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"A journey of discovery" Artist Gay Smith tells Newburytoday how life drawing classes drew her back to her first passion of art and painting

Westbrook painter Gay Smith originally trained as a jewellery designer at the Berkshire College of Art, Maidenhead, and set up a small business designing and making bespoke jewellery in silver and gold and selling her creations under her previous name Gay Crichton-Miller.

She joined Open Studios in 2000 and enjoyed having the opportunity to exhibit her work and meet so many other artists in the area through what she describes as a "fantastic scheme", started by Pat Eastop.

Silver Ring with Moonstone, Tourmaline & Pearl
Red Tulip in Jug with Oranges - Acrylic on canvas 44 x 44

"It was through Open Studios that I met people like artist Arran Miles who runs life drawing classes in Stockcross," Gay says. "I joined her class about 10 years ago and was a regular for a number of years, finding it improved my observation skills and ability to draw, which I had never been very good at. The classes really drew me back to my first passion of art and painting.

"Illness in 2012, and the recognition that as I was getting older and finding that jewellery-making was quite physically demanding on my hands and my eyes – and my back. Perhaps the time had come to put away my jewellery-making tools and reach for my paints and brushes that I already had waiting in my studio.

"For the last few years I have been on a journey of discovery which I have found immensely challenging, frustrating, but very rewarding. We are very lucky to have so many opportunities in West Berkshire for art courses.

"I discovered that Acrylic paints were the medium that suited my style. I love colour and texture and the freedom they offer. I am trying to develop a bolder approach by using bigger brushes and a palette knife and experimenting with mixed media and collage.

"I enjoy painting what’s around me and being a keen gardener am inspired by things in my garden, particularly flowers like irises and tulips because of their colours and structure. I have been experimenting a bit with abstract too and feel I would like my work to veer more in this direction.

"I’m striving to find my own style and I do find I am influenced by other artists and sometimes emulate their methods – one of my tutors gave me this quote, from a French writer,.

"Everything that needs to be said has already been said, but since no one was listening everything must be said again."

A huge fan of David Hockney, Gay went to his exhibition at the RA a few years ago and was blown away by his iPad drawings.

"So I have been teaching myself to use a drawing app on mine and find it a useful drawing tool/sketch pad," Gay adds. "Last summer I found an iPad drawing course at Marlborough Summer School which was extremely enjoyable and helpful.

Irises iPad drawing

"I am a member of a local U3A Art Appreciation group so enjoy studying other artists work and visit as many exhibitions as I can to study and be inspired.

"I have also recently joined Newbury Art Group and look forward to exhibiting with them as soon as life gets back to normal."

Purple Irises with Greek Pot - Acrylic on canvas 54 x 54 cm
Spring Woodland - Acrylic on board, 54 x 54 cm
Still life with Oranges - Acrylic on board 48 x 34cm
Three Pears - Acrylic on canvas 44 x 44
Where the Sea meets the Sky - Acrylic mixed media 44 x 54 cm

To find out more about Gay's work you can email her gcmjewels@btinternet.com or call her on 07887992763. Her instagram account is @gaysmith30009