The Great British High Street Awards 2016

For several years the Great British High Street Awards has focused on town centres throughout the country, looking for the best one, the one that is doing all they can to help the town thrive and survive. This year they teamed up with Twitter to search for the best GB Twitter shop, and how thrilled were we here at The Artery to discover that we had been nominated in the summer, and later astounded that we had made it into the final three in October!

The public were then asked to vote daily for a month for their favourite twitter shop out of the three. In the running was Fleetwood Beach Hut – a lovely little beach front cafe, Heart Gallery – a lovely gallery in Hebden Bridge….and us!

On Monday (12th December), Jacqui and I attended the awards ceremony, and what an amazing day it was! The venue for the day was Lancaster House in London – opposite Clarence House, and around the corner from Buckingham Palace. We had our I.D.s checked by the police officer in the guard box, shown into the building and welcomed by the doorman. The huge hallway lined with gilt plaster work, a winding double staircase, and beautiful paintings. After collecting our badges and programme, we were invited up to the music room for refreshments.

Walking through the large ornate double doors we were immediately photographed and saw dozens of people all chatting, laughing and discussing all dressed in their finery. We chatted to people from all over the country all there as finalists in their respective town category, chatted to Hilary Paxman the head judge and drank coffee all in the room where Chopin played and taught piano to the original owners of the building. Such opulence, and beauty.

As the morning progressed, Dan Biddle the Director of Strategic innovation for Twitter UK approached the microphone to talk about our category. We were mentioned first and he spoke about how he loved our creativeness. he said ‘you would expect creativity from an art shop, but The Artery goes above and beyond this’. He talked about how we not only show what we sell, but also how we interact with our twitter followers and use humour and art in a wonderful way. He used Jacqui’s idea of our little wooden manikins as an example of ‘genius’.

Fleetwood Beach Hut was announced the winner, but for this little shop to be in the top three shops on twitter in the country is something we are immensely proud of. It helps galvanise us that even though sometimes it can be hard running a bricks and mortar shop in a digital age, that people do appreciate us being there. It spurs us on to greater things.

Sitting in the Long Gallery at the awards ceremony surrounded by businesses and groups of people from all over the country, all passionate about keeping town centres alive and thriving was a wonderful thing. It shows that there are people who care and who want us to succeed. We had a day we will never forget. Thank you to everyone that voted for us and got us in the top three shops in the country, the best twitter shop in the county for that matter. Thank you!

What Quality Art Materials Should I Purchase?

Can any art materials make a decent painting? Simply put, no. The quality of your materials greatly affects the quality of your work. Beginners will often say that they will go for the cheapest materials to start with and as they improve, get better quality ones.

The harsh fact is, with the cheapest materials, they will never make a marked improvement. Paper, especially watercolour paper, is one area where money shouldn’t be scrimped on. Real watercolour paper is sized both sides with gelatine; this is so the paint has time to be reworked and specialist techniques can be used before the gelatine breaks down and the paint is absorbed in the paper.

Cheap watercolour paper is not properly sized and is in effect, blotting paper. The paint is just absorbed straight away, leaving you no time to do anything with it. If money needs to be considered then you do not need to go for the expensive cotton rag paper like Arches or Fabriano, just stick to the wood pulp watercolour paper like Bockingford, Cotman or Langton. This is not cheap as such.

An A4 pad of 12 sheets is around £9 but you can use both sides. Unlike food, supermarket own brands of watercolour paper are markedly inferior to the named brands. A tip I will give is to buy a much larger pad size than you need. I always buy an A2 size pad. 12 sheets costs around £22, but each sheet makes four A4 sheets. So when you work out the value, it is much cheaper.

Also, get a decent weight of paper. I would recommend paper of at least around 300gsm (140lb) as this will take quite a bit of water and is a good all-rounder. You can even use it for acrylic painting or pastels. Brushes and paints too will also have differing qualities so don’t be swayed by price. Stick to reputable brand names or ask your local art shop for advice.