HERTS Open Studios returns this week, the event which prompted the launch of our weekly Picture series just over a year ago.
And to celebrate the anniversary, today’s picture choice seems particularly appropriate as it features a self-taught oil painter who only rediscovered the love of painting during lockdown.
The work itself is a homage to Bob Ross, the soft-spoken American art legend whose Joy of Painting TV series still enthrals millions today on Youtube.
And Stevenage artist Leon Barnes has even produced a video tutorial demonstrating the trademark wet-on-wet technique of the man whose “happy little trees” proved an inspiration to so many.
As a DJ and karaoke host for the past 16 years, Leon found his business swept away overnight by the lockdown restrictions.
Feeling lost and depressed, and lacking funds for a family birthday present, he stumbled across a stored loft gift from 2009 of an oil painting set and some old canvases, and embarked on a new artistic journey.
“Thanks to Bob Ross and The Joy of Painting, I found a new purpose, a hidden talent and lifeline,” says Leon.
This month, Leon is one of dozens of artists featured in this year’s Herts Open Studios event, which brings artists, artisans and art-lovers together for three weeks of inspiration and discovery in communities across Hertfordshire.
Events run from September 18 to October 10, with more than 60 venues opening their doors to visitors and a variety of local area art trails offering a range of free events from working studios and demonstrations to group exhibitions.
Running for more than 30 years, it is the largest county-wide art event with every venue free to enter and offering visitors a unique opportunity to meet artists and to enjoy and discuss their work.
Artists also offer online demonstrations and tours, allowing virtual visits to take place 24 hours a day.
“With many new artists joining our event alongside long-standing participants, there is just so much to explore,” said Herts Visual Arts chair, Sally Taylor. The full programme can be found on the Herts Visual Arts website.