‘Steyning Arts’, a collection of local artists, recently presented their November exhibition to the town. They offered cake and drinks to accompany their collection of around fifty pieces, allowing locals to browse the work at their pleasure. Steyning Arts member Jill Dixon, an organiser of the event, told me that it was not her first exhibition. “I’ve been a member of the group for about three years, and we do it every year, showcasing work.”

The work itself ranged from subtle, intricate pieces, such as the water colour paintings presented by Peter Gibbs, to the more bold and interpretive textile work of Jean Griffiths. Peter told me that he simply uses “watercolour, but [uses] acrylic as well.” Jill on the other hand offered me a more exuberant description of her experimentation. “I do embroidery, working with a lot of fabric. I also draw and paint; I’ve got paintings in here. And I’ve got postcards and embroideries. A real range of work.”

What I found most notable about the work was a single common denominator, the local area.

Jill offered some insight. “I’m inspired by the landscape. I’ll start initially from landscape and work outwards from that. I do a lot of sketching, painting, photographs. And then just work out from there.”

Peter told me of a similar method. “I usually do it from a photograph, from when I was out somewhere. Anything that just takes your eye, I’ll take a photograph of it, several photographs of it. Then I’ll do something with it.”

As regards to artistic influence, neither artist could offer me a definitive answer. Jill suggested that her brother offered her some guidance. “I’m certainly influenced by what he says. He teaches, so he knows a lot about fine art; he’s always very helpful with feedback. Like I’d ask Phil, “how’d you do this?” and he would say, “oh you do it like this,” so he’d tell me how to correct things.”

Peter also struggled to state an artist he considers an influence, referencing instead the transferable skills which influence his work. “I go to lots of demonstrations and pick up tips, and incorporate things, kind of learn as I go along. Not one painter.”

My final question was regarding why the artists chose to take part in the exhibition, or simply get involved with art in the first place, something that Peter summed up quite charmingly. “I’m an engineer, I took up art to relieve my frustration, but found art very frustrating eventually.”