The Blue Room Art Group (or BRAG) are exhibiting their work in The Blue Room during North Somerset Arts Week. This friendly group meets every other Wednesday in The Blue Room and, under the watchful eye of Jeff Martin, undertake all things arty! Their work is as diverse as the group itself… so we thought we should find out more about them. Four brave souls undertook to answer my questions: Jeff Martin (JM), Angela O’Shea (AO), Kevin Munro (KM) and Liz Marsh (LM).

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin

Do you come from Nailsea/North Somerset? If not, how long have you lived in the area?

JM:  I live at Burrington and Nailsea is my nearest town with retail outlets and other amenities.

AO:  Originally from Wirral, I’ve lived in Nailsea for 30 years.

KM:  Came to North Somerset Yatton via Taunton Bucks and originally Middlesex

LM:  I have lived in Portishead since 1978, but was brought up in Winscombe.


Have you always drawn/painted?

JM:  I painted at school and obtained a grade C in A level art but did not paint again until after I retired picking up a brush in 2008 but more seriously and regularly from 2013.

Kevin Munroe

Kevin Munro

AO:  Dabbled on and off over the years, but spent more time on art since I retired two years ago.

KM:  No went 20 plus years not painting at all work and children distracted me.

LM:  My interest in art didn’t begin until I was in my late 40’s. I had a major operation to remove a benign brain tumour and my father in law encouraged me to begin drawing and painting the beautiful flowers that were given to me. I was then taken on an art course held at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm which I found very relaxing and therapeutic during my recovery. I became hooked, but on returning to work it was harder to continue with my art. During the last year I have had more time and attended a refresher workshop at the Blue Room. I attend the drop in sessions and also have joined an art club.

Liz Marsh

Liz Marsh

What techniques/mediums have you tried? Which are your favourites?

JM:  I have tried watercolour, acrylic and gouache but keep returning to watercolour.

AO:  I mostly do detailed graphite pencil drawings, but have tried coloured pencil, acrylic and oils. I’m currently trying more watercolour.

KM:  Mainly acrylic but lately watercolour.  Acrylic is my preferred medium

LM:  I’ve mostly used watercolour, but also gouache and acrylics. I love to experiment so my favourite technique could be called “experimental or exploratory art”. I experiment by adding natural materials in the form of collage and mixed media. I also enjoy pen and wash. I prefer a more loose style.

Sarah Benfield

                                   Sarah Benfield

Do you prefer landscapes, still life, portraits, abstracts?

JM:  I prefer still life at the moment, but I have been through phases of landscapes, seascapes and portrait being my favourite, I suppose what I am painting at the time becomes my favourite subject, my range of paintings and styles have been described as eclectic.

AO:  I love to do paintings or drawings of animals and birds, but also enjoy landscapes.

KM: Landscape

LM:  I enjoy landscapes, seascapes and still life. I prefer a loose and semi abstract style.

Angela O'Shea

Angela O’Shea

What inspires you?

JM:  Disappearing into my painting and losing myself for hours on end in creating a picture that pleases me and hopefully pleases others, it’s not subjects that necessarily inspires me but the process of painting

AO:  Looking at nature and nature photos and paintings, especially very detailed work.

KM:  Sun, sea and, in particular, clouds

LM:  The wonder of creation generally. Enjoying art helps me to look more closely at the amazing shapes, colours, people and constantly changing seasons and weather!

What is your favourite colour? Both to use in your work and in general.

Liz Marsh

Liz Marsh

JM:  My favourite colour is red, it is bright, passionate and cheerful, not at all like me. However, in my painting I like using Paynes Gray and Burnt Umber a lot, they are great for mono-colour, tonal images and can provide depth to paintings, but so can a lot of colours, I just settle for these two.

AO:  Blue and blue!

KM:  Used to be blue but I now love orange

LM:  I have always loved blue, but art has helped me to appreciate the full spectrum of colour. I love bright and happy colours.

Who is your favourite artist? Have you seen any of their work ‘in real life’? If so, where?

Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin

JM:  I have a lot of ‘favourite’ artists. Monet, Manet, Boudin and Matisse are all up there and I have viewed their paintings at the Musee Dorsey in Paris and in the Buodin Musee in Honfluer. I am also staggard by the skill and breadth of work of Picasso and recently visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. His early work was very conventional and the stuff he painted at 13, 14 and 15 years older was astounding. For me I think he lost his way when he started to introduce cubism and entered the dubious world of abstract painting which I do not have the intellect nor the will to understand.

AO: No particular favourite. I love the Young Hare by Albrecht Durer, but also other styles such as The White Horse by Paul Gaugin which I was very excited to see in Venice, Surrealists such as Salvador Dali – I saw an exhibition in London and I love the drama in Caravaggio’s paintings, some of which I’ve seen in Malta.

KM:  M E Escher and S Dali

LM:  I don’t really have a favourite at the moment. I recently bought one of Laure Bury’s paintings and I love her loose style with seascapes, Dartmoor scenes and butterflies. I have visited the Van Gough museum in Amsterdam, a Klimt exhibition in London and a Monet exhibition as well as visiting his inspirational garden at Giverny.

What do you think of the recent painting competition programmes that have been on TV?

Kevin Munroe

Kevin Munro

JM:  I think such programmes bring art into the homes of people who would not normally explore it, I know of friends who are not arty at all getting hooked on the programmes and commenting on the processes and results of the competitors’ work.

KM:  Interesting how important perspective and proportion was and how the different artists developed over the series

LM:  I watched the recent programme with interest. It all helps in the learning process, but I didn’t always agree with the judges!

Do you like to work in silence? Or with music? Or the radio?

JM:  I do not mind working in silence but usually tune into Classic FM and get the best of both worlds, painting and music. However, I also like painting with friends and engaging in banter, cake and coffee (sometimes a glass or three of wine)

Liz Marsh

Liz Marsh

AO: I alternate through silence (often with accompanying birdsong), heavy and progressive rock (very loud), and a lovely French singer called Zaz (more quietly!).

KM:  Silence or radio but with my wife, daughter grandson their partners one dog 3 cats all in one small house it is hard to achieve!!

LM:  At home and when I paint outside I tend to work in silence and get lost in my own thoughts or enjoying the bird songs, but am happy to have music in the background when in a group setting sometimes. It can also be quite a social time with friends with time for chat but also time just to get
absorbed and quietly working together.

Do you have a studio/workshop/spare bedroom where you work? Is it all clean and tidy or a bit messy and chaotic?

JM:  I have a studio in my garden and it’s a place called Little Orchard, it’s a wonderful place to go to and disappear for a while. I am by nature a

Sarah Benfield

                                  Sarah Benfield

methodical and tidy person but my studio can become quite untidy but then I have a purge and clear it up. Oddly when it is untidy I know where everything is, how does that work?

AO:  I use a (mostly!) tidy spare room.

KM:  Share a messy conservatory with my wife who is heavily into lots of crafts and uses 60% of the room!

LM:  I have a spare bedroom where I keep all my equipment and sometimes I paint there. It is rarely tidy, but I do have labelled drawers for when I have a tidy up. My favourite place to paint is in our conservatory as the light is so good there and it overlooks the garden and fields and trees.

How important to you has it been to belong to the Blue Room Art Group?

JM:  The Blue Room has enabled me to develop my art teaching skills. I have been a teacher in academic and practical subjects for many years and the Blue Room has enable me to transfer the teaching skills I’ve developed over the years into teaching art, which I enjoy immensely.

I have made some really special friends through teaching at the Blue Room (and elsewhere) and I really look forward to the fortnightly Painting Drop-in sessions where the Blue Room Art Group (BRAG) meet and paint, chat and eat cake!

The art world is a great fraternity both locally and also beyond and it’s an endless pleasure for everyone who joins in either as artists or viewers, how lucky we are!

AO:  It’s great to chat and share ideas with the lovely bunch of people at the Wednesday painting drop-in session. Everyone is very enthusiastic and encouraging, and the group expert, Jeff, is so helpful and supportive. I’ve picked up loads of tips. And the cake is delicious!

KM: Very- after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s 8 years ago the group has inspired me to go back to art which was my best subject at school.  I find it relaxing and great to meet up with very interesting people.

LM:  The Blue Room Art Group is great. We have coffee, sometimes cake, good chats and a laugh and it is a good time to encourage and inspire one another.


Many thanks to Jeff, Angela, Kevin and Liz for the fascinating insight into their work and the Art Group. Hope your exhibition goes really well!