So the fateful day arrived. Arrangements had been made and off we set heading out to the marvellous splendour of the moors with seven paintings in the boot. Although seven is supposed to be a lucky number my choice was based more on the fact that the more I took the more chance that at least one might be deemed worthy...and crucially this was the sum total of my framed pieces anyway. Normally I enjoyed the drive from York but not this time as I was extremely nervous of what awaited. Rosedale Abbey is a small hamlet built around, not unsurprisingly, an abbey. But it was one of the buildings that King Henry 'knocked abaht a bit' and there is very little that remains of it now. The gallery was situated halfway up the hill heading out towards Lealholm and was an old decommissioned Methodist church. It was called 'Windows on the Moors' because of the splendid stained glass windows on the upper floor. The upper floor was where the gallery was. We went up the stairs and met the owner Monique. Monique was a Belgian lady who loved all forms of art and was especially supportive of new artists. Although she talked a bit like Hercule Poirot her enthusiasm shone through and she made us very welcome. The light in the gallery was fantastic with the clear moorland light reflected through the stained glass windows. Of course to me every painting on the wall seemed like a masterpiece and I was cringing inside as she explained her mission to promote new and established Yorkshire artists
Finally there was no getting away - it was time to show my offerings to her. With the help of her daughter in law we carried all seven up those steps into that splendid light. We laid them out side by side on large sofas and stood back in silent contemplation. There was lots of murmuring between Monique and her daughter in law who managed the gallery. Tempus definitely did not fugit! It seemed like an eternity before the decision was reached. "We can sell these" said Monique in her lovely foreign accent, "Would you like to leave all seven? We won't put them all up at once but keep three in reserve". I had only ever read the phrase but yes - my jaw did indeed drop right to the floor! I signed up there and then and left for Whitby in a complete daze floating not on cloud nine but many levels higher. When I returned to the gallery a few weeks later and saw my paintings on the walls alongside all the other 'masterpieces' it was a most thrilling sight. Sadly Monique became ill and returned home to Belgium where she passed away. The gallery eventually closed and the building is now a private home. But I will always remember Monique and her gallery with great fondness and gratitude for giving me the confidence to carry on painting. After that first initial surprising success I was accepted by several more galleries. However it was my first gallery rejection that probably did me the most good. The gallery owner asked me if I wanted to know why he had not accepted my work. I can't honestly say I was overjoyed but I decided to hear him out reasoning that if I wasn't able to accept advice and criticism from someone who knew what he was talking about I might as well pack it in there and then. What he told me enabled to see my work with fresh eyes and he was dead right in what he said. I have to confess to never returning to that gallery to resubmit my work but I did take the advice on board and within a couple of years from starting to paint I was now exhibiting in several galleries throughout Yorkshire and had even had three pieces accepted and shown in Scarborough Art Gallery at the biannual East Coast Open. Now going to all these places and seeing my work on their walls was all very well and good but there was something missing - like sales. I had yet to sell a painting but by chance I was about to meet a gallery owner who would change all that. You will have to wait for the next article to find out who and how.