Over two weekends in September, this year's Helfa Gelf open studios and art trail certainly exceeded my expectations. I've done it before, including last year, but our old house was not ideally suited for displaying art and was extremely difficult to find. I know that several people gave up trying! I even questioned whether it was worth participating.
This year, at our new home in the centre of Caerwys, things couldn't have been more different. We welcomed 200 visitors (thank you to everyone!) over the four days and there was at least one person present from the moment we unlocked the doors until well after they were 'officially' supposed to be closed. There was certainly no time for lunch, or even a coffee break, during opening hours.
It was a commercial success too - I sold seven originals and numerous limited edition prints; I'm going to have to restock my supply of greetings cards too.
But just as important was the positive feedback on my work and the potential exposure, something that is vital to a new artist like myself. If each of those 200 people tells five others that they enjoyed what they've seen...
However, I think the greatest revelation to me was how much I enjoyed it. OK, it's never going to be an unpleasant experience receiving compliment after seemingly endless compliment (someone even called me a genius!) but in my previous career as a director of various charities I used to really dread this kind of thing - being the convivial and expert host at fundraising dinners, conferences and networking events. Truth is I was usually treading water, dealing with subjects for which I had limited understanding or passion.
Now I find myself being encouraged to talk about the things that I love: the countryside, walking and painting. I felt genuine sadness when we closed the doors for the last time last Sunday.