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When my 49th birthday popped up on the horizon, it was inevitable I would embark on the ‘Fifty at Fifty’ art project for my 50th year. I’ve set myself projects throughout my career to push me out of my comfort zone in the same way that I push others through my teaching.
This time though, I wanted the project to count for something, not only because reaching 50 is a privilege, but so that it wasn’t all about me. It needed to be creative, just about achievable, able to be shared with as many as would like to follow my progress, and possibly be able to benefit a charity too… was that even possible?
I looked at one of my previous challenges – 30 days hath September – when I created a piece of work every day for a month and remembered that people enjoyed following what I came up with and many felt that it helped them to be creative too, so the number 50 was the driving point in my first thoughts about what I could put together.
Gradually, over a few long car journeys when I only had myself for company, I tossed around everything I could think of about the number fifty. Fifty tools, 50 sketchbook pages, 50 minutes… lots of ideas were floating around my head, but eventually I whittled it down to a project that I was happy was going to keep me and those who might want to learn more, engaged for a whole year.
So here we have it – ‘Fifty at Fifty’. Fifty paintings in my 50th year, auctioned with 50% of the profit going to a charity of my choosing and I am thrilled to be working with Dorset Wildlife Trust.
If you know my work then you won’t be surprised to learn that I have chosen a wildlife charity for this challenge, I am inspired every day by the countryside that surrounds me in my home county and the charity has had some major challenges in 2023. Climate change has had a huge impact on our environment and while there are things that I can do myself to help combat it in a small way, I want to be supporting those who think like I do and who have the capacity to influence change on a larger scale.
So where is the project at the moment? As you read this, I am just a little over halfway as, although my birthday is in August, the collection needs to be ready for May as it seemed fitting that it be available for exhibition during Dorset Art Weeks (25th May to 9th June, 2024).
I’ve been painting on a regular basis, and it has all been achievable up to now, but I am sure that it will get a little more pressured as the deadline approaches. The good news is that the work has already had bids and my website where you can view all the pieces so far, is gathering momentum.
I wanted to auction the paintings rather than sell them for a fee that I determined, as I wanted them to be affordable and to raise as much money as possible so I have started all of them at £50, and the auction has also meant that wherever you are in the world, you can see the paintings from the comfort of your own home.
All 50 will be available to view in person and bid on while you are here at the studio during Art Weeks, but if you would like to support me from afar, then it’s easy to do so.
The paintings are a collage of inspiration, some suggested by students, some from my own ideas, some from classes and yes, some have been pulled from the archives as I don’t mind admitting there have been a couple of weeks of blind panic when I haven’t had anything to show because I have just been too busy. There is no theme to link them, but perhaps the theme is simply me, heading towards my 50th year around the sun, inspired by anything and everything that I see around me.
You can read about the challenge, see the paintings, and place bids at: learningtopaint.co.uk/50-at-50
You can discover more about the Dorset Wildlife Trust here