There's an amazing and totally free trail of art exhibitions happening in Crystal Palace this weekend and next. The Artists' Open House event includes dozens of art studios, shops, cafes and private houses where painters, photographers, sculptors and crafters are displaying their creations.
You can wander around and look at everything without feeling any pressure to buy something - although there are things on sale that even skint people like me could afford. I spent the afternoon there yesterday and had an absolutely wonderful time.
The Paxton Centre, which is a cafe and art hub on the edge of Crystal Palace Park, where several artists are displaying. As well as enjoying some delicious falafel and a latte, I chatted to two women whose work was lovely, but very different. Caron Clarke paints delightful watercolours of urban scenes in bright colours. I was particularly taken with a picture of crows and another of a street bright with cherry blossom.
Then I went upstairs and chatted with artist Dawn Codex, whose work is a fascinating contrast. Rather than bright colours and recognisable scenes, her mixed media canvasses are mostly stark monochrome and abstract. The description that Dawn offers is: "A dystopian-utopian commentary on ideas of a lost feminine, drawing on the rituals of ancient womanhood and exploring ideas of a futuristic feminine identity." Her work really resonated with me and I could have happily studied her art for a long while, except there were many more places to visit.
Another artist offering a spiritual perspective was in a studio just off the Crystal Palace Triangle of main roads. Natalie Keegan produces visionary art inspired by her craniosacral work. She is a therapist as well as a painter and she says that her pictures are "visions of health". You can see Natalie by one of her pictures in the photo top right.
I was also impressed by the woodwork of Ben Willis, who produces handmade furniture using traditional tools and techniques. I chatted to him about the folklore of wood and I really wish could afford one of his chairs. The picture to the right shows part of his studio and a miniature chair.
As well as being incredibly impressed by the quality and variety of all the work I saw, I was enchanted by the beautiful studio spaces I went into - as well as the views from up on the hill.
I have lived on the edge of Crystal Palace for most of my life, but the Artists' Open House event allowed me to go inside buildings I had never visited before and see my local area from an entirely new perspective. The photo at the bottom shows a group of buildings that contain a warren of art studios, tucked away down a side road. The picture above and to the left shows the inside of one studio. I discovered that there are many other such fascinating corners to explore up on the hill.
The art trail continues today, 1 March, and continues until 8 March. The various locations you can visit are open until 6pm. You can find out more at www.crystalpalaceart.co.uk