Last year, although not winning a prize I was absolutely delighted to sell my painting at the preview night and had a thoroughly good time in the process, getting to know many other artists and being inspired by a fabulous exhibition.
This year, having seen all of the short-listed work on-line I wasn't feeling so confident. The standard had obviously risen a notch or two and I was feeling extremely lucky just to be included again.
As the big day dawned I looked out to see it was chucking it down with rain. I needed to walk the dogs so got soaked to the skin down at the beach before returning to the car park where Leon decided to leap into someone else's car as they opened their door, to play with the rather startled (and up to that point quite dry) sheep dog huddled inside. It took a lot of coaxing and bribery to get him out and after making my apologies to the owner I got into the van and made my soggy way home for breakfast. Not a great start to the day.
Taking a shower I was beginning to panic about how things might get worse. The journey could go horribly wrong, my picture might be embarrassingly outclassed, I could get mugged on the underground....anything could happen!
So I decided I had to pull out all of the stops, I was going to use all of the weapons at my disposal to ensure the day went well for me....yes....it was time to get out my lucky pants!
Now I'm not particularly superstitious and my lucky pants haven't seen much action since The Falls Road in1972. Obviously they haven't been washed since then either as I don't want to wash the luck out of them do I, but condition wise they seem to be holding up quite well and as I was in a bit of a panicky mood I decided that I needed a confidence boost It was time I unleashed their power again.
There wasn't enough time for me to get anything worthwhile done in what remained of the morning. I was getting bored and sadly resorted to watching Cash In The Attic before deciding enough was enough and to get on my way early. I had to drive to Ipswich to catch the train and in the torrential rain storm it took the best part of an hour to get there but as I drove into the packed full multi-storey car park a large van pulled out leaving me a nice parking space right near the ticket machine. What luck! Good old pants! I walked out onto the platform and only had to wait about 3 minutes for the London train to arrive. By the way, at this point I purchased a packet of Extra_Strong mints to help settle my stomach. Eighty pence they were! That's sixteen shillings! A weeks wages when I had my paper round.....but I digress.
My journey was uneventful and the rain had stopped by the time I crossed Trafalgar Square and strolled down The Mall to the gallery. I was really early so when I went in I had the place almost to myself, enabling me to take plenty of snaps without too many people getting in the way. I've gradually increased my prices in general over the past year so my drawing 'Desperado' was priced accordingly. I noticed though that many other artists had increased prices quite dramatically, there was very little in the show at under £1000. (mine being one of them)
Here is a selection of most of the artwork before the hoards arrived and the exhibition got under way properly. Click on any one to get a larger view, sorry there are so many but I know some of my friends from abroad will be interested to see where their picture was hung.
There were two other exhibitions going on at the same time in adjoining rooms. As well as some guest artists such as Hazel Soan (I'm sure she fancies me) and Richaed Symonds to name but two, there was the David Shepherd Retrospective exhibition celebrating his 80th year, accompanied by his daughter Mandy's work as well as grand daughter Emily Lamb. I'm a massive fan of Emily and wish I'd taken the plunge last year and snapped up one of her originals when they were still very affordable. Now they are well out of my financial reach.
About 17:30 many, many more people arrived. I renewed a few acquaintances from last year, in particular it was nice to see Tim Shepherd again, a lovely chap who works as camera man on many of the popular TV wildlife programs. He had a fantastic painting accepted this year, 'Insects On Ivy'. It was also lovely to meet up with my good friend and fellow artist Tina Ashton who agreed to keep me company again this year.
As time progressed I noticed with trepidation that my entry 'Desperado' was receiving quite a bit of attention. Were they taking the mickey out of it perhaps? I don't mind a bit of constructive criticism but not wanting to put up with too much rubbishing I discretely sidled over to earwig a bit. Surprisingly the comments were all positive and I could feel my head growing larger by the second. Perhaps I was not so far out of my depth as I thought.
Time to dive into the chilled champagne (it would be rude not to) and mingle, bumping into a lot more of my Facebook friends which is always good.
Seeing all the work close up was truly inspirational. I picked out a few favorites, not the least of which was another bronze by last year's over all winner Adam Binder, 'Leopard'. A beautiful piece which has to be really seen in the flesh to appreciate it fully.
I was also smitten by these two pieces shown by Julie Vernon, 'Hen House' and 'Shetland Otters', both magical.
Eventually it was time for the prize giving. This year the prizes were presented by zoologist and DSWF honorary vice president, Mark Cardwardine. People may remember him for his brilliant TV series 'Last Chance To See' accompanied by Stephen Fry.
Here he is in the jungle being shagged by an endangered species of parrot.
As the crowd moved in around the stage to listen, the heat got more and more opressive. I picked up a whiff of expensive perfume and then got a nudge from Tina who pointed out where it was coming from.....only Rula bloody Lenska! There were a few other celebrity types there too but I didn't recognise as many as last year. Where was Captain Peacock?
I have to say I was surprised at most of the choices for prize winners. Don't get me wrong, there was hardly a piece in the room which I wouldn't want to own.
However some stood out head and shoulders above the rest in my opinion so the over all winner, although a lovely pencil work by David Filer, came as quite a shock really, but good luck to him. I wonder where he gets his pants from! The same place as Adam Binder I suspect as he picked up a well deserved category winner prize too for the afore mentioned 'Leopard' bronze.
As we left I saw that Tim had a red dot on his painting too, great stuff!
Getting home after midnight I reflected on a thoroughly enjoyable experience again, capped by my sale which has really boosted my confidence and given me inspiration to enter again next year. My lucky pants (now safely returned to their cellophane protective wrapping to await their next outing) worked a treat. OK I didn't win a prize, I never expected to but the sale was a real blast, the train wasn't hi-jacked by terrorists, I wasn't mugged, my van was still waiting for me back at Ipswich station. Without them on, anything could have happened.