Ann Ardron sold her first painting when she was in her early twenties, but never really considered it as a career until much more recently.
“I didn’t really think of myself as artistic then, in fact I don’t really think of myself as artistic now, because I think of myself as quite technical. Art was just a hobby for a long period and then it gradually kind of crept back.”
“I was doing the odd commission for people and selling the odd picture. Then I started to think, actually I can do something with this, this is what I can do."
"There’s a point where you contact the National Insurance people and tell them you are self employed, as opposed to just doing a little bit here and there.”
"Currently I’m trying to build up a reputation. The last two or three years what I’ve proved I can do is sell."
"For example, I took part in an Open Studios event in my area a couple of years ago, where artists display their work in their own homes, and that went very well. You can do it more or less in a structured way - I’ve always made a very nice display and had plenty of things to sell."
"The first year I took part I sold almost £6000 worth of stock, which is a lot for a weekend.”
I want my work to be successful in come kind of recognisable way
Ann sells her larger acrylics for around £400-£600, and smaller watercolours for £150 - £200. “That’s the way the market is even though there’s no less work involved in the watercolours.”
Now she wants to get into galleries, and to make more sales directly, “and for a higher price, quite frankly, because of the time it takes produce the work. Galleries do take a massive amount in commission, usually about half of the sale price, but I’m still keen because I think it’s a credibility thing, self esteem.”
I ask how long a painting takes to make, and Ann laughs. “I SO should know that. Every time I start, I think, ‘I should keep a record of how long this takes’. I think a small painting might take three or four hours, and a larger portrait perhaps twelve to twenty.”
Earning money from her art is important to Ann. “It’s a measure. It’s not that I think it has anything to do with the quality of my art, I’m already happy with that. But I’m not happy spending large amounts of time doing something that isn’t productive in some way."
"If I’m going to do art, ultimately I’m going to want it to be successful in some kind of recognisable way.”
The time I spend with friends and family is all the more important
On working for herself she says, “on the one hand, it’s easy not to be motivated, and to be doing the hoovering or gardening instead. The flipside of that is that it’s always there. I could always be doing my paperwork. There’s always more you could be doing. It’s difficult to shut off.”
“Without having companionship in your work, you can feel very isolated. I’ve enjoyed recently getting to know some of the other local artists, doing some joint exhibitions together."
"And I've realised the time I spend with family and friends is all the more important. Once a week I go handbell-ringing in the village. We have a glass of wine and a chat. If I didn’t have that, some weeks it would be quite hard.”
I’ve known Ann a long time, and it seems to me her journey has brought her closer to her own true passions over time.
Her dad is a retired professor in chemical engineering, and initially at university she studied metallurgy. She soon switched to psychology.
Later, after a few unhappy years in the graduate training programme of the Mars chocolate company, she retrained in ergonomics, subsequently starting her own ergonomics consultancy.
Following on from several years of a nasty illness, this new life stage, creating art, to me seems much more her, than some of what has gone before.
I’ve listened now to quite a few stories of how people have come to work for themselves, and for some it was clear from the word go.
For Ann though, and for many of us, it seems to have been the result of an unfolding process, as we’ve worked our way through life, and become clearer about what we want to do, how we want to work, and, ultimately, who we want to be.
Images: Ann Ardron