"It’s a great encouragement when artists whose work you admire so much select your painting to hang in the exhibition, and then a real thrill and a boost to see it up on the wall at the private view"
Haidee-Jo Summers ROI RSMA on selling her first work at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, her studio space and developing an abundance mindset
You and the ROI
Why did you want to join the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?
I first heard about the society when I was in my early twenties and was encouraged by a member to enter. That first time I entered I won a prize in the young artists' award and from then on I dared to hope that one day I might become a member. It became my driving ambition.
Why should artists want to exhibit with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?
It’s a great encouragement when artists whose work you admire so much select your painting to hang in the exhibition, and then a real thrill and a boost to see it up on the wall at the private view.
I’ve seen time and again how the members are so warm and encouraging to new exhibitors. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of the ROI show.
Why should people want to buy art from the Royal Institute of Oil Painters?
We are showing the best work of the year by many of the UK’s best oil painters, and have a fantastic array of subject matters and styles on display with a wide range of sizes and prices.
There are so many paintings to love, the hardest thing is narrowing down your choices!
Past or present, what artist from the ROI do you most admire?
This is a hard question because all my contemporaries are outstanding and it’s difficult to pick just a few! Past members I would say Laura Knight, Dorothea Sharp and Walter Sickert of course, plus Tony Merrick who is so much missed.
Of the current membership, Ken Howard and David Curtis have been the most inspirational to me. I should add Peter Brown for being such a powerhouse and Adebanji Alade who keeps everybody encouraged and smiling!
What is your favourite work in this year’s exhibition?
Can I pick two? Ice cream by Craig Lee and Paddy by Adam Ralston. Apart from being beautifully painted they both have that warm nostalgia for summers gone by and hopefully the summers yet to come when we get through this strange time!
What paints make up your palette?
Do you frame your own work?
I used to hand paint all my frames but now I have a couple of framers and the frames arrive ready for me to pop the paintings in. I worked at a framer many years ago so I don’t mind doing the fitting part at all.
What is your favourite art supplies store?
It’s Jacksons Art that I always turn to. Living quite remotely in Lincolnshire they always seem to have everything I need and I love their bespoke oil primed linen canvasses. But my brushes always come from Rosemary & Co.
You, Your Work and Your Studio
What gallery did you first sell work at?
I did little local exhibitions straight after graduating and around the same time I had my first success exhibiting with the ROI in 1997 and the painting sold. It was around £300 (we've checked our records and it was £575!) which seemed like an absolute fortune to me, probably a month’s wages at the picture framers.
All the other paintings I was selling at that time would have been priced between £20 and £100. I really wish I knew who bought that painting so I could have thanked them!
Where do you produce your best work? Do you work en plein air and finish in the studio?
I produce most of my work en plein air so I have to say that’s my best work, although I am really keen to explore other avenues in the studio, such as paintings being composed of many layers of paint as a contrast to the one shot alla prima ones.
I’d also like to do larger work outside in multiple sessions. There’s so much more I need to challenge myself with.
Do you have any rituals or routines when preparing and starting a painting?
Well in the studio I start the morning with a coffee and lighting the woodburning stove which is a lovely way to start to the day.
When I’m ready to start painting I put my apron on and that means business.
Where is your studio and what’s it like?
My studio is in our garden in Lincolnshire. It’s a huge 1970s concrete workshop which we’ve extended and remodelled to make a dry, well-insulated, airy space with a high ceiling and painted wooden beams and lots of windows.
I also have a mezzanine level at one end which is where I sit and read or sketch or work on my laptop with the cat and dog in front of the fire.
I paint from a model up here when I can, and have lots of fun props and cheerful fairy lights. I’m so lucky to have all this wonderful space to myself and I love it to bits.
What advice would you give an artist wanting to join the ROI?
Have faith in your own voice and follow the ideas wherever they take you. Don’t try to emulate anybody else, we want to hear your authentic voice. When you paint what gets you fired up it shows in the work and that’s really exciting for us to see.
Save your best work throughout the year, put it to one side so that you’re not caught out when submission time rolls around again.
And I would say reach out to us members on social media or face to face at events and private views. We are a friendly bunch I promise, and we’ve ALL been in your shoes and want to help and encourage you.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
I learned early on that it was important to put your work forward and enter exhibitions and competitions. Don’t expect to always be selected or win a prize, just keep putting it out there and persevere. Celebrate the highs, shrug off the lows, there’s always another chance around the corner.
The other thing I’m glad I realised early on in my career because it was a big shift for my thinking, is that there really is enough room in this art world for all of us. You don’t want to waste your energies feeling envious of others success, there are plenty of opportunities for all.
They call it an abundance mindset and it’s well worth cultivating one!
'Reflections from the Artist' is an ongoing series of reflection, advice from and insight into the practice of artists who exhibit at Mall Galleries.
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