AD – ticket provided in exchange for a review
If you follow me on social media, you might have realised that I’m sharing a lot of artwork at the moment. In fact, at the moment you’re probably more likely to see a painting on my Instagram feed than a new poem; something I never expected this time last year.
While many discovered brand new hobbies during each lockdown, I rediscovered my love of art years after finishing my a-levels. I invested in some new supplies, and found time to turn to art as a way to distract and calm myself. When my working days are filled with words, it’s sometimes lovely – and a relief! – to have another creative outlet to turn to, to give my brain a rest.
This rekindled interest wasn’t particularly out of the blue; my friend – local illustrator Amy Harwood – had started to run online Art Club sessions during the first pandemic; Zoom-based workshops with weekly themes and minimal pressure, designed to entertain, educate and help us to forget our worries for an hour.
Amy has now started to bring her workshops back into the non-digital world again, offering in-person sessions in Hampshire and London, while also keeping some online opportunities too.
Being well aware of my reignited love of art, she kindly invited me a long to one of her first in-person workshops since the pandemic began – a botanical lettering event hosted in Southampton city-centre eatery The Lunch Lounge. Painting and drawing flowers is one of Amy’s fortes – and one of my favourite topics when it comes to her workshops! – so I jumped at the chance to get creative in person, in somewhere other than my home!
I invited a close friend of mine as a guest, who confessed that she was not a natural artist – which delighted Amy, as she’s keen to cater for experienced and newbie painters alike!
We arrived at The Lunch Lounge after one hell of a downpour, but instantly felt cosy and welcome. Everything was laid out and ready for us; a table with paints and brushes, some fresh blooms for inspiration, and some leaflets with basic info, handy how-tos, and even a little discount code!
After ordering our drinks (pink G&T for me!), and once the other attendees arrived (it wasn’t too crowded, so we felt very comfortable!) we settled down to start our night of art.
The workshop was well paced, with plenty of time to ask questions, experiment and explore our styles. Amy took us through the process step by step, and we started off with some loose line drawing before experimenting with watercolour and then gouache, building up the shapes and layers to create a full, flowery letter!
Amy’s work usually features the natural world; so you’re likely to find yourself creating something based on botanicals, animals or something very similar.
I’m not one to shy away from my materials, so I felt comfortable trying different techniques with each type of paint – but I still had questions, which Amy helpfully answered! My friend was a little more apprehensive, but quickly got into it, and enjoyed learning how to handle the paints to get the outcome she wanted. It was the right balance of being left alone to learn, experiment and socialise as we worked, while also feeling fully supported along the way.
Of course, being an evening workshop, we got rather hungry – so we ordered a pizza each (we paid for our own food and drink), which came out hot, handmade and utterly delicious. The menu was extensive and I’ll certainly be back for lunches and coffees with friends. The Lunch Lounge is close to the Itchen Bridge and Southampton’s centre, and a must-visit if you want to support our local businesses and independent cafes (and close to St Mary’s Stadium, if you’re a regular)! You can also hire it out for private events, which is well worth remembering now we’re all able to get together again. It’s a space I’d never been to before this event and I’ll be sure to be back.
The two hours flew by, and we found ourselves quickly applying the finishing touches before admiring our works of art at the end. Everyone at the workshop was so impressed with what they had created, whatever their artistic skill, and we all left feeling soothed and inspired – with something new to display proudly – or gift to a loved one.
The experience was just what I needed – I was able to disconnect from my worries and thoughts for a few hours, learn new skills, play with my creative side, boost my creative confidence, and enjoy great food and drink with one of my closest friends. I can’t imagine a lovelier way to spend an evening!
I’m looking forward to attending more of Amy’s workshops over the coming months – both in person and online. I love that she’s keeping the virtual element to her work, too – great for anyone who has accessibility needs, who is isolating/shielding, or who lives a little further afield. It’s important that we don’t spring back to exactly how things were before the pandemic hit; everyone should be able to attend events like this.
If you want to work with Amy in person, she has plenty coming up, too, including exciting collaborations with John Lewis in Westquay (20-24 September 2021) and Southampton’s God’s House Tower.
View Amy’s upcoming workshops (both online and in person) on her website – I really do recommend booking a space sometime, and reconnecting with (or discovering!) your creative side.
Thank you, Amy, for a blooming lovely evening!