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Artist Blog – Alison Saunders – Part 1

Here, Alison Saunders tells us about her experience of designing and creating her hearts for HeART to Heart. In total, Alison has four hearts out on the trail and it sounds like she’s had a very busy year creating these beautiful works of art!

“Well, the 4th of July might have been a big day for all Americans, but it is also a big day for St Catherine’s Hospice, small shops and business, and me.

The 4th of July is National Independent Retailers’ day. Small retailers and businesses are the life blood of our high streets, which have suffered greatly over recent years to survive in the world of on-line shopping. Launching the Heart trail UK on this day gives a nod not only to other small retailers but also to all the independent artists who are taking  part in this fabulous event.

My part in all this has been great fun but I thought I would let you know how these things work as you may be inspired to take part yourself or even run an event like this for your community.

Sometime last year, St Catherine’s Hospice, based in Crawley, West Sussex, put out a call for artists to come up with some designs for hearts. We were asked to produce up to four designs which were presented at an arranged launch to prospective supporters.
St Catherine’s Hospice did an amazing job at this launch. They found a wonderful barn in which to hold the event. The design ideas from artists and their biographies were exhibited around the barn and we all got a chance to chat to each other about where our ideas came from and how they might fit with a sponsor’s ideas about themselves and what they wanted to get behind.

Below you can see the initial four designs I submitted.

The first two were not chosen; they are very simple designs which I produced in response to each other and with the idea that they could be placed in a garden setting. I didn’t want something which would dominate their surroundings? but rather something that would peep through between the trees and bushes. I suspect that the sponsors are not always going to be the ones who buy at auction and so they would understandably want a piece which stood out on parade.

I was delighted when my first heart was chosen by Synergize Consulting who are based in Sussex.

This design composed of dozens of red/crimson hearts and one solitary little pink one, touched the owners of the company and they just felt that they had to sponsor it. Which is amazing of them.

I was delighted that I was able to meet the people and hear their story and why they picked this.

But before that I had to paint it.

If you follow me on IG, FB or through my website you will probably have seen some photos of the early stages.

Where do you start with something like this? This design had to have the little pink heart in amongst the sea of red hearts. Why? I used a little pink heart because I wanted to represent the hearts of all the people who have been involved with both St. Catherine’s Hospice and helping others. I wanted to recognise that we all have generous hearts, some bigger than others, some smaller but still just as real. Like people, hearts come in all shapes and sizes, they are all different, but the little pink one, well that one is just a bit out there, just a bit more different a little bit special, but no less important than the rest.

All the hearts I painted were given three coats of white gesso, a kind of ‘under-coat’ paint used by artists to prime the surface to be worked on.

Working freehand I took a brush and started painting red hearts leaving a space for the little pink heart.

You can probably see in the early photo that the red paint over the white surface caused some problems. I always use good quality paint, but I would still be painting this today were it not for the amazing quality paint which Jackson’s Art Supplies makes and sells. The hearts still needed at least three coats each.

Painting the black lines around each heart took some time, too but it helped to make the hearts stand out. The base just felt wrong being white so I painted it a solid red which I think really enhances it.

To finish and protect all three hearts I gave them each three isolation coats and three coats of varnish.

Once finished I was really sad to see her go. This heart was chosen because the sponsor identified with it for his dad, when talking to him when they first saw it, we suggested that it could be named after the sponsors father. It was decided though to name her Doreen after the sponsors mother. How wonderful that both parents have been honoured in this way.

Now, Doreen, is enjoying being in the Memorial Garden next to the County Mall in Crawley.

I think she looks very happy.

The next heart I want to share with you is the Pumpkin Heart.

The owners of Tulley’s Farm decided to take part in this great campaign but needed someone to come up with a design. The heart was decorated by a team employed by Tulley’s Farm and I have been to visit the finished heart which is located in Tilgate Park, Crawley, next to the Smith and Western Restaurant.

This is the design I came up with. The pumpkins on the base could be painted on or (had I done the decoration myself) made from ‘papier mache’ or something similar.

Here is a photo I took of the finished pumpkin. They have attached a variety of different sized metal hearts, some astro turf and fairy lights. It looks amazing, the team did a fabulous job.

I was then asked to come up with a design for Three Bridges F.C. which was also to honour Jackie who had worked tirelessly for the club and ended her days with the love and support of St. Catherine’s Hospice. Jackie sadly died at a young age, 56, and has left a huge hole in the lives of her immediate family and that of the club. To be asked to produce something for them was a huge honour for me.

None of the hearts could be decorated with any logos or advertising about the companies/people who had sponsored them, so I wasn’t able to use the Three Bridges F.C. crest which is on their shirts.

It is a really simple design as you can see from the drawings I submitted, but the finished heart does look great.
This heart is also located in Tilgate Park on the other side of the lake. It was a bit of a trek to get to see her but some people had made the journey when I visited. 😊

The last design is called Crazy Abstract Heart. For those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook I think you will see that this design was influenced by the pages I produce in my concertina sketch books.

This heart was the most work to produce and a number of changes were made simply because what you can produce with a set of sharpie pens on a piece of paper verses what you can achieve on a 3D object with a paint brush is very different.

The sponsors for this piece are Alexandra Durrant and Richard Place Dobson.

They requested that the piece be located outside Sackville College, East Grinstead, where I think she looks very much at home.

In next week’s blog I will cover more about the actual painting of the hearts as well as sharing some of the fibre glass shapes I have decorated for charity over the past five years. I have really enjoyed every single one of them, although some more than others and I do have a couple which are real favourites which I would love to have in my garden.

There is a map and an interactive trail which you can download on your phone for free, in order to locate and visit all 26 hearts. Click here for full details.

Please do go and see them, take a photo of yourself and your family with them and then post them, tagging St Catherine’s Hospice, the Heart to Heart Trail and me too please.

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