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Studio Me artists Joshua Henderson & Veronica Watson reflect on their first exhibition.

As our exhibition Studio Me draws to a close, we look behind the scenes and hear from artists Joshua Henderson and Veronica Watson about what their studio residency has meant to them.

Studio Me grew out of Bluecoat’s established inclusive arts programme Blue Room, which has recently celebrated ten years of creative practice with a group show Blue Room at Ten, featuring the work of 35 artists. In contrast to the often collaborative and collective methods of creating art explored by the three Blue Room groups, Studio Me tries a new approach to supporting individual Blue Room members with their artistic development. Supported by facilitators, curators and other artists, Blue Room artists Veronica Watson and Joshua Henderson co-designed bespoke programmes of skills development for themselves, accessing resources at Bluecoat such as a studio space and the Print Studio. The project has also offered opportunities for them to connect with contemporary artists and explore artist-led spaces.

The artists began to create work in their studio at Bluecoat back in August 2018, each using the space in different ways. Henderson often used the studio as a base for storing his large scale work and trying out ways of displaying pieces. In addition to creating drawings, paintings and cut-outs in the studio, Henderson enjoyed the challenge of working in the etching studio adjacent to the space, where he developed printmaking skills with artist Becky Peach.

“For me it’s been great, etching’s been great - it was hard for me to do the big panoramics but I’m happy it turned out really well. I’m happy to have my own place to make my art work.”

Watson shared that she valued the ‘peace and quiet’ of the studio in contrast to a busy group workshop and said she enjoyed having a space dedicated to creating her work. During her residency Watson worked with visiting artist Tanya Raabe-Webber and fellow studio holder at Bluecoat, Pete Clarke to develop her painting skills. With her confidence growing, Watson developed her portraiture from beautifully observed pencil sketches to sensitive representational paintings, including her first self-portrait.

The artists began to share their work with visitors when the Studio Me exhibition launched at Bluecoat in November 2018. A room in the gallery was transformed into an active and evolving display which allowed each artist to add work as they created it. Visitors were invited to try out some of the techniques used by the artists at a popular interactive drawing table in the gallery.

“I was really excited about my work being up there in the gallery. I didn’t expect so many people on the opening night, I was surprised.  People said my work was very good. They said I should be proud of my work being up in the gallery.“ - Veronica Watson

For Henderson, the gallery became an extension of the studio as he often spent time in the space, interacting with visitors who learnt about the rich heritage of Liverpool through its architecture as the artist led them on a tour of his miniature skyline of ‘box buildings’.

“I wanted people to have a look at all of my art to see how passionate I am about it. It does make you happy if people want to meet you. I’m just proud I’m still an artist”

As the exhibition draws to a close, the artists are developing their portfolios and making connections beyond Bluecoat. Watson says, “I have sent some portraits to ArtStudio01 in Shrewsbury, of the members of the studio. They are going on show in April.”  Both artists visited the studio as part of their preparation for their exhibition at Bluecoat and have had work selected for the New Ways exhibition launching on Friday 12 April at the Participate Contemporary Artspace. The exhibition showcases the work of artists the studio’s director Tanya Raabe-Webber encountered and collaborated with during her Arts Council England funded project researching inclusive art studios in the UK and Finland.

Studio Me marks the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Blue Room at Bluecoat as the project seeks to expand its programme of support for artists who may have experienced barriers to traditional routes of arts education and career development to grow in confidence and reach new audiences.


See Studio Me at Bluecoat until Sunday 31 March.


Tags:Exhibitions

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