Tag Archives: Exhibitions

Abstract Elements: The Exhibition Opening Event  

9 May

The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth.

Najma Hush Abstract Elements Exhibition Opening Evening

Spot the Freudian slip…

Today, we would like to do something, a little bit different. By ‘we’, I mean me – Najma Hush, one woman, who is going it alone, like so many other creative people, determined to make that critical transformation from an emerging artist, to an established artist.  Usually writing about my projects upon this blog in third person –  PhotoGiraffe – bragging about how wonderful the exhibition openings have been.  Although, they have been rather fabulous, upon reflection, I now feel that there are certain drawbacks when not openly addressing certain faults with such ‘experiments’, when perhaps if disclosed openly, it could help many other emerging artists who might be scratching there heads, wondering how to make themselves stand out from all the other wee-little chicks in this birds nest, all screaming for attention to get that juicy worm, dangling from the mouth of the giant (i.e. established galleries).  But how much honesty can I display here at the detriment of my own reputation and personal liability?  The only way to find out is by reading on and I’m kind of curious myself, as to what this write up will be like…

  The more mistakes you make, the more you learn, the more you progress.

Abstract Elements is a collection of five photographic images, currently exhibiting at The Warehouse Cafe (Please see previous post for details).  With its  exhibition opening held last Monday (5th May’14), I hosted my very own launch event inviting Poets and Musicians to platform their own skills and celebrate my latest exhibition at the Warehouse Cafe.   An award winning restaurant, located in the Friends of the Earth building (Birmingham, Digbeth), The Warehouse Cafe are a non-profit, community interest company and provide local artists, a space to exhibit.  They were interested in exhibiting a selection which would compliment their ‘Green’ ethos.  This is how we reached the mutual decision to exhibit Abstract Elements due to its connection with natureHowever, due to the small number of works and their size, this collection was not big enough to fill their walls, which is why a last minute decision was made to exhibit, Some Kind of Blue too.

Poet Performer Carys Matic Performing at the exhibition opening

Poet Performer Carys Matic Performing at the exhibition opening

Without any disillusionment about motivation, the main reasons for inviting poets and performers has always been to collaborate for cross-promotional purposes.  As a creative writer my main circle of associates have mainly been other poets.   As an emerging artist, I have little contact with buyers and in all honesty as someone who is quite new to this business, I don’t really know who they are.   As a poet I like poetry performances and this is how I generally spend my spare time.  Inviting poets to these events to perform, gives me a little more to talk about on online social platforms, other than just saying, ‘Hello world, I have an exhibition and this is the concepts behind this collection’.  The performers benefit from this collaboration, due to the platform I provide for them to showcase their talents as well as all the promotional write ups I usually do on this blog and the pictures I post on my facebook page which promote their skills by positively  reviewing their input.  Futhermore, because of their involvement, they help me spread the word about the exhibition opening events.  Sounds like a good idea in theory and here is how it is works in practice.


1. It contributes to a more lively atmosphere for the exhibition opening events and adds a varying dynamic to the overall occasion.

2. It gives the (emerging artist) an opportunity to practice standing in front of an (otherwise larger) audience to host and talk to about their work publicly. 



1. The majority of people who will come to your exhibition opening will be the people performing who will be more keen to perform than view or provide feedback on the images you’ve displayed.

2. Your exhibition opening might be at risk of becoming more about performing art rather than the exhibited  fine art.


There are no failures only unexpected outcomes.

Seems like a fairly balanced assessment of advantages and disadvantage, however, the latter is what became most prominent the morning after the night before.  Post-exhibition opening, when reviewing the responses from almost all parties involved, I noticed that the main feedback I was  getting that the event that I had organised was a poetry performance event.  Other than reading performance reviews  from peoples ‘ facebook status updates’ I noticed, there was little commentary about the exhibiting images.  Furthermore, there seemed to be little mention of the fact that there was any art work displayed at all, which they the performers had initially been invited to come and respond to.  Although most performing artists (bar two), did perform along the theme of the ‘natural elements’ to tie in with the collection of the photographs, this fact became even more protruding when I noticed that even The Warehouse Cafe had posted a thank you note on their fan page to all those who came to their ‘first ever open mic night’.  (Lucky for me, I have a great sense of humor.)


Exhibition Opening Night of Najma Hush's  Abstract Elements:  A photography exhibition.

Exhibition Opening Night of Najma Hush’s Abstract Elements: A photography exhibition.


What I have learnt from my experiences and reconfirmed in recent articles I have read about exhibiting in cafe’s and  restaurants, that they are ‘ not looking at this as an opportunity to make a commission on sales and increase their revenue – consequently, they aren’t going to have much motivation to actively promote or sell the work  (http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/showing-your-art-in-cafes-restaurants-banks-and-other-venues/) and as this article points out  that more than often the artist using these venues just become a commodity promoting their venue.

Naturally, nobody does anything for nothing and therefore it is the exhibiting artists responsibility to define their own outcomes from their opening events.  Also as the above referenced article points out, cafe’s and restaurants might have an interesting mailing list to attract people to the opening events, however even if The Warehouse Cafe did have this, they admitted later on that this was not a priority due to their busy schedule.  After all, to reiterate, for most cafes hosting exhibitions by local artists, their business is not art but will always primarily be food and drink with an agenda to gain more clients.

Expectation Versus Outcome

My expectations at this current stage of my career is not to make loads and loads of sales, but rather to gain exposure and a good reputation.  Reverting back to defined outcomes, I do not feel that event was a success because, I did not place enough emphasis upon the work that I had curated and exhibited.  I failed to attract a crowd of art lovers/buyers but instead curated a spectacular arts festival, which was truly magical and amazing and the hospitality shown by the venue was immaculate, however it has made me think more critically about exactly where I am at present, versus where I intend to go.  Nobody can predict or control the behavior and response of those who you collaborate with, after all we are all individuals and we all have our own expected outcomes, but what one can do, is learn from each experience by reflecting objectively and positively in order to progress.  

Najma Hush at the Exhibition opening event of Abstract Elements , courtasey of NuBi magazine who came to review the event.

Najma Hush at the exhibition opening of Abstract Elements , courtasey of NuBi magazine who came to review the nights event. (Photographed by Shahid Chohan)

How might you learn from my mistakes?

When selecting a cafe or restaurant to exhibit in:

* First and foremost, be proactive and go out to all exhibition openings so that you can gain the right contacts with people who really are interested in fine art and whom you can invite to your exhibitions.

* When choosing a restaurant or cafe, ask yourself, do you have similar values?  (i.e do they have a reputation for being a hub for the creative arts? Or will you have to compromise a great deal on what you want exhibited and also question why they are allowing you their space?)

* Ask the venue what kind of mailing list they have and how much will they can contribute to the promotion of your opening event.  If you are a proactive artist and good with social networking media, you might be doing more to promote the venue than your own work and unless you have a large network of buyers/clients this might not bother you, but otherwise I would say, choose a cafe that would promote your exhibition equally. 

 *  Find out from previous artists if they gained much feedback from the venue’s clients and if they made many sales in these spots.  Were their price margins the same as yours?

*  By all means invite performers to platform, but keep the slots short and simple, and make sure that number one: you are selective with quality performers only and number two you make it clear it’s not an open mic night which otherwise implies your events is just a-free-for-all.

*  On your opening event, make sure you rehearse a script of what you might want to say as an opening speech.  Prepare what you will say about yourself and then about the exhibiting works. Practice, practice, practice and then open up a panel discussion for questions and answers – if nobody has any questions – ask for feedback…

*  If you do not get the feedback ask for the feedback.  Don’t be shy, ask the questions. ‘What do you like about this collection?  Is there anything you do you not like about it?  What’s your most favourite and why?  What’s your least and why?’  If you find this intimidating, create anonymous feedback forms for honest criticism and advise.


Keep On Moving!

Whoever may be reading this article and no matter what you maybe doing with your life, I believe that if you got this far down reading this article, it’s probably because you are an artist.  Remember, no matter what genre of artist you maybe, if you are being proactive with your skills you are putting yourself out there to be judged.   Your work has to be judged and whether those judgement are a positive or negative reflection of your work, you must learn to accept the opinions of other, but still remain strong in what you believe in and let what you believe in, always be yourself!


Please do comment with any useful or contrary thoughts.  I am generally a student in life; I have an open mind and I’m always willing to learn.

After all that's said it was a very night and really well organised...

After all that’s said it was a really great night spent with amazing people and really well organised…


Female Force – Exhibition Opening Day

14 Apr

Female Force is the title given to a selection of photographs taken of statues by Najma Hush. These images been manipulated by the process of multi-layering, to modernise and re-present, a few and various neoclassical and classical sculptures, from the fresh perspective of a digital age. Currently exhibiting at Urban Coffee Company (Church Street,  Birmingham, B3 2NP.  UK. ), from April 6th – May 3rd 2014). 



Urban Coffee Company is a rather sophisticated cafe in the metropolis of Birmingham.  Not only do they boast great coffee, good enough to sate any coffee snobs passion, but they also hold many different live events.  Furthermore, their cosy upstairs arena , consistently rotates fine art and photography by artist from the city, which is organised by Alexandria Art, who provide exhibiting platforms for emerging  artist in various location around the city.   weblink - exhibition details

With the exhibition open day for Female Force, held last Saturday (12th April’ 14), Najma Hush hosted her very own launch event, having invited Poets and Musicians to also platform their own skills and celebrate her latest solo exhibition. Here is a short review, recording the events proceedings, including photographs of the poets and musicians who came to support this event with further links to their works, to make it easier for you to find them.

Guests at Female Force by Najma Hush

As the guests gathered.

The event started off with a small crowd and moved at a slow pace, fairly early for any Saturday morning,  but as the event proceeded more and more people joined to contribute a buzz to the initial relaxed atmosphere.  The show commenced, with a brief introduction from the artist about herself and the concept behind the exhibition, before she passed over the duty of hosting to Andrea Shorrick, a local poet and performer herself, who introduced the first public speaker, Kathryn Day from Women’s Networking Hub.  This organisation had shown much support for Hush’s exhibition open day, by promoting it through a lot of their internal sources, due to the close work they do with all kind of women in enterprise, connecting women with other women and essentially building a strong network of associations.    They also work closely with Malala Yousafzai to gain funds for her projects to eradicate social/gender inequality and so  Hush invited them to  invite the women present, to join their network.

Najma Hush

Poet and Photographer, Najma Hush at the exhibition opening of Female Force.


The first poet to perform was Dani Papamaximou from Greece,  who recited her own touching poems, translated from her native tongue to English.  With some dark overtones, her work was mainly refreshing and  light sharing personal experiences as a women.

Next up, a very talented poet and artist from Walsall, Neth Brown who shared a melancholy poem about her mother and experiences on the theme of gender traditions and female sexuality from the point of view of a young lesbian.

Nina Lewis,  was the following act, a Worcestershire poet who had actually written poems especially to go with Hush’s images.  Her poems were as impressive as usual as showed her dexterous skill with language. 

Next up was Sammy Joe, who humorously insisted on taking her coffee on stage, swigging and spilling it in a sleepy haze. But even before she had finished reciting her very short, blunt and feisty poem, in a fashion that was no less than fierce, she had trotted off again, sleepily leaving the audience wide awake and hungry for more.

The crowd was then greeted by the colourful personality of Saleha Begum, a poet and artist decisively stating that she would be reading her most intense works, from her book, Raptures and Fragments, which she did!

As the crowd deserved ‘A Pick Me Up’ after such intensity, that’s exactly what they got with Aysha Begum’s poem, ‘Just a Little Pick Me Up’, a poem which is also an entry in this years round two of Pangaea Poetry Slam.  

And just before the interval, Andrea Shorrick  left the crowd holding their breath during her performance, when she began to undress, stripping away her clothes solemnly, wrapping herself up in a street no entry banners and smearing her face with yellow paint as she recited her poem on domestic abuse.   

Open day of Exhibition Female Force

Najma Hush – Meeting and Greeting Guests

During the interval it seemed that a lot more people had woken up and the place became more alive with people.  The atmosphere was buzzing as the crowd was led back into the second half, where Najma Hush opened the show, reciting her own epic poem on social equality for women, just before she introduced the musical act for the event a very talented young singer song writer,  Jane James.  Her voice is emotive and she can switch her pitch going from smooth to boom!   

Jaden Larker, otherwise known as   Seasick Fist, who was also a speaker for TEDxBrum on International Women’s day (2014), was the only man who had been brave enough to perform his views on women, with his confident delivery,  he certainly knows how to keep the crowds attention.

With a hard act to follow, next up was Andrea Shorrick, only this time as her ultra ego,  Swingerella, with stories from her bed, which included chocolate hearts, pink bunnies, vodka in a tea pot and box of sugar puffs, to name…just  a few things.  It was meant to be funny, but again, the audience were holding their breath…

It was also a great pleasure to see and hear, Jasmin Gardosi perform her poem sultry poem on lesbian love and love bites. Gardosi is also a TEDxBrum speaker (2014) and she runs the official Poets Place.

And to close the show in class one of the final special guest was, Charlie JordanBirmingham Poet Laureate (2007 ) – representing our city –  with some groping poetry, in a style, solely unique to her.  The event then came to a close with the first ever Female poet laureate of Birmingham, Julie Boden and current Poet in residence at Symphony Hall who wowed the crowed with 10 minutes of such beautiful poetic magic.

Here are the photographs of all the above performers:


Diverse Dancers – Exhibition Soiree

25 Feb


Diverse Dancers is the title given to a large and still progressing compilation of photographs, primarily concerned with the multiplicity of varying dance traditions; a small and miscellaneous selection of which, is currently in exhibition at the ORT Cafe in Birmingham, UK (from 19th Feb – 5th Mar’14).

Housed in The Old Print Works, a grade II listed building; Ort is much more than just a cafe.  More importantly, it has become the community hub for creative art within just 2 years of being established, having gained the worthy reputation of supporting emerging artists, in the community of England’s second largest city!   With its friendly and approachable directors, Josephine Reichert and Ridhi Kalaria, who both actively assist the artists they support, Ort is the ideal place for an emerging artist, to host a first time solo exhibition.  And on Friday 21st Feb’14, that is exactly what Najma Hush did, having curated a night of art, poetry and music by hosting talented poets and musicians to share their work, which coincided with the dance theme of her exhibition.  She called this event, ‘An Exhibition for Exhibitionists’ and boy did it attract a handsome group.

Upon the night as the crowd gathered and mingled they were greeted by live music from the Jazz Pianist, Andrew Clayton, who played all original material from his Album, Bunch of Keys.  Quick to jump at an opportunity to jam, poetry performer, Carys Matic Jones joined in with her Cajón Drum, adding a beat to Clayton’s melody and giving all the guests, opportune moments to collectively convene a vibrant atmosphere.  

The show then commenced with the local poet, Adele – aka- Ddotti Bluebird, who also organises Birmingham’s much loved Word- Up.  She grabbed the crowd’s attention with her passionate urban style poetry.  However, rather surprisingly for the host, none of this Ddotti Bluebird’s songs conformed to the theme of dance.

Following on swiftly, was Adam Laws, a complete virgin to performance poetry, who nevertheless, won the crowd over with two poems that he had written especially for the theme of this event.

But the real crowd pleaser was a musical performance by Walsall’s poet, Al Barz who had composed his own music to choreograph a special dance for a totally interactive, audience precipitation and the best thing was, everyone could do his dance sitting down, except for Barz of course (who also organises his own monthly poetry events called Purple Penumbra at the Barlowe Theatre in Oldbury).


Next up was what appeared to be Cinderella herself, sporting a broom and sweeping the stage, but it was in fact, Andrea Shorrick, with her own unique interpretation of dance, a delightful poem titled Prince Charming.

Also come to take part and show her support was Jude Ashworth, a long and withstanding member of Writer Without Borders as well as being the organiser of Erdington Writers held twice a month at Erdington Library, she swayed and swooned the audience with her dance poetry.

After that, the crowd was gregariously greeted by the enormous personality of  Ian Henery, the Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate for three consecutive years and author of Batman (Thynk Publications).  Amongst a few other dance poems, Henery, performed his poem written especially for Diverse Dancers called….Diverse Dancers and also read Rudyard Kipling’s,  The Plea of the Simla Dancers. Not before however, he likened the talent of the first halves performers, to our Nation’s favourite poet, Kipling and was ignominiously heckled for it by an otherwise anonymous heckler, who rowdily disagreed.

Another member of Birmingham’s highly esteemed group, Writers Without Borders and author of Blonde Grass (Thynk Publications), Olufemi Abidogun also graced the stage with his own magical poetry on the subject of dance.

Just before the interval, the closing act for the first half was the third and final member of Writers Without Borders.    It was none other than, Tessa Lowe herself, who also hosts her own poetry events at Ort called Poets with Passion.  Lowe charmed the crowd with her charismatic, Maybe Baby dance poem, as well as sharing an enchanting poem, celebrating the ‘beauty’ of Birmingham’s, not-so-prevaliged, Balsall Heath (the location of Ort Cafe and hence the exhibition).


To kick start the second half, Carys Matic Jones opened the proceedings with her musical act.  Normally performing with her band, Jones was joined with improvisations from Andrew Clayton on Keyboard, as she multi-tasked her rhythmic recitations to the beat of her new Cajón Drum, which proved to be a very delightful and an engaging experience indeed.

A hard act to follow, which certainly she did do and without any exceptions, it was Nina Lewis.  An ex-dancer herself, Lewis claimed that she had been directly inspired by the Photographs exhibited.  Her poems not only dealt with the beauty of the art form, but also explored the darker more painful side of dance, that we as voyeurs often forget when watching this graceful art form.  Needless to say, all three of her poems were very strong.

It was also a great pleasure to see, popular storyteller, Kate Walton – Aka – Story Tramp (nominated for outstanding newcomer at the BASE Awards, ((British Award for Storytelling Excellence)) 2013.  She captivated and simply mesmerised the audience, with her rhythmic tale of a Sufi whirling dervish’s.

Birmingham Poet Laureate 1999/2000, Simon Pitt also made a special guest appearance with his slightly eccentric performance. One act of which, he threw things at the audience in a fit of rage.  It was a rather convincing temper tantrum and nothing like I’ve ever seen in my life, so I’m glad to have finally had such a frightful experience, whilst in such a friendly environment. It wasn’t all gloom and doom of course as Pitt soon lightened the tone offering the crowd a brighter side to his sense of humor.

It was a pleasure to become acquainted with Lorna Meehan s work, especially as she had just come off her first poetry tour with England and Scotland’s leading poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes .  Her act was a real delight.  Rumour also has it, that Meehan is presently preparing to be the world’s first hula hooping performance poet…


A local poet, Max Jalil who rarely ever shares his work, shyly decided to pluck up his courage and read his witty poems on the subject of his horrendous dance antics, which is something that he is rather notorious for on the clubbers scene.  After having seen both of his talents, one would probably suggest that Jalil gives up dance and takes up poetry instead – as his poem really was rather good.

Najma Hush also shared two short and sweet poems before passing on the mic to none other than yet another poet laureate.  It was Roy Mcfarlen (Birmingham, 2010/2011), who had come to show his support for Hush’s events once again.  The enigmatic Mcfarlen who never fails to delight a crowd of poetry lovers drew the perfect close to an almost perfect night, as the host called the show a rap and let the crowd loose to get closer to view her work and stay around to chat and indulge in a few more drinks.     

Here are some more photographs to get you better acquainted with all the performers who came along… and look out for the uploads from Pat the Bull Films who kindly filmed that night’s events to broadcast to the world … after all…these open exhibition soiree’s aren’t titled, ‘Exhibitions for Exhibitionists’ for nothing, you know.

Some Kind of Blue Exhibition Soiree

15 Oct
Opening of Exhibition evening, with Art, Poetry and Music

Opening of Exhibition evening, with Art, Poetry and Music

We have some exciting news!   Najma Hush is currently Artist in Residence at Fine Art Gallery, Arts 4 Art Sake at the Custard Factory in Birmingham.   Recently she opened her first exhibition called, Some kind of Blue,  a collection of fine art photography;

‘…concerned with the manifest content of our dreams (or to put it simply, elements of our dreams that we remember upon awakening).  Inspired by the work of psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, who in his book, The Interpretation of Dreams, suggests that the content of our dreams are related to wish fulfillment; as he believed that the manifest content of a dream, or the actual imagery and events of the dream, serve to disguise the latent content (or the unconscious wishes) of the dreamer.  Thus, the photography presented in Some Kind of Blue, is directly symbolic of the thoughts, desires and images which may manifest from (your own subconscious) within your own dreams, with the poetic emphasis  ingrained in every metaphoric title for each individual piece.’  ~ Najma Hush

For the open evening of the exhibition, Hush curated a night of art, poetry and music by hosting performances in line with the theme of ‘Dreams’,  in keeping with her exhibited collection.  In a nut shell, here is what happened:

Maqsood Qazi , the director of Arts 4 Art Sake, fine art gallery, sponsored the opening exhibition of,  Some Kind of Blue by this emerging artist. Held at their premises, Arts 4 Art Sake provided all the food and drink. There was enough time to admire Hush’s exhibited collection of Photography, Some Kind of Blue and view all of the other art work at the gallery (such as Jinxy Art, Javed Qamar, Tahir Bin-Qalandar and more), as the crowd gathered and mingled.   Unexpectedly, Mike Bongo, a local singer, song writer  requested he open the soiree with his songs written for Mental Health Awareness, although not fitting with our theme, it was allowed on an exceptional and friendly basis (because everybody deserves a chance to be heard).  It also gave us more time to welcome new guests, just before some wonderful live performances were given by a diverse amalgamation of urban voices, who put on such an entertaining show.

The real show opener was local Rapper Ali Mardi- aka- Da Wonderin Dragon, who got the crowd going with his passionate and humorous poem describing his, ‘Dream Girl’.  Following on, was a rather musical performance of poetry, by Walsall poet and performer, Al Barz who had composed his own music to crescendo his poetry. Usually and popularly known to be on keyboard,  Barz was upon this night, accompanied by an amp and his ipad.  Next up was poet, Gary Carr, who had come all the way from Burton-Upon-Trent to share some dreamy poetry from his very own, next collection of Dream poems that he had been working on.  Then there was local artist and writer, Shirley P Cooper, who came and shared her, ‘I have a Dream’ poems as well as some of her sweet, home baked cupcakes.  We were also proud to host the charismatic poet Laureate of Walsall, Ian Henery also graced the event with his presence and read some blooming great poetry too.  Next to follow was local poet,  James Walpole, who performed three brilliant poems he had written just for our ‘Dream’ themed event.   Then there was a very young and talented, Ester Turner, who sang songs from her debut album, ‘Dreams’ and blew the crowd away with her amazing voice, whilst a nice, handsome crowd, waved in and out throughout the evening to watch and support the event, which made the atmosphere very relaxed, friendly and inviting.  A special appearance from Marcia Calame added a great positive energy to the whole event – the same strong presence, that she carried into her enticing poetry performance on stage.  It was also great to introduce and announce, popular storyteller, Kate Walton had been nominated for outstanding newcomer at the BASE Awards (British Award for Storytelling Excellence), just before she shared some of her own profound poetic works.  Artist and poet, Kristina Vere-Gankaku Griffiths, came all the way from West Bromwhich to read her dreamy poems, from her debut poetry book, No Strings Attached.  Just before the final closing acts of the event which were, non other than two of Birmingham’s very own,  former poet laureates, the enigmatic  Roy Mcfarlen and the infamous  Giovanni Spoz Esposito, who closed the evenings event charmingly.   

You can see the pictures here and look out for the video promo by Pat the Bull Productions. And of-course, stay tuned to hear about more events like Some Kind of Blue when they come up again as hopefully, we look forward to exhibiting our next collection soon!
But in the meantime you can pop into Arts4ArtSake, fine art gallery at the custard factory anytime you like and check out our Art.

Some Kind of Blue – Exhibition

3 Oct

Being Self Employed: The Art of Survival.

23 Jan
Blue River One:  Copyrights 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I left university with no idea what I was supposed to do as a career, and completely confused about how to make a living. I think my vision had been clouded by the idea that you have to get an academic degree in order to then get a 'proper' job...” ~ Hannah Leach

Hannah Leach is 29 years old and a self employed painter, hypnotherapist and a writer, which she has been since the year 2000, when she moved from East Yorkshire to live and study in Birmingham.  Originally having obtained a BA Honours degree in Cultural Studies and Sociology she has found that since graduating, she has had to become “a jack of all trades” in order to fund her own skills and talent. She feels that being self-employed – for her – has not always been a choice, but rather a necessity, because after university, the only work she could find was through temping agencies. It took her six years to find a permanent job, which was still only a part-time administrative position.

Hannah thinks that this may have a lot to do with the conventional ideology that many of us are brought up to believe; that is to say, if you study hard, are intelligent and get good grades, then you are guaranteed a great job once you have graduated.  However, the skills that she has always had were just not required in the conventional job market.  In order to survive by making an honest living, Hannah had to learn that if she wanted to work, then she would have to start creating opportunities for herself.  However, it took quite a few years before she had the confidence to start taking her own skill and passion as an artist more seriously.  But ever since she has started to promote her work as an artist, it looks like Hannah Leach has a promising ‘self employed’ career ahead of her.  Hence, it currently seems that Hannah’s only regret is that she hadn’t started promoting her artwork more seriously until now!

Having already been exhibited twice last year she is currently preparing for her first solo exhibition, scheduled for 6th Feb-13th April 2012, at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham, UK. The Old Joint Stock gallery is an absolutely gorgeous and very popular venue, with its traditional old English architectural style. This venue has enough space to exhibit more than just one artist, but the collective effect of all of her paintings in one area will bring an explosion of colour to the walls of the Theatre Gallery.  Hannah’s exhibition at the Old Joint Stock will be made up of a collection of impressionist paintings created by oil on canvas, with a few acrylics, watercolours and pastels.    She is also setting up her own new website, to display low-resolution images of more of her paintings and as well as selling her existing work she has finally started her search for commissioned work.

Purple Trees One:   Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

...I was one of the students who was being groomed to go to Oxbridge. It’s only in very recent years I’ve discovered that I learn best by actually doing something in practice and I slightly regret not doing a more practical, ‘hands on’ course, like art.”

How long have you been painting?

 I’ve been painting since I was a small child.  I did Art at GCSE and A-Level and won prizes in it at school, but I remember thinking that I’d be bored if I studied Fine Art at University!  I wanted to do something which I saw as being more cerebral, hence choosing Cultural Studies and Sociology. 


Why didn’t you study Art at University?

I thought that doing a subject that required lots of essay-writing would be more stimulating for me than painting all day.  I had quite a limited notion of what studying art would involve. As a teenager, my parents and teachers considered me very academic, and I was one of the students who was being groomed to go to Oxbridge.  It’s only in very recent years I’ve discovered that I learn best by actually doing something in practice and I slightly regret not doing a more practical, ‘hands on’ course, like art. 

Why do you regret not having studied Art? 

Although my course was fascinating at times, I feel like it took me away from myself and the skills that I already had.  I left university with no idea what I was supposed to do as a career, and completely confused about how to make a living.  I think my vision had been clouded by the idea that you have to get an academic degree in order to then get a ‘proper’ job.

Do you make money from your art enough to survive? 

No, not from my Art – I’ve only recently started exhibiting/selling.  But I am self-employed as a Hypnotherapist, which is quite a creative line of work – it lets me choose my own hours and I just about make enough money from that to get by.

Snow:  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I thought that doing a subject that required lots of essay-writing would be more stimulating for me than painting all day. I had quite a limited notion of what studying art would involve.”


Why do you think that there aren’t enough jobs or paid work for Artists?

Well, I suppose to do something really creative or inventive, you have to be your own boss, or at least choose your own projects.  Whereas if you’re working for an employer, you’re being paid to do a particular job which may not (probably won’t) give you the freedom to develop your art the way you really want to.  I know that some universities or big public organisations offer residencies to artists, but other than that I can’t think of many paid positions that would let you just get on with whatever art you wanted to do.  Working for an organisation can be good for some art forms – for instance, dancers join companies, and obviously actors need someone to employ them.  But I think if you’re a painter or writer, it’s pretty much essential to be self-employed and create your own opportunities rather than hoping someone else will give you a job.  I don’t mind that at all, because I dream of a life in which I don’t have to observe any typical ‘working hours’! 

How many of your paintings are being exhibited at the Joint Stock?

Fourteen, I think!

Are you selling your work there? If so, what do the prices range from?

Most definitely!  Prices will likely range from £45 to £500.

Does it cost much to mount your paintings? How do you display them?

Most of my oil paintings are on canvases which you hang straight onto the wall, so they don’t need framing.  Smaller pieces or ones I’ve done in watercolours or pastels need framing but you can pick up cheap wooden frames and then do the painting to size! 

Oil painting materials in general are pretty expensive, but I get nearly everything from Delta Pi in Selly Oak, Birmingham, who do 2-for-1 on canvases.  You can also get cheap canvases from The Works, but I wouldn’t buy their paints or brushes again – as in the past I have not found them to be of good quality.

Brindley Place One: Copyright 2012. All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“...to do something really creative or inventive, you have to be your own boss, or at least choose your own projects. Whereas if you're working for an employer, you're being paid to do a particular job which may not (probably won't) give you the freedom to develop your art the way you really want to...”

What kind of galleries have you approached to exhibit?

I’ve previously exhibited at the Birmingham MAC and at the We Are Birmingham shop.  I approached one well known gallery in South Birmingham who politely said my work probably wasn’t commercial enough.  There was another, very small, place in Harborne which has since closed down – they were happy to exhibit my work, but I had a crisis of confidence at that point and never got round to taking anything in to them.  How strange of me.  And there have been a few others (in Birmingham and in York, where my parents live) who I’ve emailed but have been given the brush off.  The manager of one place, in York, was rather rude.

Why do you think that there aren’t enough galleries that support less known Artists?

Well, if they are a commercially run business then of course they need to be realistic about whether or not they can sell a particular artist’s work.  And an unknown artist certainly can’t guarantee the sales.  I don’t blame any gallery manager for turning down an artist who they know won’t make any money – but I do feel it’s wrong to turn someone away when you haven’t even seen if they’re any good or not.  I don’t expect The Tate to be interested in my portfolio, but when even local galleries won’t glance at a new artist’s work, it makes you wonder just how you are supposed to get started.

What kind of galleries should unknown Artists target to get an opportunity to exhibit?

Either very small, independently run galleries…. or somewhere like the Old Joint Stock which is unusual in that it’s a pub which just happens to have a small gallery space upstairs.  Evidently they don’t rely on selling paintings to keep the business afloat – the alcohol does that for them – so it doesn’t matter too much to them if you sell just one or two pieces or none at all!  I think it’s becoming more popular for bars, restaurants or coffee shops to use local artists’ work as decoration – so there will be plenty similar opportunities if you hunt around a bit.

How do you think Artists can create more opportunities for themselves or even each other?

Word of mouth works well – friends can tell each other whenever they spot a potential opportunity to exhibit or publish.  Twitter, facebook etc are obviously very useful if you have a particular event you want to promote, although I think social media can create a lot of pressure to have the ‘right’ people on your friends list.  I don’t think there really are any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ people to network with – it’s just important to know other people who have similar aspirations to you and maybe are at a similar level in their own development.  For me, a real turning point in my life was joining Birmingham Writers Group.  The people I met there took seriously the idea of doing something creative for a living, and we talked realistically about how to market our work and make profits from it.  Even though what I’m doing currently isn’t directly writing-related, being around like-minded people gave me the confidence to leave the job I was doing and become self-employed.

Prague Castle: Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I don't blame any gallery manager for turning down an artist who they know won't make any money - but I do feel it's wrong to turn someone away when you haven't even seen if they're any good or not.”

What advice would you give young Artists thinking about a prospective university degree course?

Heh, I’d probably tell them to ask themselves whether a degree is really necessary!  I dunno, I’d say if you actually want to study a particular subject – whether Art or something else – then do; but I’d advise against doing anything because it seems like the safe or sensible thing to do.  It really is counter-productive.

In terms of feedback on your work, PGLA can say that they see faces, characters and action in the lights and shadows of your paintings.  Can you confirm if this is deliberate and in keeping with your surrealist style?

Hmmm, well the light and shadows are crucial to giving the paintings their character.  Recently when I’ve been looking at the collection all together, I think there’s a very slight hint of menace about some of them (although I’m only talking about a cartoony sort of menace) – as if something was lurking in the shadows.  I didn’t put any literal faces or characters in there on purpose – apart from the creepy mask-wearing people in ‘Carnival.’  But you know how in fairytales and Disney films, trees and other features of the landscape are given human characteristics like long reaching arms and gnarly arthritic fingers?  That sort of imagery is definitely in my mind when I’m painting landscapes.

Where do you want to be in the future?

Just doing what I do, but over time I keep altering the balance between each thing – painting, writing, hypnotherapy, and a couple of other things which I do more as hobbies.  In the last two years, most of my energy has gone into getting myself established as a hypnotherapist, leaving not-much time for other creative projects.  So in the next phase of my life, painting may become more prominent, and hopefully writing will follow suit.  Hypnotherapy will still be my main job, but my practice is reaching a stage where I don’t have to be giving it constant attention. 

Of all the art forms or projects I do, there isn’t one that I would want to have precedence over the others for very long –so I’m not someone who in an ideal world would want to spend all their time writing, or all their time dancing, or whatever.   I’m happy when I can move between different projects in a cyclical sort of way.  It’s not fickle because the cycles always come around again.  So, it might seem that I’ve ‘lost interest’ in something that used to be important to me, but I haven’t really – anything that’s important will eventually come back into the foreground. 

Carnival:  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“...if you actually want to study a particular subject - whether Art or something else - then do; but I'd advise against doing anything because it seems like the safe or sensible thing to do. It really is counter-productive.”

From September 2012, universities can charge from £6000 to £9000 a year for their courses. Although the institutions that choose to charge the maximum will have to prove they are increasing access to students from poorer backgrounds.  The choice to increase fees lies with each individual university, but because their funding has been dramatically slashed, it’s likely they’ll all be asking for the full whack.  This now means that young adults who are deciding on a potential university courses have to think longer, harder and more sensibly about the right course for them as making any wrong decisions could not only be a waste of valuable time but also it could prove to be a very expensive mistake.

Another important factor that most young adults consider before making the choice between the right and wrong course is employability.  According to a recent article in the Guardian, recent research suggests, graduates without work experience stand little chance of securing a job this year despite a rise in vacancies.  These facts put together will probably increase the pressure on those students who wish to get educated from a higher educational body, but at the same time wish to make themselves more employable in the current job market.  And for those whose creative skills are not suitable for the conventional job market, such as Artist, Musicians, Poets, etc it maybe that the decision between a practical course that would be more financially beneficial may prove more appealing than that of studying a creative course which may result in you being an artist, struggling to make ends meet post university.  We at PGLA would strongly suggest that whatever you decide to do regarding your future, you should always make learning and practice your number one priority.   When making choices about a course or career, you will be more successful choosing something that you are genuinely passionate about rather than opting for something that you think will be more financially beneficial to you.

Here are some links to pages that are related to some of the topics discussed within this article.  We hope that they will prove to be useful to you. But before you click away from this page, we highly recommend that if you live in or are passing through Birmingham between February –  April 2012, be sure to check out Hanna Leach collection of impressionist paintings at the The Old Joint Stock.

Thanks for plugging in Guys and a great big thank you to Hannah Leach for providing us with a very insightful look into  ‘The Art of Survival’  for self employed Artists alike.


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