However we did keep in touch with Marjorie. One day she said she had something to show us and led us through a door at the left of the shop. It led into another room which was empty. "I've never had a use for this room" she stated, "and wonder if you would like to have it as an art gallery?" Would we....of course we would especially when she said she did not want any rent just a commission from any sales we might make. We were amazed at her generosity because although the room wasn't over large it would be ideal for me to set up as a studio/gallery, display my paintings and get out of Merice's hair every day - she could even have her dining room back. Marjorie was pleased when we accepted her incredible offer as whatever money she would make had to be better than it standing empty and making nothing. So we got stuck in and before too long "Artz@Alternatives" featuring Yorkshire watercolour artist Glenn Marshall was ready to be unveiled to the public. Although space was extremely limited I managed to find room for work by my artist friends from Rudston. Margaret gave me an unframed set of her flower scannergraphs (she coined the term herself to describe her art) to sell so I could proudly advertise 'Original Hockney for under £50' in my shop window. But before opening to the public all the gang - Tony ,Eileen, Rob, Liz and Margaret - came over on the Friday night for a look and a lively meal together afterwards. It was a great night and their encouragement and support was much appreciated. So let me describe Art@Alternatives. First the name - simple. Marjorie's shop was called "Healthy Alternatives" so Merice quickly came up with our catchy handle. To get into the gallery you had to go through the main entrance of the shop and then turn left, mount a couple of steps, through a little passageway and open the door. I had set up my easel facing the door with the window on my right so passers by could see me painting. To my left was an old Victorian fireplace which was quite a feature especially when I displayed a couple of paintings on the wall above it. As well as that space, paintings were hung in the passageway and on the right and left of the door you walked through. I managed to squeeze a couple of small ones between wall and window to my right and Tony kindly loaned me an exhibition board which served two valuable purposes. It concealed frames etc behind it while providing valuable space to hang a further six paintings. Altogether there was about twenty framed paintings to look at as well as a selection of unframed prints in a browser. I was proud of what we had achieved and I now had a gallery of my own over which I had total control as well as a well lit place to paint. Opportunity certainly had knocked!
Saturday morning dawned and, feeling slightly hungover from the night before, I was ready to open my door to the public. We had advertised in the local press and invited all our friends so we had a busy day indeed. I sold a couple of Margaret's prints and established the Artz@Alternatives in the Easingwold consciousness so a very successful day all round. I can't remember the first painting I sold but it didn't take long for word to get round and sales came steadily. I think people liked to see me painting and I could chat about the paintings in a way that no one else could as I had done them. I opened Wednesday to Saturday every week though if someone was interested when I wasn't there Marjorie would show them round the gallery. I worked 'artist time' which meant I turned up about eleven and left by four thirty. I also got my first magazine feature while I was there. A journalist and photographer visited me for an article in the Yorkshire post Sunday magazine. But a word of caution here for any budding artists having their first dealings with the boys from the press. The interview went well and several photos of me at work were taken. The reporter was very interested in my story about falling off a ladder and used it in his headline - 'The Painter who fell into art'. They stayed a couple of hours and Marjorie brought us tea and cakes so it was a very pleasant experience. Finally the photographer packed his gear up and left and the reporter put away his notebook. He remained a while just chatting in general. But never forget that his job is to make a good story. Thinking we were now off the record so to speak I made a few unguarded remarks that guess what....yup...they ended up in the final article and caused me some embarrassment. Never mind I learned the lesson and there is no such thing as bad publicity! Easingwold is a lovely spot nestling in the foothills of the Howardian Hills. Within a few minutes you are in the glorious countryside of the North Yorkshire Wolds. It was a constant source of inspiration for me and I did some of my best work there. For example the painting above - "Sheep and Shade" - was done from a sketch I made in Black Gate Forest on the outskirts of Easingwold. A lady called in and bought it. She had emigrated to New Zealand but had returned home for a family visit."I thought you would have enough sheep in New Zealand" I remarked. "Ah but", she replied, "these are YORKSHIRE sheep!"...nuff said. Another lady asked me to do a painting of her prize orchid. She had had it years before it had finally flowered. I told her I didn't really do flowers but she insisted I have a go and brought it in a few days later. I did have a go and happily she was pleased with the result. I'm glad she was because it died a few days later! Then there was the mysterious lady who went round all the shops in town buying things. She ended up in my studio and bought two paintings. Everybody was wondering where she had suddenly got all this money and surmised all sorts of explanations from winning the pools to cashing in an insurance policy. Many months later she rang me at home and asked me if I wanted to buy the paintings back from her...at a knock down price. She must have run out of cash but I had to refuse her kind offer. I often wonder what became of the paintings and hope they fared better than one of Rob Gobel's. Someone came across one of his original watercolours on sale at a car boot for a fiver. "Bloody Hell" he said - "the frame cost me eighty quid!". This is the last painting I sold at Artz@Alternatives: