NB: I havent painted since this exhibition.. I think I used up a big chuck of my creative energy producing the collection… but Its coming back… I can feel the need to get out the paints again!!!!his was the review from my exhibition in 20010
When Pontefract based artist Sam Pattison-O’Brien set up her first ever solo exhibition in a disused Castleford furniture shop ‘Bridge Arts’. She took the unusual step of including her touring caravan in the display, which soon became the star attraction.
Best not let Sam catch you calling it a ’Caravan’ though ‘It’s a Pixie Pad’ she exclaimed!
Surrounded by picnic chairs, tables, china cups, saucers and plates, plus lots of references to her beloved Angels (including Angel’s wings and Angel cakes). You will find, of course, her beautiful eye catching paintings taking centre stage. Sam had certainly spent so much time and dedication making the gallery so warm and inviting, shall we compare it to a summer’s day?
One wonders should we have taken along our vacuum flask, sandwiches and bottles of orange juice and enjoyed the rest of afternoon, maybe having a picnic in the large plate glass window, peered at by curious onlookers?
I think a better idea would be to allow Sam to reveal all about her intriguing display.
‘I have always gone to music festivals all over England like Glastonbury and the smaller ones too, But in the last few years I went in order to set up art workshops in these lovely spaces. When these events are televised you see only big stages, lights, and crowds of people. But there are many interesting individuals attending, who all add their little bit in creating the tremendous atmosphere festivals are famous for’.
‘I began to realise that there was enough scope for other talented Yorkshire artist’s to come along and join in too’ so she set up a space surrounding her ‘Pixie Pad’ called ‘Angel Gardens’ where Sam and her Angels run art workshops, festival weddings and creative activities. She calls her crew her ‘Angel’s’ and more or less everyone is from Yorkshire. ‘The one thing that’s important to us is that we are taking any skills we may possess from our own county and showing others in different parts of the U. K what we can do.’ ‘It’s all about inputting into the community and giving out creative energy. We decorate peoples bodies, get folk involved in arts and crafts, build willow sculptures, ( There is a lovely willow Angel in the exhibition) and paint glass jars transforming them into colourful lanterns. We all work around a campfire, and are surrounded by lots of old fashioned bell tents’.
‘I soon became so inspired by all these creative people coming together; I wanted to capture all the individuals onto canvas. The pictures you see here in the exhibition are portraits of my ‘Angels’ the people who have spent magical times with me in ‘Angel Gardens’.
‘I started by photographing the people with my mobile phone unawares. My photos were not about fantastic lighting or cleverly getting my subject to pose in a particular way, they are about capturing that moment at that time. It’s not until afterwards I set about painting my subjects onto canvas’.
I personally found Sam’s paintings themselves so vibrant with colour, so uplifting and fresh. I asked how she achieves this unusual effect especially when taking the unusual step of working watercolour on canvas? ‘It’s all down to the paint; it’s not very often that artists apply watercolour to canvas’ she told me. The technique was discovered purely by accident, one day picking the wrong paint up on her brush. ‘I kept working away because I loved the way the watercolour was sitting on the canvas, it had a beautiful sense of transparency together with its vivid colour that I found fascinating’
‘The paint I discovered was dictating to me rather than me to it, by moving itself around on the canvas running and splurging about’.
‘The backgrounds however are painted simply with emulsion paint from B&Q it’s the flattest paint I’ve come across and sometimes adding chalk to achieve even flatter results.
Sam’s backgrounds are always plain, blocking out the distraction of other people and objects. Her subjects are all about individuals who attend festivals, each one having their own story to tell.
She singled out one particular picture from the rest, a portrait of a man with long dreadlocks. ‘Now here’s an interesting story’ Sam went on to show me around the corner where a picture of a couple is hung. ‘It’s the same man, this time without the dreadlocks; you’d never guess it was the same person would you? His life has changed so much, and he’s a different person now with a different life. It’s really nice to see the old ‘him’ and the new ‘him’ in the same room a real celebration of his life’s journey’.
Sam’s own story must be an inspiration to others, as she suffers from severe Dyslexia, and was told at school she wouldn’t go very far, and have no chance of passing any exam’s.
‘I used to sit in class and wonder to myself what on earth are they talking about? I never felt that I fit in at school, even when I tried being more fashionable or following the ‘in’ bands, it never quite worked, I was always on the edge of the crowd’.
‘One day a teacher told me Sam you need to concentrate on dancing, drama and art because that’s all you can hope to do well in’. Not to be defeated she took up the offer of a place at Wakefield College, where she studied fine art, then finding herself accepted in to university two years later.
‘When I got to University I realised I could do something much more academic, I hounded my tutors until my degree was changed to philosophy as well as fine art, and I absolutely shined. Although I knew the words I wanted to say, I didn’t have the spelling or the grammar, it didn’t hold me back though, thanks to my computer and spell checking I was able to put my theories across. Since graduating in 1996, Sam went on to achieve teaching qualifications and later her MA in Art Psychotherapy. Currently working towards her PhD, Sam loves to share her skills. Teaching art to all age groups and levels as well as lecturing to students about the psychological nature of art making, she encourages students to think about how our brain allows individuals to be creative. ‘Creative thinking has such a positive effect on our mental health.’ She explains.
‘So, for all those teachers who told me, I wouldn’t get anywhere’ smiles Sam ‘I’m going to be a Doctor within a couple of years, not bad for someone that spent her entire school years staring out of the window’.
Sam’s first solo exhibition hasn’t been without its critic’s amazingly some from her own family. ‘What’s that caravan doing in here? that isn’t art’ one remarked. ‘Is it making you think?’ Sam asked, ‘Well then it’s art!!!’
The ‘Pixie Pad’ has reached celebrity status these days as everyone instantly recognises it. It’s even got over 200 fans on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pixiepad) and festival goers often ‘parp’ their horns as they pass. Originally bought for £200 plus £30 was spent on fabric for curtains and cushions from various charity shops, Pixie is now quite a beauty. ‘Besides designing the interior, I decorated the exterior with flowers and fairies. The words from her family’s favorite songs, including ‘Over the Rainbow and ‘In Barefoot Day’s’ adorn the walls of the Pixie Pad ‘she is very special’ she says
The caravan acts as a focal point at the festivals, lost children head straight for her where they feel safe and can be reunited with their mums and dads. My children love her too, even William, her youngest at 4, refuses to call her a just a ‘caravan’.
And the teacup’s? well Sam explained with a mischievous smile, ‘rather everyone sitting around drinking alcohol out of cans and bottles, we pour it into the china cup’s so to anyone passing it looks like a quaint old fashioned tea party going on in Angel Gardens underneath the bunting, much nicer to look at I think’.
Finally I asked Sam if she considers herself to be a hippie?
She told me she doesn’t really know what that means,
‘- we live in suburbia and my husband has a sensible(ish) job, we, as a family live in a different way to most of our neighbors. We have different ideals, alternative ways of bringing up our children, we believe in peace and love and money isn’t our driving force, So if that constitutes us as hippies then Yes, you could say we were hippi ish’
Sam dedicated her first exhibition to her late father who died suddenly the day after she’d graduated from her MA. ‘His comment was always the same’ says Sam, when discussing her achievements ‘it was worth all that money sending her to college’ and indeed it was.
Sam is currently searching for other venues to park ‘Pixie’ together with her images of Angel Gardens. Hopefully then, the rest of Yorkshire can come along and experience this unique exhibition and celebrate Yorkshire art at its best, ‘ if not’ she laughs ‘we’ll see you at Glastonbury, under the white rose!’
Contact details: Sam Pattison-O’Brien. 07979 344902
List of photographs/captions.
N01 Pontefract artist, Sam Pattison-O’Brien and Pixie Pad, in ‘Angel Gardens’
N02 Woolly hat and Pixie pad.
N03 ‘Old aged not travelling’ man with Dreadlocks.
N04 ‘Prohibition #2 , (same man without his dreadlocks.)
N05 ‘I’m not a Hippie’ Libby (11) eldest of Sam’s two daughters.
N06 Hen Night.
N07 Lady Troll ( Sam dressed as a troll).
N08 Prohibition #1
N09 Teacup’s usually filled with alcohol.
N010 Angel cakes what else?
N011 Wicker Angel with wish tag’s. ( Made by Sam’s Angels)
N012 Sam Pattison-O’Brien.
N013 Sam’s Pixie pad.
N014 Pixies decoration.
N015 Teacups & Angel cakes.
N016 Interior of Pixie pad.
N017 Free Hug’s.
N018 Washing up.
N019 Sam Pattison-O’Brien at Bridge arts Castleford.
N020 Interior of Pixie Pad.
N021 Pharmacological engineer. ( Sam’s husband- out of work)
N022 Grace Mae, Sam’s middle daughter ( 8).
N023 Signposts at Angel gardens.
N0 24 Tent Obsession.
N025 Sam’s little boy ‘Billy Fest’.