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My happy relationship with Search Press first started when one of their staff read an article of mine in Leisure Painter magazine about painting abroad and visiting Mostar Bridge in Croatia.

Mostar Old Town panorama
Mostar Old Town Panorama: Ramirez/CC BY-SA 

About this time, I started a Teacher Training course and began to teach evening classes. For some of the training I wrote a book on how to paint in mixed media as this supported my teaching in various ways and covered lots of up-and-coming modern and traditional media.         

Meeting with Search Press

The then Search Press editor Roz Dace wrote to say that they would be interested in seeing more of my work. She wasn’t convinced that mixed media would catch on, but she suggested meeting to discuss it more fully. When we met we got on so well, and she liked my acrylic paintings.  As a result, in 1989 I wrote my first book in the Leisure Arts Series Painting Textures in Acrylics. I wrote several more in the series over the following years. Then in 1996-7 Pen, Line and Wash and Working in Coloured Pencils were published. Both books remained in print for over 15 years. To date I have written 41 books.

Line and Wash Water-soluble Pencils Flowers
Some of Wendy's older titles

Henry Malt, the art book critic, consistently wrote nice things about me, my books, and my work in Leisure Painter magazine.

Roz Dace and her sister Judy
Roz Dace (right) with her sister Judy (The Woolly Felters)

An artistic childhood

I had painted at school and in those days soon after the war, drawing paper was in very short supply. My mother used to stick small pieces of paper together with glue so that I could take part in various painting competitions. Fry’s Chocolate seemed to run lots of them, so being the eldest of three daughters I felt I had to try my best and have a go. I won! This was the start of many wins (their heavenly chocolate was a wonderful incentive!) and the start of many adventures in taking part in painting competitions. My three children seemed to have inherited the love of taking part in competitions too, and they were amazing. We didn't have to buy flowers or sweets for many years of their childhood and they won weekends and day trips out!

Marriage

In 1997, when I was working on several books for Search Press, I married my husband Paul and we lived in a gorgeous small thatched cottage in Nether Wallop, Hampshire.

Wendy's husband, Paul
Wendy's husband, Paul

We had met at Romsey Art Group Annual Exhibition where I was an exhibitor. I had been teaching Paul’s mother for many years and never knew he existed!  On the spur of the moment he visited with his mother and bought one of my paintings, Sheep in Summer Shade, for his new cottage. We still have that painting up in our sitting room! He is a retired architect and also teaches and demonstrates to art groups very successfully.

Sheep in Summer Shade
Sheep in Summer Shade 

In front of the camera!

I had to prepare everything well in advance when I was invited to make DVDs for TV and film for several companies including the SAA. These accompanied many of my Search Press books as an offer for their catalogues. These were great fun, exhausting, and at first quite frightening!

I remember my very first time in front of the camera, brush poised, and smiling already to speak and present my introduction to my first ever DVD. I absolutely froze. The producer, and the camera team all patiently waited and all I thought of was ‘I’m scared, what do I say? They’re all waiting!’ The camera was like a million eyes just staring into my soul. My smile was frozen to my face. Other artist friends said they just cried when this happened to them and were so embarrassed! In the end, I had about three tries and then a black coffee and some chocolate biscuits, and tried again, still smiling! This time, all went well. The crew had seen it all before and gave the thumbs up when it worked!

Success, I find, comes with facing your demons and fears, and often it can take several tries! I remember during the making of one DVD, I was just about to gather up all my equipment and depart to catch my train for the long journey home, when the producer asked me to do one more illustration of a sunflower as an extra. I was so pressured I just went for it and produced a wild but strong image in just five minutes. This ended up being used on the cover of both the book and DVD, so stress and pressure sometimes can help the creative process!

Experiences with Search Press

Lotti (Countess de la Bedoyere), who founded the company, was the Search Press photographer when I first started. She always climbed a stepladder to photograph the paintings from above. Lotti was a chain smoker and consequently many times her ash dropped onto the paintings below which interrupted the filming! I often had to mention to her affectionately that one day she would set alight our precious work before she actually got a photograph of it!  Coffee breaks were a hoot, held in her kitchen with chickens, dogs, and donkeys in the yard outside. Never a dull moment and great fun!

Lotti and Search Press's 21st Birthday Cake
Lotti at Search Press's 21st birthday celebration

In 2010 Paul and I attended Search Press’s 40th Anniversary Party at their Tunbridge Wells offices. All the authors were asked to bring along samples of their work and do a short demonstration in front of the public and special guests. There was another artist there also called Wendy, and we had all our pictures displayed un-framed. Some more flamboyant male artists turned up with huge framed canvas paintings that took up most of our valuable space. Both of us just laughed as the wind blew our offerings away and we had to grab them quickly before they took off into the sky. It was a memorable and wonderful day meeting all the Search Press family, everyone involved in all stages in the process of creating and selling our books. Beautiful weather, great company and of course the lovely food!

Birthday Cakes - 40th Birthday Meet the Artist 2010 40th Birthday - Meet the Artist 2010
At Search Press's 40th birthday

Lockdown

As for everyone, these months have been a life-changing time, and everyone has had to face different emotions and challenges. In our household we decided to do family life histories. This encouraged all of us to seek information about every aspect of our lives so far and explore further back in history to find our roots. We rediscovered in the attic old photos and letters about the family and we asked relatives to do the same. This has opened up another pathway for discussion and enquiry and the focus for bringing the family more tightly together. Lots of facts have been revealed about family creativity. My grandmother studied art in Paris, and was a singer, my mother painted and was a professional model and ice-skater! So now I can see where my immediate family get their love of art. 

 Wendy and her family
Wendy and her daughters, Georgie and Rosalind; Wendy and her family

I have also written three articles for Leisure Painter which will be published soon. My first is called Inspirational Work from Painting at Home for the July Issue.

The very first project I started, was to keep a diary of everything that happened called Living with Lockdown - the learning, living, losses, and laughs. I thought that a large hardback sketchbook with good paper and about 100 pages and size 8”x12” would be a good start.

This is now bulging with photos, sketches, small paintings of the places we visited by walking or biking and lots of amazing images of events experienced via the internet! There’s lots of family input of course. I still have a few more pages to fill before the large sketchbook is completed. Who knows, there may be enough for a second volume!

I also cleaned down my bike and bought a new helmet and panniers to take all my art stuff. This was very rewarding, as I could reach lots of places I would not have discovered otherwise, and it was wonderful for keeping fit! I’m now working on some new work about my adventures.

I am like a butterfly, and my work is often influenced by nature in all its fantastic raw moods, the changes of weather and seasons affecting the sea and landscapes. Some threads of abstraction and strong textures are taking hold of my interest at present. I always advise my students just do what your heart dictates, explore, experiment, and face your challenges. Try and try again, until you are satisfied with some of your results. It is not easy to express dreams or ideas, but it’s the journey to the truth of your statements that is your ultimate goal, however long it may take!

Mixed Media painting Mixed Media painting  
Some of Wendy's artwork

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