Welcome to our first ‘Artist of the month’ blog. This will be a regular feature where we hope to introduce you to a variety of talented artists, exploring their journey, what motivates them and why they love doing what they do. We imagine there’ll be some tips along the way and some really great insight into how they turn their art into wonderful printed products.
So, without further ado, we introduce our first featured artist, Alan Gunston. Alan lives almost a stone’s throw from our studio in Kirkby Stephen and has been a regular customer for a few years. By now we must have printed thousands of greetings cards for Alan and we’re big fans of what he does – trains!
Alan’s passion for railways
Cumbria has a rich and historic railway heritage. Having lived and worked in the county for over 30 years, it was inevitable that on his retirement in 2001, Alan would renew his long standing hobby and interest in railways and railway painting in particular. This passion which started in early childhood, would later be reflected through drawings and paintings, starting in earnest when Alan became an Associate Member of the Guild of Railway Artists in the 1980’s. Despite having exhibited examples of his work at that time and having had four of his paintings included in the Guild’s first book (The Great Western Collection), the time consuming nature of producing intricate and accurate (dare he upset the rivet counters) paintings, meant that he put his art career on hold to focus on family life and his job with Cumbria County Council.
Since picking up his brushes again, Alan has gained a strong reputation with invitations to exhibit his work at Carnforth Railway Heritage Centre twice and recently at an event at Sandown Park Racecourse. He has also been commissioned to illustrate two book jackets and had a major commission from The Newcastle Poster Company which is now the well- recognised ‘Mighty Bridges of Newcastle’ poster.
Volunteering at Stainmore Railway Company
Alan’s passion for steam extends beyond his paintings. He regularly volunteers for The Stainmore Railway Company at Kirkby Stephen East, a partially restored station and length of track that used to form part of the South Durham & Lancashire Union Railway between Barnard Castle and Tebay. Alan’s 2018 Christmas Card, seen below, depicts a low winter sunset at Kirkby Stephen East. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the cards was donated to help further restoration work at the site.
Moving his art forward; turning it into print
Alan has pursued his painting hobby to a point where he has now published a small range of greetings cards and prints, which he sells himself at events and also has stocked throughout the county in various shops and outlets, including Kirkby Stephen Visitor Centre and Carlisle Station. Alan notes that his journey to finding a reliable printer who can deliver on quality, colour and service, has not been an easy one.
Alan says that good advice is invaluable at all stages of the processes, including artwork preparation, proofing and paper selection; especially when first starting out and trying to find a way forward. It’s a real setback and so disappointing when you don’t get the quality you’re looking for.
We were delighted when Alan first came to see us five years ago when he moved to Kirkby Stephen. Not only do we love his work, but it provides some enjoyable challenges. Because Alan’s work is varied and also progressive in terms of who the audience might be, each new painting requires a different outlook, and this means a collaborative approach is essential.
“We have come to understand what both sides want and it has been so refreshing to find printer who is excited by the product and prepared to understand and support what the artist is looking for” Alan Gunston
Tips for artists looking to sell their work
We asked Alan what he’d learnt over the years about selling his art and what tips he had for other artists. His advice:
- Never give up when it comes to getting your product right; work with a printer that is prepared to listen and stick to your guns about getting the final product right.
- Persist and be organised with potential sellers. You’ve got to keep chasing people to stock your work and let them know when you have new pieces they might be interested in. Shop owners get offered a lot of things, so you need to keep reminding them of what you do.
- It takes time to become established, so don’t be surprised if it’s slow going to start with. It can actually be a mistake to rush into having your work turned into print without properly considering who your potential customers are. Now that we have the versatility of digital print, you don’t have to rush into big print runs. There is a huge range of potential product options but not everything will be right for you. Start simple with cards and prints, and then add other products when you’re comfortable that you know your market.
What’s the plan for 2019?
Alan has been invited to exhibit at two local exhibitions; Warcop Parish Hall in May and in Shap’s Court House Community Gallery for three weeks from 9th August. Alan is also working on a major commission for one of the country’s leading locomotive preservation organisations, which we look forward to seeing later in the year. To find out more about Alan, follow him on Facebook or Instagram. You can contact him directly via email at Alangunstonart@gmail.com
Get advice on turning your art into beautiful printed products
We always get excited when meeting new artists and are happy to give advice how you can turn your art into print, so feel free to contact us at Cerberus for a friendly chat.
You can contact us here
Thanks for reading.
Tom Burnham is the Managing Director of Cerberus Printing, taking over the family business from his father Clive in 2017. Tom grew up in Cumbria and has a passion for the county, it’s culture and championing Cumbrian business. He lives in the Dales town of Sedbergh with his wife, Laura and son, Alexis.