Artist Tania Wight shares with us her beautiful artistic journey and how she has developed a unique artistic style which everyone knows that she is the artist who created the art they are looking at.
Be sure to visit Tania’s website and follow her on social media. The links are located on the bottom of the interview.
Featured Artist Tania Wight
Dave – Hello Tania, thank you for joining me today. You started creating art as a therapeutic activity. Tell us your story. What inspired you to use art as a therapeutic activity and how did your technique evolve over the years?
Tania – Hello Dave, thank you very much for asking me to be your guest. I’m looking forward to it.
I initially dabbled in painting about 15 years ago when I couldn’t afford a piece of art for my living room. I happened to see a metre square canvas and thought ‘Why not?’ So I bought a few paints, put a sheet down and went full Jackson Pollock! I used different implements to put the paint on, a piece of natural sponge, an old toothbrush, etc. I flicked, dripped, dribbled and rolled, it was very liberating and I got so many compliments from people who visited. I never let on that I painted it!
So that was my first foray into actually trying to paint something myself.
After that first attempt, it all got put to one side as life took over, as it tends to. I moved to the Isle of Wight with my son, finished my English degree and then started training as a midwife at Southampton University. Midwifery taught me a huge amount about myself and what I am actually capable of achieving.
I began experiencing health problems while doing this degree, and ultimately it was what meant I had to leave just six weeks from qualifying. I was devastated to leave and don’t think I’ll ever fully get over it. But life goes on and bills need to be paid so I re-grouped and worked in a mental health community team for a couple of years until my fibromyalgia became too severe for me to continue working. It was during this time that my husband put some paints and canvas in front of me and suggested I should try it as it might help from a therapeutic point of view. I was struggling to reconcile the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to live my life as busily as I had done up to this point. For anyone with a chronic condition, this is a huge thing to come to terms with, but you have to if you are to move forward with life.
My first pieces were very abstract, I just experimented with colours and shapes, seeing what worked and what didn’t. I also used coloured crystals which I glued on to highlight areas etc.
Right from the start painting helped me. I could lose hours creating new things and it helped me not to focus on the fibromyalgia pain. I found I was painting every day. I’d take my ever growing box of paints and brushes into the garden and I barely went indoors for the whole summer.
I’d recommend art as a therapy to anyone. For depression, pain, anxiety, anything. It is relaxing, focuses your mind, is creating something positive and is also great fun! We mustn’t forget that!
As for technique, I’ve honestly never considered I had one. I’ve just painted how and whatever I was drawn to (no pun intended.) I’ve got terrible imposter syndrome, I’m always thinking that one day someone is going to suss out that I’m not a ‘Real Artist!’
Dave – I could not agree with you more. Creating art is therapeutic and a way for people to communicate their thoughts visually. You have a large collection of mosaic style paintings and more traditional paintings. Tell us more about these different styles and how you started creating mosaic style paintings.
Tania – The mosaic style evolved very organically from the very abstract pieces I painted at the beginning.
I use two paintings to illustrate the progression whenever anyone asks how I came to the mosaic style. They are on my Facebook page if anyone wants to look; Summer Garden View which is very abstract and uses the coloured crystals too, then it moved to Sunrise, in which the abstract nature is still there, but there is also clear shape and form, you can see what it’s supposed to be. I was then reminded of stained glass and mosaics, so wondered what it would look like if I outlined the colours in a paint ‘grout’ for want of a better word. After a couple of attempts, I had found the style that people seem to like now.
The more traditionally painted pieces have been me trying to do ‘proper art’. Haha!
I’m really not very good at it at all, I can’t draw people or faces, and have got a very loose grip on perspective! I like to try and push myself to try new things and practice new skills but most attempts frustrate me and end up either in the bin, filed in a folder or painted over. I’m definitely my harshest critic.
Dave – Being your harshest critic will only make you a better artist or better at anything you do in life. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Tania – Oh crikey, everywhere, I think. I’m so lucky to live on such a beautiful island and I can’t help but be influenced by the sea and landscape, especially in the summer when we have Cowes Week with all its bustle and beautiful yachts. On a sunny day here you could honestly be in the Mediterranean, it couldn’t look more beautiful.
My grandchildren also suggest things to me, my grandson is especially interested and will often cheekily try and reserve a painting way before it’s finished. ‘That’s mine isn’t it Nanny?’
They are very happy to have been immortalized as my flower fairy set of paintings and a couple of others.
Other than these my influences can be anything from views, old photos, even the radio, and tv can pop something into my head. I think most artists draw inspiration from all that life throws their way.
Dave – What makes your artwork unique and separates you from other artists?
Tania – By pure fluke, I seem to have stumbled across a style of painting which I haven’t seen anywhere else. A couple of years ago I rented a studio at the back of The People’s Gallery in Ryde, the public could come in, see me painting and have a chat about my pictures. I initially found this very daunting, but before long I loved it. People of all ages came in both island visitors and locals alike. So many of them said they had never seen anything like my paintings anywhere else and that they were instantly recognizable as my work.
I recently painted a Seahorse for my friend’s birthday. She later took great delight in telling me that she’d had a visitor who had seen her painting and said, ‘Oh you’ve got one of HERS! Is it an original? I’ve only got a print!’
Things like this make me hoot with laughter and I’ll never get used it!
People also seem to like to touch my paintings to see if they are mosaics, which is very flattering because it means that I’ve painted it well.
I’ve also been asked several times if I roll or stamp the paint on, or even if my pictures are paint by numbers! Bearing in mind when they have asked me this I have been sitting at my easel with a tiny brush in my hand. Everyone who visited the studio seemed genuinely fascinated to know how I go about painting a piece. They can’t equate this tiny, size 2 brush with a metre squared canvas.
I definitely think one of the most rewarding things is sharing the process and being able to talk to people and answer all their questions. Sadly I had to leave the studio as my Fibro had a significant flare and working from home became a better option for me from a health point of view.
Dave – Having people know you are the one who created the art they are looking at is something we all work hard at, congratulations that is a big accomplishment. What message would you like your viewers to receive when they look at your artwork?
Tania – That’s easy, Happiness. It sounds so very cheesy, I know, but for me, to have people say that looking at my work lifts their day, then that’s worth far more than any payment. The payment is nice, of course, but for people to genuinely love my work, just thrills me. I use bright colours and paint images which people can easily identify with. I genuinely believe that my love of painting is somehow locked into my pictures. I paint things which make me happy.
The loveliest comment I’ve ever had was from a 10 year old girl who visited the studio with her nan. She looked at every painting on the wall, came over and watched me for a while and then said,
“Nanny, if I’m ever sad, I’d like you to bring me in here because all of these make me feel so happy.”
That reaction, from a young girl who had no reason to say it, she wasn’t just saying something polite because she felt she ought to, well it made me cry. It was so from the heart and real, I’ll never forget it.
Dave – That is a beautiful story. What supplies do you use for your artwork?
Tania – I mainly use Sennelier Abstract Innovative acrylics, Daler Rowney System 3 and Cryla ranges. I also use Winsor and Newton high gloss varnish.
The brushes I use are Pro Arte acrylic in size 2. I have tried several other makes of brush but have found these are the best for me as the bristles rarely split up and separate so I can confidently use them for ‘grouting’. I use approximately one brush per large painting, and once the fine tip has worn away they get demoted to being used for the colour blocks.
I use Loxley Gold pre-stretched canvases. Again I’ve tried others but find these are the better weave for fine line work and for not wearing out my brushes too quickly.
Dave – What other mediums do you like to work with?
Tania – Most of my work is in acrylics, I love their vibrancy and that you can water them down to watercolour consistency, or use them as thick, buttery impasto. I will also sometimes use gold and/or silver leaf if I think it is needed. For example in fireworks, or as the light on water, I’ve even used leaf as flames in my hot air balloon painting.
I haven’t ruled out adding the crystals again, but I haven’t used them for a good couple of years.
Dave – When did you start selling your artwork and how did you get started?
Tania – I’d painted two or three pictures in this mosaic style and had some compliments from friends and family. Then we saw that the Ryde gallery was opening for new island artists. My husband said I should go along and see if they would display my work for sale. Of course, I instantly scoffed at the idea of anyone really liking my silly pictures enough to put them in a gallery. He was very persistent until I relented and very reluctantly I took along a couple of pieces to show the gallery owners. They said yes straight away, to my absolute astonishment. Within a few weeks, I had my first sale, to a local couple who now own two or three more. It was after this that I started renting the studio space and before long I had my first commission. It still astonishes me now.
Dave – Your artwork is beautiful and I am happy that your husband was persistent, I bet you are too. What platforms do you use to showcase and sell your artwork?
Tania – I prefer to sell either from the gallery or face to face in person. I want to get round to having my own website at some point, but at the moment all my original sales have been in person. I really think that photos, no matter how good the quality, is never the same as actually seeing a piece of art in person. The art we like is such a personal choice so I’m very humbled when someone decides to purchase one of my pieces. When I sell an original I provide a certificate of authenticity which is dated, signed, includes information about how to look after the piece and a small photo of it with size details. Ideally, I also like to get the purchaser’s name and address which I put in a record book along with the name and price of the piece they bought. This serves to both back up the information for the customer and it gives me the opportunity to follow up the sale with a call or letter to make sure they are still happy with their purchase.
I also have an Etsy shop where I sell prints, mugs, and coasters featuring my designs, but ideally, this would make way for a personal website at some point.
Dave – How do you promote your art online?
Tania – I have the usual Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where I post pictures of new paintings and news about upcoming events or things I’ve been up to. I also find that the art community on Twitter is so supportive, it’s like an art group where we can critique each other’s work, or ask for feedback on works in progress. It is genuinely very helpful and has spurred me on to try several new ideas. Plus the diversity of styles and media there is breathtaking.
I am also to be found on the Isle of Wight Arts website. They run an Open Studio each summer which is such a great idea. Island artists are featured in a book and anyone can come and see your work on given days within a set fortnight in July. This year I’m taking part from home which will be weird but fun. I’ll have to put Darren on tea and biscuit duty!
Dave – What was the biggest lesson you learned about starting your art business?
Tania – I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a business, at least not at the moment!
I think the biggest lesson has been to genuinely have confidence in my paintings, confidence which has only grown since getting feedback from customers.
I’ve also learned that it’s not easy. I had so many people come into my studio, spend an hour talking to me about my work, and really enthusing about it. Then they would say that they’ll definitely be back in once they’ve finished decorating their kitchen or lounge, for example, never to be seen again. I could give you at least a dozen occasions when this has happened.
But then there’s the time I was taken by surprise by a workman who had been up a ladder at a neighboring shop, had happened to see one of my pictures through the window and just came straight in to buy it on the spot.
Pricing your work is also tough and equally subjective. I’ve tried to price my work very fairly but I’ve been told both that it’s too expensive and that it’s way underpriced! To people who say I charge too much, I will stand my ground. I politely point out that it is an original piece of art, a ‘one-off,’ and that an awful amount of time and thought has gone into painting it, all of which has a value.
I think it is very important to stand by your work and the effort you have put into it.
Dave – What tips could you give to new artists who are interested in selling their artwork?
Tania -Go for it! Put it out there, there will be someone who will want whatever it is that you have created. I know it’s hard to take that first step, but as long as you are happy with what you have created and you know that you have done your best, then be proud to show the world.
Unless you happen to be fortunate enough to own your own gallery or studio space, then finding out if there are local galleries which are ‘newbie friendly’ is a great help.
Galleries can be very intimidating places, and I have encountered a few which are run by people with vast egos who think that unless you are a member of the Royal Academy, or can show some highbrow qualifications or connections then they all but slam the door in your face.
Well, that’s ok, because while it’s annoying and frustrating, you also know that people like your work and you can tell yourself that it’s the snobs who have lost out on their sales commission.
There are lots of areas which run an Open Studio type event, such as I mentioned earlier. This is a great way in. I also think that changing the focus from being ‘I really want a sale’ to being ‘I really want to get my work seen by as many people as I can’, will help save your sanity a little bit!
By finding ways such as donating pieces to local charity fundraiser events, joining shared exhibitions and/or finding galleries which actively promote local artists, you are putting your work in front of an increasing audience, and by doing so you are more likely to get a sale. It’s also just so satisfying and confidence boosting to speak to others about your work.
Dave – That is some great advice. Would you mind sharing a few of your favorite creations and share the story behind them?
Tania – This was tough because they are all special to me and have their own stories. However, the first one I have chosen is ‘Farewell Flight.’
This painting is a metre square and completed in acrylics.
It was inspired by the final flypast of the Vulcan Bomber, an iconic plane whose
silhouette most people would instantly recognize and I have loved it since I was a young child, thrilling at its noise and power.
Then, of course, you have the Red Arrows which accompanied the Vulcan at several points on its last flight around the U.K.
Again, they are iconic and instantly recognizable. I just had to paint them together.
It took many hours of planning, sketching, measuring, looking at photos, rubbing out and re-doing. I also had to use a smattering of artistic license to get the formation I wanted on to one big canvas.
I painted nearly all of ‘Farewell Flight’ at the studio in Ryde so people were coming and going all the time. The feedback I was getting was particularly positive and I was generally very pleased with how it was progressing.
Then one afternoon I was enjoying a brew at the easel when a man came in. He looked around at my paintings and then stood beside me to see what I was working on.
“Bah! Red Arrows, fly boys!” He said.
I replied, “Oh! You aren’t a fan then?”
“Oh they’re ok, I suppose.”
“What about the Vulcan?” I tried. “Do you like that?”
“Haha! I suppose I like the old girl, I flew her for 15 years.”
Well, I nearly fell off my chair! Here was a man who was one of the very select groups of heroes (in my view) who quietly safeguarded us all through the Cold War, and here he was talking to me about my painting of a Vulcan. He spent about half an hour regaling me with tales of his time as a Vulcan pilot. I got chills when he said, “We had to be ready. We knew and had to be prepared for the fact that if the call ever came through, we had to take her up on what would be a one way trip. Thankfully it never came to that of course, although it came close on a couple of occasions. We were told to stand down just minutes from take off.”
Then his wife came through to the gallery, saw the painting and rolled her eyes.
“Oh God. Another bloomin’ Vulcan. Is he boring you, Love?”
Dave – That is amazing.
I am incredibly lucky to live somewhere that is internationally known for its maritime history. Part of that history continues today and every year Cowes Week come around. The great and the good from sailing descend for a week of racing and partying hard. From Olympic champions to royalty, pop stars to local sailing clubs, they are all to be found in and around the town. The week culminates in a huge firework display over the harbor and seafront. On a clear summer’s night, it really is a spectacle and it’s this that I’ve tried to capture in my painting.
This was my first large canvas and I can remember being both daunted by this big area of white canvas, but also excited to get this idea down in paint.
I’ve also used gold and silver leaf, both in the fireworks and in their reflections on the water. I’ve also used metallic paint to try and get some sparkle going on. I’ve purposely painted the fireworks at different stages of exploding; you have the green one which is just at the moment of explosion, the yellow ones which are at their peak, and the metallic and red fireworks show the different shapes which are included in a display. There are also some gold sparkles in the middle as the remnants of a rocket twinkling out.
I wanted to catch the movement of a professional, synchronized display, so you could almost hear the bangs and crackles as they explode and fade.
I’m including this painting just because I’m really pleased with it. It felt ‘right’ through the whole process. From having the idea to sketching it out and then painting it. Everything seemed to flow and work exactly how I was imagining it would. That rarely happens for me, there’s nearly always a spell of correcting this or that, and/or going back to it and deciding that it might be better if I did such and such.
I loved the colour palette and the way I managed to graduate the blues to show the depth of the water. Everything just worked with her, and I remember how thrilling that felt whenever I look at the painting. I definitely have a soft spot for her!
Dave – I also love the blues and how it looks as if she is swimming towards the light. What social media sites can people follow you?
Tania – https://m.facebook.com/TaniaWightArt/ I have a comprehensive gallery here of all my work, I also run competitions and have news updates too.
https://www.isleofwightarts.com/taniawightart (Not technically social media but you can see my work here.)
@Artychic123 on Twitter https://twitter.com/Artychic123
TaniaWightArt on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/taniawightart/
Dave – Where can people purchase your art?
Tania – For prints, mugs, and coasters the best place is https://etsy.me/2mRvNF7
This is the gallery in Ryde where I often display and sell my paintings.
If you would like to purchase an original or have inquiries about a commission or have any questions at all then either via a private message on my Facebook page or an email here; [email protected]
Dave – I would like to thank you one more time for sharing your artistic journey with us and I look forward to seeing all of your new creations.
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity, it’s made me stop and think about my paintings too! Dave.