Tuesday 14th May: I've just had to increase class prices I'm afraid. Nothing stays the same, does it? The canvases have gone up (considerably) and I'm not prepared to shop around for cheaper options as I think the standard is then compromised. All paint prices have increased, plus I am adding a higher quality brand of professional paints where I can too.
Then there's the things that aren't always obvious, like electricity, business rates, sundries like tea, coffee, baby wipes & kitchen towel....... I could go on, but you get my drift.
The increase isn't huge. Class rates are now £50 per student - if you bring a friend you each receive a £5 discount. Private classes remain at £65 per student, but if you bring a friend you each receive a £15 discount instead of a £20 discount.
The price increase will only effect NEW bookings. Existing bookings were made before this new rate, so will be honoured.
It's a perfect opportunity actually to mention the duration of my classes:
As my classes are smaller, the classes pretty much run for 3 to 3 and a half hours. In the past they've run anything between 4 - 5 and a half hours depending on numbers in class and class subject.
The time reduction is because there aren't as many students - my home studio can only hold between 4 - 5 students max, depending on the painting subject.
If you imagine a class of 10 students - calculate if I was to spend just 10 minutes personal tuition on each student (in addition to the demo). You can see how easily this can add time onto a class.Another time saving strategy ........................... students NEVER have to clean out their brushes. I always have ample fresh ones to hand. So again, calculate 10 students lining up around a couple of cleaning stations and spending just 10 minutes total on brush cleaning. Again, you can see how easily this can add time to a class. No time is spent during a lesson in student's cleaning their brushes, palettes or work area. That's something that can take me a good hour or more at the end of the lesson after the students have left. (Incidentally, it can take me an hour or more to set up before a class too)
Third time saving strategy ....... students can view my demo stages from their seats when painting in my home studio. No need to come to the front of a hall, watch the demo and return to seats. Again - if you calculate that a class would have to leave their seats to come and watch the demo at the front of the hall, en masse, at least 8 times during the course of a lesson. Each demo period approx 10 minutes, maybe longer if there are questions ....... It's the getting up and getting back to seats that saves the time here. Not a lot of time saving, agreed, but it all adds up. (Any questions are raised and answered throughout the lesson anyway.)
Forth time saving strategy ....... we don't stop for tea breaks - we pretty much take those as we go. I make the tea/coffee and bring it to your work station. There's no need to stop for a 30 min lunch break as the classes have ended in time for lunch.
So really, to conclude, I just want to emphasize, although my classes run for a shorter period of time than (years) before - it's for the reasons above. The standard of teaching and the personal tuition given, if anything, is greater due to lower class numbers. The products used are always of a high standard. I wouldn't want anyone to feel short-changed when comparing to classes that run for 4 - 5 plus hours :)
Of course - when I conduct a 'hall' class of up to 15 students, forget all of the above and allow a good 4-5 hours - again, for all of the reasons above. LOL
Tuesday 14th May: We've got a new addition to the gym ....... a cycling machine! I'm just not getting out and about on my bike as much as I would like. By having a really good cycle machine on hand, it doesn't matter if I'm in my PJ's, just got up ...... or if it's 11pm at night and dark ....... I can still clock up some miles. (And quite often they are the very times I'm ready for a little exercise)
Calories need to be burned !!
A week all-inclusive holiday ........ followed by 2 weeks of giving up smoking, substituting the cigs with jelly beans and chocolate buttons will have me busting out of my jeans (or wedding dress) if I'm not careful !
You won't mind if I pat myself on the back for starting my 16th day tobacco free :)
Tuesday 14th May: I'd like to say a big thanks to all your messages, well wishes and cards regarding my forthcoming marriage. It's such an exciting time and we're relishing every little bit of the planning - even the bits that haven't turned out as expected. An after wedding venue, that seemed a definite cert, was sadly disappointing in reality so our search continues. And that in itself is fun - gathering friends and family personal recommendations. I have a strong hunch tomorrow's appointment will come up trumps.
Tuesday 14th May: A quick update to the classes page again. I've removed the dates that are booked, it's not leaving many left for June & July. I've got a series of Saturday portrait classes booked with availability, so if this might interest you, be sure to book your place pretty quickly.
Tuesday 7th May: Some tearing about to do this week as we have a couple of venues to check out for our Wedding Reception after work. All very exciting stuff for us both. It's quite surreal checking out wedding dresses, invites, menu's, but also a happy time.
Stef is insisting on being a bridesmaid. Bless, she even made us a special, just for 2, 'congratulations' cake with a note attached reminding us of her bridesmaid role!!
The Best Man is sorted, I've arranged for a special person to give me away too. This is quite a brilliantly positive phase for us as we make plans for the ceremony later this year.
I reckon, at the speed we're going we can have everything finalised before the end of the month - maybe sooner.
Tuesday 7th May: Just a reminder to let you know that classes in May are fully booked. I do have availability for next month but I would book up quick as the dates will soon go.
And a note to people booking private lessons ....... it doesn't matter if you can't select a painting subject 4-5 days in advance of the class. I can always select something for you.
Tuesday 7th May: How one thing can lead to another ......... while chatting to a couple of holiday makers in the bar one evening, we got onto the subject of pets. I was rummaging around on my phone to find a picture of Nelson, our little sphynx kitten, to show them.
The first picture I came across was the oil portrait I made just before Christmas ........... and that led to showing (by request) several celebrity oil portraits.
Anyway, long story short - I've come back from holiday with a pet portrait commission, a family portrait commission, a 'couple' commission, a landscape commission and an invite to return to the neighbouring hotel for art business.
Not sure how much of this will be holiday talk - we'll see nearer the time :)
Tuesday 7th May: Well ..................................... what a wonderful Holiday.
They say a picture paints a thousand words ...... so I'm hoping this photo sums up the holiday experience :)
Back to earth with a bump - which was softened by a beautiful sunny long Bank Holiday weekend - AND by booking another holiday for later in the year.
Well, I say holiday ...... I mean HONEYMOON !!!!!!!
Monday 8th April: I'm not sure how this is working ....... but it is! I haven't put class subject photos against any of my class dates yet the booking are still coming in.
Saturday I taught an oil portrait and a pop art portrait simultaneously - no problem there as the students pick their own subject anyway.
Sunday I taught a beautiful scene from Yellowstone Park, from a National Geographic calender.
My drawers and email inbox are slowly filling with a number of magazine clippings, photos, post cards, prints of things students would like to paint. Often the finished painting is sat in my studio drying, so students are booking from those pictures too.
Keep the inspiration flowing - I am loving the challengea. Of course, not everything is always suitable, but there's no harm in asking.
Monday 8th April: I have some regular American students who are really, really bitten by the painting bug. They caught the fever when I was teaching on base a couple of years ago and still like to keep their hand in.
Now these lady's come armed with handfuls of stuff ...... they have their boxes to protect their paintings on the journey home, their class snacks - BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY they bring me little treats. Unusual treats. Like snickerdoodles, peanut cookies, chinese savoury crackers, German ginger bisbuits, a vast range of chocolates, cream cakes.... oh the list goes on. They tell me it's the new 'apple for the teacher'.
This week, as they know I'm watching what I eat, they brought me mini stuff. Melinde gave me the most pretty box of chocolate batons, all done up in a turquoise velvet ribbon. Maryalice brought me a sealed bag of goodies which I didn't even look at till after I had cleared up. WOW 8 little miniature cupacakes - all different flavours too. Made by the hands of fairys.
They really look too pretty to eat, and Steffi has claimed the peanut butter one already.
Combined with Ben arranging for dinner out in the afternoon I'm not really on a winning streak to lose those last couple of pounds before holiday, am I?
I better get the bike out .......................
Monday 8th April: I've just updated the class schedule with available dates till the end of September. (I've decided to take August off BTW.) Lets hope I've picked the best summer month.
I've put the class times from 9 - 12, but students already know I'm flexible on these times if they don't suit. I'm happy to start the odd class at 8am (thanks to S & J for changing their class starting time at such short notice the other week). The latest I like to start is about 12 - 1 pm ish though.
This Saturday we had a really lovely bright and sunny class. The first of the year with sunshine. After cleaning the brushes and prepping the studio for Sunday's class, I promised myself a bike ride.............but.........the garden looked too tempting. So I joined Ben in the garden till nearly 6pm doing some much needed tidying and garden maintenance work.
For the first time in well over 10 years we finally have a flat bottom. There's always been a pile of bonfire rubbish of some sort down there. Hopefully with a bit of seed, we can get it green again too.
Thursday March 28th: Firstly - many thanks for all the birthday wishes, face book messages, text messages etc. very
much appreciated. Yes, I was spoilt rotten. Celebrations will continue into the long weekend (which we are all very much looking forward to).
I had the most hilarious dessert made for me - so be sure when you come along to your class to ask me about it. I could barely eat it for the tears running down my face.
Shame about the weather forecast as we have a garden fund we're dying to spend - we were hoping to have at least half a day getting our hands dirty.
We're eager to get some colour in the pots and borders ready to enjoy the patio in the warmer weather. Never mind, we'll just have to get our colour fix from some studio time instead.
Here's wishing you all a very Happy Easter, may you enjoy your Bank Holiday with loved ones.
And remember what Easter is all about .............. CHOCOLATE !!!! ;)
Monday March 18th: We all have fears or phobias of some kind, don't we? Well, just over a years ago a private student walked into my studio. She's since become a wonderful friend. Together we've painted all manner of things in all kinds of mediums. Janet's actually been responsible for some of the new painting subjects I've introduced over the last 12 months too as she often has her own ideas about what to paint. And sometimes we don't even decide what we're painting until the actual day of the lesson.
Anyway's ...... I digress. I have the most horrendous fear of the dentist and really have to be in agony before I will voluntarily go to one.
Luckily for me, Janet just happens to be a dentist. We've discussed my issues and she has managed to get me to book an appointment with her. Turns out my teeth are nowhere near as bad as I had imagined, with just 2 teeth needing treatment. (Not bad since I haven't sat in a dentist's chair for well over 6 years). I have my 3rd appointment with her this week and I'm actually not dreading it at all. In fact, I'm rather pleased the work will be completed before holiday.
Now, all I need is for a decent cleaner, cat bather & nail clipper, gardener and wallpaperer to come along as a student and I'm sure I'll be able to use their services too. Anyone ?
Monday March 18th: The mystery of the gallery room (see Feb 8th's entry)? Well, that's become a fully equipped gym. Punchbags, bench press, weights, bars, rowing machine, Thai pads, boxing gloves, wraps, body fat/bmi measuring gadget............ and a few other bits. The equipment seems to grow by the week.
But - the room is finally getting well used by Ben. Stef and I have had a few sessions in there too.
Ironically - the punchbag with 'Everlast' written all over it has split not once, but twice. It was quickly replaced after the first split, but Ben reckons it actually looks better with the duck tape round it now.
I did put a student in there the other week so she could prep her pop art portrait while I was teaching another student an oil portrait in the studio. When I went in to check her progress I did notice the punch bag was swinging. She couldn't resist a little go. LOL
Monday March 18th: Wow - has it really been that long since I updated Sue's News !!!!
Thing is - I hardly sit in my office these days - I really do need to add some new paintings to the website as student's had brought along some lovely projects to paint from photos recently which are now available to all as class subjects.
It's been quite busy this past month with a variety of different classes going on. I'm surprised at the amount of bookings I'm getting despite not posting images on the 'Art Classes
' page. The system seems to be working, so I'm not going to knock it.
For students wanting a painting session with me, I have just one free date for April (13th) but I do have 3 available dates still in May .................. oooops, no, make that 2.
I've added some new dates to the Classes page, taking us into July and I'm still intending on taking a month off in the Summer. Just not sure which month yet.
But ..... being the impatient person that I am, I just cannot wait for the Summer for a bit of sunshine. So, we've just booked a little trip to top up our vitamin D levels. I'll be able to practice my Arabic too ........... (or realise how much of it I've lost over the years).
Monday February 11th: Portrait lessons ...... it might be an idea, when booking your portrait lessons, to pre-book all 3 dates at once to ensure you're 'in'.
Class dates are filling pretty quickly and although there's still some availability for this month, I have no more availability for March.
I'm looking to close classes for a month over the Summer too - just not sure which month to pick just yet, June, July or August. That's assuming we get a summer :)
Friday February 8th: Oooooo, we've got a heck of a lot of work this evening if we want to be straight in the studio for tomorrow's class.
The gallery/shop room has been totally cleared out. All the holes in the wall are filled and it's had it's first coat of paint.
But ....... a fair portion of the 'junk' has been dumped in the studio, waiting to be found new homes. Half my sideboard was filled with all the equipment from my campervan and fortunately this has done a good turn for a friend who's recently moved.
Tonight I need to clear out the kitchenette cupboards and get rid of all the redundant cutlery, crockery, electrical bits and stuff. Instead I can fill the shelves with more art bits. I really do hate clutter and prefer the worktops in there to remain clear, with everything behind closed doors.
Hopefully our new project for the gallery room will be operational by Sunday. It will be transformed to something we can all use as a family - plus probably a few neighbours too!
All will be revealed in the fullness of time.
Tuesday February 5th: ........and while I'm on here doing a bit of updating, I just can't resist the urge to have another little pruning session. You probably don't even notice the cut's I've been making, but a couple more pages have been chopped and I really prefer the size of the website now.
I guess in the website early days I fell foul of just adding and adding to the content. With pages and sub pages that kept growing and growing! I felt at the time I was doing a good thing - the bigger the better.
But my views have really changed over the last year. It's quality, not quantity that viewers want. I know how frustrated I
feel when I visit a website that needs a considerable amount of navigation before I can find the information I want ..... that's if I have the patience. And I can certainly do without sub page menu's, with each page opening in a seperate browser, what was I thinking???
Tuesday February 5th: I've just updated my painting class page with some more dates - taking us into May.
I've not included any photos of painting subjects as the student's can choose for themselves from the current options. It's pretty much the way I've been working recently - some students even supplying their own photo reference material too.
You'll note the dates are weekends ....... and there's a reason for that.
Early December last year I received a job offer that was too good to turn down. Combined with a slow November and December I seriously considered all my options and decided, at the end of December, to go for it. The job was full time, so you can imagine the amount of deliberation I had to do. I was fortunate that my new Boss was more than happy to honour all my existing weekday art commitments.
My first (art) working week of January saw 3 class cancellations, my second week saw 2 more cancellations and my 3rd week saw a further 4 cancellations. All cancellations have re-booked but the shortfall didn't help my January budget. On top of that, the weather caused another couple of class cancellations too.
If ever I needed a sign that I made the right decision - there it was.
So I'd like to say, thanks to all my regulars who have switched to weekend dates and thanks to all the new students who seem more than happy to work in with my new schedule too.
I'm still able to do 'big' classes (up to 15 students) - even if they fall on a week day - and look forward to teaching a couple of regular art groups later this year. Of course, if anyone would like a large group session (or demo) just ring me when you have a date in mind and as long as I have enough notice (especially if it involves me hiring a hall), it's all perfectly do-able.
I'll be winding down my stock too ...... everything apart from the DVD's and Valerie Stewart brand of paints and brushes will be available at a reduced price until it's gone. I'll just carry enough 'spares' for my own and class use but that will be it. Judging by the amount sold at yesterday's demo - it's not going to be hanging around for long.
Tuesday February 5th: My little gallery & shop room will shortly be undergoing a make over. We have another idea for the space and I'm certain, with a bit of re-juggling, all the (remaining) product stock can be contained in the kitchen area.
This will put the Studio out of order for a few days and there's a chance, depending on delivery dates of some equipment, it may disrupt a couple of classes. Apologies in advance if that happens, but I will re-schedule any lessons that are affected
Monday February 4th: It's been a full weekend of family celebrations and very enjoyable they were too. My sister turned nifty fifty!! A joint effort (mine & Ben's, obviously) family portrait was well received - but we will have to take it back temporarily so we can have some prints made. That's one of the lovely things about special paintings, especially portraits - they can be professionally replicated so everyone gets to have a copy.
A couple of consecutive very late nights took their toll though .... I only just managed to muster up the energy to load my car and prep the studio for Monday's art group demo and home studio class.
Sunday January 20th: It was a 'no-go' on the classes this weekend, and definitely the right decision. As I type this on Sunday at 3pm, it's been snowing here since 7am. I spy 4 inches of snow on the pillars on my back patio so far. Yesterday morning Ben help push 2 cars up the road as Windmill Hill is solid compact ice.
It's given me time to catch up on things indoors and today we had a studio day anyway.
Ben's continuing with his work on a special portrait and I'm working on a pastel.
I'm about half way finished on this licking leopard, as you can see there's quite a bit of work to be done down his nose, mouth and tongue but on the whole I'm enjoying this new medium.
Thursday January 17th: Another question that has come up ..... painting class gift vouchers.
I have removed these from the website as I don't want anyone making a purchase without fully understanding the regularity of my classes.
There are no longer classes in my home studio on weekdays. I am happy, however, to conduct group classes in outside venues and halls on weekdays for any art or other group that would like to paint. The Capel studio classes are weekends only.
So - yes, I still do the gift vouchers for both normal and private classes, but you need to contact me directly if you want to purchase any.
Wednesday January 16th: It might look pretty but it's a bugger to drive in......not to mention the time it takes to de-ice the car. The question has been asked - 'What if you've paid a deposit for a class and it is cancelled due to the snow?' The answer is - I'll roll the deposit over to another date. My mind goes back to last year when we were teaching over a weekend in Norfolk. The Saturday was problem free but the huge amount of snowfall that came down on the Saturday night made the driving conditions extremely hazardous for the Sunday. Thankfully Ben took over the driving but I was on the edge of my seat with my heart in my mouth for the latter part of the journey. So I wouldn't want anyone else to attempt driving in such conditions just for the sake of a lesson that can be re-scheduled.
Speaking of which, I may well have to make a no-go decision for this weekend's classes after looking at the weather forecast........we'll see how things are on Friday.
Friday January 11th: Some more streamlining to the website ......
I've had a downsizing session and either reduced or deleted pages. The layout of the class schedule in particular has changed. This page has now been updated to show the available dates to the end of April.Hopefully this will make the website much quicker and easier to navigate.
Secondly: Painting subjects. I'm trimming down this gallery to remove the older paintings. I think some have had their day. But - the addition of new painting subjects isn't quite as rapid I'm afraid. So I've decided to put something into play that I had pretty much been doing anyway since last Autumn, as regular student's are already aware. I am happy for students to provide their own reference material if they can't find something in my class subject gallery. All you need to do is email me your image at least a week before the class, so I can make sure it's suitable for a lesson. If I don't think it can be taught then we can discuss the options. This has the potential to open up new avenues and it's something I've learned from recent courses I've attended. NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO BE PAINTED IN A SINGLE LESSON Some more complex subjects can be covered over 2 or 3 lessons, as we do in portraits or like Joyce Ortner does with her beautiful seascapes. I can make the call on that though when studying potential painting subjects and let you know.
Tuesday January 8th: Playtime in the studio has been fun. I've been working on a pastel portrait, Ben has been experimenting with some abstract-ish knife work (which is also a great way of using up re-cycled canvases).
Last month I attended some pastel courses and I'm liking the results & enjoying discovering the effects that can be accomplished with this media. It doesn't hurt for me to be the student instead of the teacher once in a while too. It definately helps to be working outside my comfort zone so I can appreciate what my newer students experience.
Working by yourself at home is great - but I do know what student's mean when they tell me they need a 'Sue' at home with them to guide them through their home projects. I'm currently working on a leopard portrait and I wish my tutor was close at hand as I feel, even though I took notes & photo's, I need a bit more guidance. We'll see how it turns out ......
Meanwhile - here's a snap of my first animal pastel portrait. It's about 3 times the amount of work as an oil portrait but the results are a lot more defined and refined. I quite like it and will hang on in there for a good while longer ........ Plus I had company on this course as I recommended it to one of my students. Hopefully a few more of my portrait students will join me when I book another session.
Wednesday January 2nd: Hoping all my readers had a fabulous Christmas and wishing you all the very best for 2013.
It's a time for making resolutions and I'm happy to say my first resolution isn't as bitter as I had anticipated - no more sugar in coffee :)
Next up is a regular exercise routine, which will have to be indoors until I feel it's warm enough to get the pushbike out on the road again. (I know, I could jump on it now, as it's dry, and do the 10 mile route but I'm just too cosy to brave the elements).
And lastly - play time. I've missed it and my excitement has been rejuvinated over the Christmas time off. It's been great to escape into the studio and just play - and have someone to play with. So we MUST do more of that.
Over the course of the last year, I've attended a few 'different' art courses myself, learning new techniques and new media and not followed it through by practicing what I've learned as much as I should.
With a day off today, I'm looking forward to a massive studio tidy-up followed by some fun with pastels before setting things up for tomorrows class.
Right ....... let's get the Wi Fit on and let battle commence :)