing to stop selling is art on the high street. This is why I have so many paintings at home as the work has to be brought back to base when a gallery shuts down.
It happened all around the country from Kent to Filey and from Dartmoor to Southport. 2006 was the first signs of a slowdown and from then on it was getting tougher as more galleries closed.
It made me realise that artists are pretty much on their own and to get on you have to put yourself out there and just be positive.
Since the first pop up exhibition, though, things have gone from strength to strength and things have happened that I would not have imagined. The power of the web has brought a new following to my artwork and I have gained international recognition through my recent membership of the IWS.
The International Watercolour Society looks out for water-colourists who show an exceptional talent in their work and want to share it with the world’s best. I was noticed by an acquaintance from the 1980s who is an outstanding painter of watery scenes and he invited me to join the IWS and to be the Northern England representative of the society. The first great thing was that I have sent work off to an Exhibition in Fabriano, Italy where some of the world’s best are showing through the summer.
Fabriano is where the oldest paper mill in the world is situated. From the 13th century, paper has been made and used for books and documents and now, Watercolour paper which I paint on.
My contribution to this exhibition is called Lock 90, Bridgewater Canal, Manchester. I got a great reaction to this painting when I put it on Facebook from many artists around the world so it
seemed a good choice.
The newest venture is another pop up gallery, again sponsored by Rochdale Rotary Club, raising money for the NSPCC. This time, though, the gallery space is huge, and I mean BIG; 6,000 square feet of floor space with enough wall space for over a hundred paintings and a vast display of prints.
The most difficult part was getting it all ready. We set ourselves a week to turn what was a grotty bare-walled empty unit full of dirt and grime, into an attractive light and spacious new gallery.
The doors opened in early March and the exhibition was an immediate success. The problem with the first attempt at a popup was the location. We were at the far end of the shopping mall, round a corner with hardly any passers-by. We had signs all through the centre directing people but it was still quiet. Now though we are right in the busy end and getting a great deal of amazed viewers. Sales have gone up and everyone is thrilled.
The feedback to the shopping centre management has been so positive that we have been granted an extension so it will now run until 17 July. So there’s time for anyone to go and see for yourselves.
With this huge exhibition going well it seemed a good idea to set up a studio space on site and paint some new work. I had mentioned my new involvement with the IWS earlier and through this group, things started to happen. My friend from the past had told the editor of a Paris Magazine all about my work and I was contacted by her and the outcome is that I have got a six page feature in this magazine that’s out in June 2015.
The Art of Watercolour is the best art magazine in the world and has the biggest circulation of the lot, so to be featured in this is a really great honour indeed. I have been working in my studio space on two new paintings that will be in this magazine and will show the way I work through the Monochrome Paintings of Rome. I can’t wait to see this on the shelves. Wow!
With the pop-up in full swing it has been hard for my wife and me to get a day off and we are both in need of a break; my wife to get gardening and me to catch up with commissions. This time the
gallery is raising money for The Moorland Children’s Home, which is situated very near where I live in Whitworth, Lancashire.
Phase one of the gallery venture raised over £5,000 for the NSPCC and phase two which ends on 17 July will give the money raised to this worthwhile cause.
The Moorland Home offers a break for underprivileged children who have no chance of a holiday and have hardly and possessions. Donations of toothpaste and soaps are coming in and the sale of raffle tickets to win one of my original paintings and three limited edition prints will go towards toys and clothes too.
All in all this last few months has been hectic and very rewarding with plenty more to come.
If you can make it to Rochdale do come and have a look.