No suffering, just painting for pleasure with friends
THOSE who believe you have to suffer for your art would be well advised to stay clear of the community hall in the parish church off Whipton Village Lane.
The old church and its wild and waving weedy graveyard are pretty in their own right, but add in a happy band of artists and it is jolly enough to make even prospective ear-loppers have second thoughts.
There may be no Van Gogh's among the Painting for Pleasure club – and it is probably all the more congenial because of that – but these are no amateur daubers.
They are serious artists who just happen to enjoy each other's company as well as advice, hints and even positive criticism from those looking over their shoulders and onto their easels.
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It is also a sign of the health of art in the city that the group now has a waiting list of budding artists anxious to join them.
Ray Middlewick is the man with the list and the man who takes the £1 from members as they wander in, their artwork tucked under their arms. Said Ray: "We only use Christian names here, it's that sort of club. We don't have rules and all that sort of thing. We come here to enjoy painting and drawing in all mediums.
"We all bring our materials and the £1 is just for the hire of the hall on a Weednesday morning and the tea, coffee and biscuits."
Ray is one of the "Magnificent 12" who took on running the group, which had grown out of classes run in Topsham by John Stone with his wife Maud.
"They were classes, but when they stopped, some of those involved wanted to keep the group going. We met up at Whipton Church and in the first week we had 12 and the second week it rose to 17, just by word of mouth. Now we have a waiting list because we can only take so many in the hall.
"There are five of those original 12 still coming along but we are not a class, we are a group of people who enjoy art.
"Everyone is totally free to do what they like, it rather like a co-operative. We pick up hints from each other and during the coffee break everyone goes round to see what everybody else is doing – and there is criticism and praise but of course it is all very friendly."
Mr Middlewick, a retired civil servant in the old Ministry of Labour, who lives in Hill Barton Road, has always been interested in art. "When I retired it meant I could spend more time on my painting. I don't specialise, I just do what I feel like.
"A certain amount of ability to draw helps a lot but we have a whole range of people here and some quite good artists among them.
"We use pencil, watercolours, oil , acrylic and pastels – you name and it's done here."
Former plumbing and heating engineer Ray Jones has been coming along for a couple of years.
He said: "Painting, a bit like writing, can be a solitary affair so it is wonderful to come along here for the company. Everyone helps each other.
"I like going out and about to do my seascapes and landscapes but it is great to be able to come here and finish the work off – or bring it along for advice."
Dave Howard, who was a regional representative for a large brewery, said: "It is just a good old bunch of very nice people. Some are members of the Exeter Art Society but we are totally independent of the society and do our own thing.
"Some are very good but really I don't think you need to be that good to start. I have to say we have had one or two who haven't had a clue when they started but they are coming along thanks to the group."
Art class founder John Stone, 72, and his wife Maud, 86, are still stalwarts of the group. A retired builder and stonemason, he said: "When we were in Topsham we had classes every day, weekdays for adults and Saturdays for children. Now it is simply painting for pleasure and it is a very friendly group."