The art of the city

Hallam Art Group Christmas Exhibition: Judith Hanson discussing her work with Kate Thickett (9)
Hallam Art Group Christmas Exhibition: Judith Hanson discussing her work with Kate Thickett (9)

THE artists of western Sheffield’s suburbs were out in force last weekend, when the Hallam Art Group held its Christmas exhibition.

A total of 160 works by 39 different artists were on view, for admirers and Christmas shoppers alike. More than 300 people visited the show on Saturday and Sunday.

Hallam Art Group Christmas Exhibition: John Gilbert at work

Hallam Art Group Christmas Exhibition: John Gilbert at work

“There may a downturn in the economic climate, but we always seem to sell well here,” said John Gilbert, after an enthusiastic buyer snapped up his still life Apricots for £85.

Hallam Art Group has been promoting art in the area around their base at the Hallam Community Hall in Fulwood and Lodge Moor for nearly 40 years.

The group hold three main exhibitions every year, along with ongoing smaller exhibitions at Forge Dam cafe and the Lodge Moor Surgery.

“The idea is to show what the group has been doing,” said HAG secretary Judith Hanson, adding that she hopes the exhibitions also help to inspire new people to take up painting and drawing.

The group has around 70 members (and a waiting list of another dozen), including beginners, semi-professional and professional artists. “There is a huge interest in art in this area.” Although many people take up the hobby on retirement, there are also plenty of younger people taking an interest.

Like Kate Thickett, aged nine, who took up painting and drawing after visiting an earlier Hallam Art Group exhibition. “It made a big impression on Kate,” said her mum, Jane.

“I always like to draw, and now after I’ve done a picture I always think about how I can make it better,” said Kate.

Hallam Art Group is keen to encourage members to learn from each other, and the exhibition included demonstrations to pass on tips and techniques. There are also regular trips to art destinations home and abroad, and talks at the Hallam Community Hall.

John Gilbert was a professional artist and art teacher for many years, and used to cover courtrooms around the north of England along with his sketchbook. Now retired, he’s still just as enthusiastic about painting.

“I’ve been involved in art clubs since I was 14, and the standard here is extremely high - probably the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s very friendly here: you can always go and ask somebody. If you’re at a meeting or exhibition, by cocoa time you can walk round and get new ideas.”

The growing interest in art is partly due to people retiring from work taking up the hobby, said Judith. There’s also a lot of support from many coty art groups, classes and teachers.

The countryside on the doorstep of western Sheffield is also an inspiration.

“I really like the landscapes in the exhibition,” said Jane Thickett. “We live in a beautiful area, and when you go out walking after looking at these pictures, you observe the countryside more because you look through the eyes of an artist. You see a lot of beauty in our countryside.”

“The Peak District is a big draw to people,” said Judith Hanson. “We have members who used to be keen climbers and mountaineers, who have now turned to painting. When you’re out there you look and say, ‘I wish I could recreate that.’ Our countryside inspires people.”

John Gilbert noted that times are hard for professional artists, but stressed that as a hobby painting and drawing are not expensive, perhaps another reason for their popularity.

“It doesn’t cost a fortune at all,” said Judith. “All you need is a pencil and piece of paper to start with.” And a few margarine pots for your paint, added John Gilbert.

Kate Thickett is aware of the cost benefits of art: she finds her works are ideal presents for friends and family, at Christmas or other times.

“I like it because it’s fun to draw,” she said. “I think anybody can do art if they try.”

Judith Hanson reflected that maybe more younger people should take up art.

“Twenty years we were told there would be more music and art going on because everyone would have more leisure time.

“But it’s gone the other way with people working far more, and young families don’t seem to have time.

“In my day people had hobbies, but now young people are working all hours, and spend their time sorting out what the kids do.

“I think they should be relaxing more.”

lFor details of the group, go to www.hallamartgroup.org.uk; tel 268 1505.