Nic Cowper describes Emsworth Arts Trail as the greatest possible motivator in his flourishing art career.
The trail continues over the Bank Holiday weekend, with scores of artists participating across dozens of venues. For Nic, it is a hugely-important part of the year.
“I am a painter if you want a broad description. I am putting in watercolours and mixed media.
“ I am completely untrained formally. I started scribbling when I was very young and got known as the kid in class that could draw, so I didn’t bother with anything else.”
Nic opted out of A levels and drove vans instead “before I was old enough to see sense and go back and study graphic design.
“I have had a career as a graphic designer since then. The art was a hobby, but it is going beyond that now. I only ever wanted to have a career as an artist.”
The turning point came in 2005 when he did an amusing beach scene.
He put it in a gallery window at a ludicrous price because he didn’t want to sell it, and it sold the same day... which set Nic thinking.
“I had painted before and then suddenly this happened, and it was like my art was worth something.
“When I left my previous company which was getting very big and I was getting a bit stressed out, I thought I had to do something that was more me.
“I started painting, and I did my first arts trail after that. I did it mainly to show off the paintings I had been doing, and that was in a run-down old garage that a friend of mine happened to have. It was very successful financially. I started a website and I decided to do it semi-professionally.
“The pleasure of the arts trail is that it is has been the biggest motivating factor in my career as a painter. You are hiring the venue and paying out good money, and that gives you a good focus. Arguably, that’s what I need. At the arts trail I have used it consistently as a means to push my art forward and to think in terms of the customer.
“After a year, I started to develop themes each year at the trail.
“My first trail was proper scattergun. For the second one, I tried to go entirely digital because that was my biggest seller on the first trail. That was less successful.
“The third one I did watercolour waves, and people loved that. That was three years ago. And then I did another waves year, called New Waves.
I did four or five big-statement paintings.
“And then last year I did my South Downs sketchbook. This year, I am doing Into The Light.
“There were a couple of incidents last year during the show when I was thinking what was successful and what wasn’t successful, and one of the things that I thought was successful was the light coming in, increasing the contrasts on the paintings,”
Nic is exhibiting at venue 72, Sussex Brewery Barns, 36 Main Road, Hermitage, Emsworth, PO10 8AU, May 5, 6, 7, 10am–5pm.
For full trail details and locations, see emsworthartstrail.org.uk.