Exhibition: The Dudley Society of Artists, Dudley Museum and Art Gallery

From death-defying Hawk jet planes to delicate floral studies, an eclectic mix of everyday wonder and eye-catching surrealism cover every wall.

Gorgeous floral scenes, images of friends long gone and works of art that jump from the canvas giving a snapshot into the mind of its creator.

From around the Black Country and beyond, members of the Dudley Society of Artists have been capturing the world around them in paint, pastel and etchings.

Now that work will be on display as part of the group’s yearly exhibition.

Until January 10, members of the public will be able to see just some of the society’s body of work at the Dudley Museum and Art Gallery in St. James’s Road. More than 130 pieces from over 40 artists are on display, with subjects as far ranging as garden hydrangeas to high mountains, a happy Birmingham couple and sharp graffiti.

W. Michael Brown, aged 80, from Broseley, is a retired teacher and winner of the Percy Hipkiss Award for best work in the exhibition.

His painting – Memories of Picos de Europa, N. Spain – is a beautiful composition of locations and people from a trip to the continent that Mr Brown and his wife took with their son.

“While we were there, I took lots of photos and sketches,” he said. “The weather was unusually good for the time of year. It was this arid country, but with lots of greenery.

“The mountains just didn’t look real. I knew it would make a really good picture.”

Several months and 150 or more hours later, the painting is finished and on display, although Mr Brown isn’t entirely sure he’s happy with it.

“I go in and out with it a little bit. It’s got nice colours though.” The artist, who also painted a mural for Priory Hall in Much Wenlock, has painted for 65 years and says that the hobby can easily become an obsession.

“It’s great fun. If I get depressed, I paint and it gets rid of it. Some people play golf, I paint.”

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Keith Turley, the chairman of the group, also has a couple of paintings on the wall, including Titania, a wall-dominating life drawing of a woman made of foliage.

“The canvas started with different kinds of green – plants, leaves and foliage.

“Then you start adding and taking away, adding darker parts until everything you need forward is forward.”

It took around a month for Mr Turley, aged 64, to finish Titania, named for the queen of the faeries in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, working a little bit each day.

“It’s not a straight line. You start with a vague idea of what you might finish with, but you have to be open-minded.

“There’s a lot of reworking, lots of rethinking.”

Also an ex-teacher, Mr Turley’s love of painting came from a trip to an art gallery in Birmingham.

“When I was very young, the first beautiful things I saw were the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites. They were truly stunning.”

As part of the organisational team behind the exhibition, Mr Turley doesn’t underestimate the importance of budding artists seeing their work on a gallery wall.

“We take great pride in the fact that it’s a mix of experts, beginners and everything in between.

“For most people, it’s inspiring to see their work hanging in a gallery. For the newer members it’s thrilling stimulation for them.”

Other highly commended artists within the group include Josie Carving and Joan Bray, who both submitted pictures of flowers for the exhibition.

Painting from live specimens in watercolours, Hydrangeas, My Garden by Bray and Sunny Heleniums by Carvin might well be photographs, with pinpoint accurate brush strokes that blend into a perfect representation of these flowers.

Another watercolour that could be mistaken for a photo is by Ken Millard, who turned to the Black Country Museum for his inspiration.

A narrow boat docked against an old fashioned, industrial era background perfectly captures the museum, and the period of time that they bring to life. 

Artist Eiko Matsuura used egg tempera to create her ‘Alex with Guinea Pigs’ picture.

This was the main method of painting before oils were invented in the 15th century.

It’s a long lasting, quick-drying blend that can’t be stored for any length of time and in which it can be next to impossible to blend colours consistently, but given a smooth, almost storybook quality.

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Alex is Eiko’s son, and every year she paints a picture of him and puts it in the exhibition. For each of the shows, he comes on opening night to see her version of him on display.

Paul Hipkiss skilfully combines printing and watercolour to create striking images with stark shadows and beautiful colours.

By transferring ink to a sheet of paper from a ready prepared cutting, Mr Hipkiss can create thick black lines unlike the sort usually penned by artists.

Then he paints over the top to create mood – perfect for his foggy industrial take on the Cement Works at Netherton. Adrian Durkin is exhibitions officer at the museum and art gallery and occasionally models for artists.

He stars in one of the paintings in the exhibition, in which he posed in a suit of armour.

“Actually sitting for these paintings can be very boring. I posed for four hours over two days for this.

“Standing still for that long is a bit of a drag but sometimes there’s an end result that you can really like. It can be so difficult to capture a person’s likeness. Taxidermists hate doing pets because even though it’s the same animal, it’s so hard to capture what makes them them.

“Even photographers struggle. It can be more than just trying to make it look like you.”

Mr Durkin has high praise for the artists on the wall. “The Dudley Society of Artists is immensely varied and streets ahead of other local groups. They have their fair share of what I’d consider to be professional artists.”

Mr Turley, who is part of a number of similar groups, agrees that there’s something that makes Dudley stand out.

“I think the artists here are brave in the size that they work in. They’re not afraid to use a big canvas.”

The Dudley Society of Artists has been meeting for around 90 years and has around 70 members. They meet every week at Castle High School on Saint James’s Road. 

Past guests have included Angela Gaughan, best know for her wildlife paintings of lions and tigers, and David George who spoke about seascapes.

The society has an open door policy, welcoming anybody with an interest in art. For more information on joining, call Keith Turley on 01384 270143, or email keith@keithturley.com

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