Sunday, 13 June 2010

Patchings Art Festival

I visited Patchings Art Festival for the first time yesterday.  It's based in the fields behind the Patchings Art Centre just outside Nottingham and hence is much better located than London for amateur artists wanting to buy art materials and see demonstrations.

Photograph of the entrance to Patchings Arts Festival
taken as we were leaving at 5pm - there had been lots of visitors earlier in the day

The Patchings Festival is celebrating its 17th year this year and has so far survived the recession.  It's also survived whatever caused the demise of a very similar festival which I used to go to a lot which the Artists and Illustrators Magazine ran for many years at the Business Design Centre in Islington.  Patchings is not as big as that event used to be - but that said it still provides for a jolly good day out for members of an art society.

I went with Vivien Blackburn (Paintings, Prints and Stuff) and we didn't get anywhere near getting round the whole show.  (I should mention this was partly because Vivien kept meeting ex-students and fellow art teachers who she knew!).  However over a cup of tea sat outside in the sun we cogitated over what we thought of the festival.

[UPDATE:  Here's what Vivien thought in her review of the festival - Art Events weekend - Patchings Art Festival and here's what Gayle's review of her experience - Patchings Art Festival 2010]  Gayle notes the change in type of visitor at the weekend which brought more individual 'art shoppers' compared to the coaches which brought art societies on Thursdays and Fridays]

Observations, Pros and Cons for artists / visitors

map of Patching Art Festival - from guide

Other than the big marquees for materials and demonstrations associated with major exhibitors / sponsoring organisations (eg The Artist/Leisure Painter, Derwent, Winsor & Newton and St Cuthberts) nt-size: and featured artists there are three main marquees for:
Click the links to see who was exhibiting in which tent.

  • The Festival gets a lot of visitors and consequently attracts some very good quality exhibitors
  • a number of demonstrations by different artists on different days
  • Good selection of art materials - somewhat unexciting but some bargains to be had.  Materials very much oriented towards painting and works on paper.  It seemed to me that the watercolour, acrylic and pastel artist was well catered for.
  • Parking is included in the price of ticket and there's lots of space for cars to park - which means you can fill your boot if you want to!
  • a good venue for a visit by the sort of amateur art society with artists who like demonstrations and buying art materials
  • The Festival is relatively easy to find and is not on a busy road so doesn't produce some of the snarl ups which can be experienced at other places when everybody tries to exit at the end of the day!
  • Refreshments tent on site - OK (unexciting) but not as expensive as some exhibition centres.  Plenty of seats for people to sit down.  We also saw people picnicking in the nearby car park.
  • which artists are on which day may change at fairly short notice
  • the quality of the artists demonstrating on the stands in the arts and craft materials and paintings tent varied hugely.  Some easily matched the calibre of some of the 'featured' guest artists in the demonstration tents while others were very much still at the hobby artist stage themselves
  • 'named' guest artists featured by the Festival and the major manufacturers were typically well known
Observations, Pros and Cons for Exhibitors

The stands are all in marquees set out in fields behind the Centre buildings.  Great if it's summer and all is dry but I'd guess it might be less nice if the weather wasn't very good.  The temperature inside the marquees was rather high and whereas we could take a break outside, there was little respite for exhibitors.  I suspect if the weather was wet or cold it might have felt a very different experience - but such is the lot of anybody exhibiting in a marquee at any outside event.

Those offering tuition seemed to be split between painters offering courses (in the painting tent) and artists offering tuition in booklet or video format (in the art materials tent.  Those offering tuition appeared much more impressive when present in person and actually able to demonstrate what they were did and how they did it.  I noted however a few artists who weren't demonstrating at all on their own stands. There's always a balance to be struck between looking competent, appearing approachable - mostly to do with how people sited themselves relative to the visitor - and running the stand and keeping an eye on the stock.

It's worth checking out the categories as to which is the best to list in.  My friend Gayle Mason (Fur in the Paint) (see her stand in the photo) works in mixed media (coloured pencils, pastels and acrylic) on paper and listed under mixed media but moved tents so she was in with the painters.

Gayle Mason Fine Art - exhibiting at Patchings 2010

It's worth remembering that while many people come to Fesivals like this to see and to learn, many have also come prepared to spend money! However many also have to carry their purchases home with them.

In my view, for those not in cars, this is a marketplace for high volume sales of items which don't break the bank and are easy to carry.  Small, lightweight and inexpensive iterms (eg fine art prints and cards by artists, calendars and small originals) appeared to me to be much more likely to be popular than heavy weight large items such as orginal artwork in frames.  Gayle also confirmed that her step by step tutorial pack on creating an animal's was proving to be very popular and a number of people were taking her very nice and informative leaflet about commissions.

  • Many people are coming fully expecting to spend money as well as watch demonstrations
  • Many of those who attend are very interested in attending demonstrations and hence are more likely candidates for additional formats for learning about art.  The Festival is good for soliciting interest from hobby artists in different forms of art education - videos, booklets, holidays, courses and workshops.  
  • a good range of categories for arts and crafts oriented exhibitors with significant numbers of good quality exhibitors in each.  It provides a good mix for the visitor.
  • The Centre has accommodation and refreshments for visiting exhibitors who don't want to spend their profits on hotel prices
  • Most visitors are amateur hobby artists and crafts people who were mainly visiting to buy art supplies and see demonstrations  [Gayle says this changed at the weekend when there was more sale of original art and fine art prints]
  • It seemed to me to be unlikely that there was going to be much custom for sales of original art at serious prices
  • People are coming from all over the country so it's unlikely to generate large numbers of artists for art tutors associated with a specific place (unless they are relatively local) 
  • I wouldn't want to be trying to move stock across the field if there has been a lot of rain and the ground is sodden!  
For the record I came away with two small wooden apples in Spanish Olive and Tulip Wood (for my wooden fruit collection), some Caran d'Ache Pablo and Luminance pencils from open stock (ignoring the £:Swiss Franc exchange rate), a couple of Jakar battery erasers (see Product Review: Jakar Battery Operated Eraser Pen) and a KUM Automatic Long Point Pencil Sharpener.  I also looked long and hard at purchasing another electric pencil sharpener from Jakar but didn't because of the weight (train/tube etc).  Last time I bought I was in the car and this time I was travelling by train.

However I was very taken with the offers on paper (but again didn't fancy carrying it home) and the stands by Linda Wain's Procolour, Jakar Caran d'Ache / Gadsby's and Jackson's Art Supplies - which is one you will see at all the art events in the Midlands.  Vivien was very taken with an offer on 24 White Light watercolour pans for £5 by Jacksons which she thought was an amazing bargain.  The Rosemary & Co Brush stand was also extremely impressive!

I think if I'd brought my car and had been at the fair for longer there's a very good chance I'd have gone home with more 'stock'!

Overall conclusions:
  • If you're a visitor: there is enough here to provide a full day out for all amateur/hobby artists.  
  • If you're an artist / art teacher: Professional painters might be more interested in the opportunity it presents to sell smaller works and fine art prints and to offer tuition, workshop and painting holidays.

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