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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Guest Blog 2: Paul Kennedy on the one that got away (or did it...?

YESTERDAY I posted a guest blog by Adam Kennedy, 23, who was announced as the last ever winner of the Aspect Prize a couple of weeks ago. The sponsorship deal with Aspect Capital has sadly run its course and now prize co-founder Charles Jamieson and I are trying to explore new ways to take the prize forwards.

Scotland's artists need incentives like this like the need manna from heaven.

Today, my guest blogger is Paul Kennedy, older brother of Adam, who was a finalist in last year's prize (congratulations Mr & Mrs Kennedy - you have a couple of very talented sons!)

I have been very impressed at the way Paul used the initial time following his selection as a finalist to find his feet as a painter. Since then, as he describes below, he has had ups and downs, but the experience of being selected as a finalist has been a wholly positive one and he has made the most of the opportunities presented.

His work continues to develop and I think there is a beautiful softness about his painting, which is a very tricky thing to pin down. It has soul. It has heart and a lot of depth. Sometimes it makes me want to cry. It has an underlying tenderness and a narrative which stretches beyond the surface of the paint.

PAUL WRITES:SINCE I graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2004 I have only had one serious goal: to be an artist and survive off the money I make.

When you first graduate from college you have quite a time of it trying to find out where you fit in as an artist and what is available for you.

To begin with I made a stepping stone route with getting community art work  and becoming a member of Glasgow Print Studio. I also managed to get  free studio space for a year through a community arts project.

If you look about there is always something for artists, whether it be doing a residency in a primary school or working in a community centre you can make arrangements to deliver free tutoring for studio space and it can sometimes really work in your  favour.

The gamble you have to take is when money runs dry and no paintings sell and no community art work comes along, you can get locked in a vicious circle of having to take on a job of working in a pub/ bar to make ends meet which will strip you of the energy to create, especially if the job is full time.

I found the best way to make money was to get myself involved with as much community art projects and school projects as I could. Every school has extra funding to get extra curriculum activities off the ground whether it be an art project or something else.  There is money there – it’s finding out how to access it.

When you first start selling your work after graduating it can be difficult to find out where it can sell or  how to price it but I think it is vital that you start selling with the smaller galleries and get the ball rolling as building relationships with galleries and net working is the biggest obstacle and it’s important that the galleries get to know you as soon as possible.

My painting has developed over the years and if I’m honest, it has been during the bad years of being stuck and ‘breaking through the wall’ that have developed and created the best paintings. 

One year after graduating, I got a WASPS studio, where I worked as much as I could. I started entering such exhibitions and competitions like the Royal Glasgow Institute The  Paisley Arts Institute, Aberdeen Artists Society and The Aspect Prize.

Each year, these exhibitions act as platform for artists and if you can get your work seen in any of them then your onto a good start.

Some years, I didn’t get accepted and this could be soul-destroying, especially if you had taken months to paint something and it meant a lot to you.

In 2008, I had an unsuccessful year. I had been sidetracked to paint a lot of rubbish for an art dealer. You have to be careful of this because there are a lot of them around.

Unfortunately, or fortunately – whatever way you look at it – I missed the hand in for the Paisley Art Institute and decided to paint a completely new fresh painting for the Aspect Prize.

I decided to put my life and soul into a painting and had a free month to do it. I entered Springburn Hopes which won me a place as a Finalist in the Aspect Prize.

Each of the four finalists received £5000 and we had six months to paint whatever they desired.

The six months from June 2009-December 2010 acted like a degree show and a strong work ethic was required. I worked round the clock for six months in the studio every single day until the paintings went down to London.

I didn’t win, but being a finalist really helped me as it tied together my style and my subject matter and helped me find what it is I paint. It has also allowed me to recognised as a portrait painter and people have come to me ever since commissioning me to paint portraits.

I had a bumpy ride after the Aspect Prize. I wanted to keep my work at the same level and to keep selling. After taking time to work more on the subject matter/technique and develop what I learned from the Aspect Prize preparation, I started to find things working and selling.

Since then, I have won the David Cargill Award and had two solo exhibitions, as well as become a member of the Glasgow Art Club.

I am able to paint both commission portraits and develop my own personal work and make enough money to survive on that.

I still have to be careful as you don’t know when you might have another unlucky spell, but it’s getting better all the time and being creatively free is a very lucky situation to be in.


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