A few years ago I was in London, walking along the Southbank path on the opposite side of the River Thames to St Paul’s Cathedral. I came to the Oxo Tower and went up some steps to the balcony level one floor above the riverside pathway. There were some small boutique shops. One was an art gallery, so I went in. The artist sitting behind the desk surprised me because she recognized me, knew my name, and introduced herself. That is how I came to be involved with the Skylark Galleries.
Skylark Galleries have been going for a couple of decades. It is an artists collective with about 30 active artists at any one time sharing the wall space, costs, and workload of a superbly sited, attractive, and exciting retail art-gallery system.
There are actually two Skylark Galleries. The one in the Oxo Tower is ‘Skylark 2’, and the other one, ‘Skylark 1’, is just a stones throw further along the path in Gabriel’s Wharf, on ground level sharing an open-air courtyard with a couple of small restaurants, take away food shops, a pub, a bike hire shop, and designer and craft shops.
At present, I show my work in Skylark 1. The gallery is open daily for 5 – 7 hours. 5 hours in the winter gloom, and 7 hours in the spring, summer and fall.
It is manned 364 days a year, and I spend one day a fortnight in the shop looking after it, meeting visitors, and thinking how lucky I am.
We get tourists from all over the world, all year round. The gallery backs onto a major TV studio so we sometimes get celebrities and fans during their breaks. Office workers and local residents form another big supply of art lovers.
The benefits for an artist to be part of such an established group with experience and professionalism are numerous. We artists meet a wide range of the public who give us oodles of feedback about our artwork. And we can sell our work ourselves keeping a worthwhile percentage as a reward. Our visitors tell us that they are very pleased to meet us artists as well. We artists meet each other, and visiting artists from all over the world, to exchange tips and encouragement. The art is affordable and personal, and a reminder for many of a visit to London on business or pleasure.
There are a couple of obvious downsides. One is the limit on wall-space that is necessary to squeeze 14 artists into SK1. We each get about 75 cm width and some space in the browsers and card rack. This means that artists can only show small and middle sized work unless it is their turn to have a bigger space during their ‘featured artist’ spot when they get a window and wider back wall slot for two or three weeks a year.
The other downside, especially for those of us who live outside London, is travelling to and from the gallery during rush hours. This takes me two hours door to door each way in crowded trains.
But it is well worth it because I can meet and talk directly with real art lovers and collectors.
A piece of good news is that Shyama Ruffell [number one daughter] who is also a full time professional artist will be joining us in Skylark 1 this Summer.
Another reason for this post is that we have recently developed our Skylark gallery online shop so we are now available 24/7.
Here is a link to the skylarkartists.com website. Please pop in whenever you are in the vicinity and talk to the sitting artist.