The truth about being an artist and running a gallery in a small seaside town

I often make the time to pop in and see Rich of Savooni, he is a very talented artist and is extremely supportive of local businesses & other local artists. Seaton businesses have a lot to thank Rich for with his recently set up 'Cultural Quarter' which i will explain more about in another post. Rich recently very kindly agreed to an interview. I wanted to find out more about what his life is like as an artist and what it is like for him owning a gallery (which is know as Savooni, Seaton's Art Space) in Seaton, Devon. 

Tell us a little about yourself & your background in art? 
Picasso said something like when he was a child he could draw like Rembrandt and ever since he had tried to draw like a child.  I think this is the case for many artists, they find their talent at a young age being able to copy with some precision photos etc at about the age of 12.  This is the result, the finale, the conclusion to the previous years of stick men and rainbow cats.  We have, at 12 years old organised our lives and solved life’s purpose.  Consequently the rest of our lives is a tortured confusion of being pulled forward by age, education and society but desperately wanting to recreate the haven and happiness of stick men and so we go to college
I went to Kitson College in Leeds to do a foundation course in 1980 and then spent the rest of the 80s doing the 80s in all its glory.  I spent the 90s in atonement for the 80s by living a simple life in France working as canoe and ski instructor.  In 1999 I went o Cumbria College of Art and Design to do a B.A. not really for the qualification but more to try to absorb the cutting edge of art at that time and so enter into the artistic discourse again.  An M.A followed and I have called myself an artist since.
I have always found it difficult to call myself an artist.  When does one become an artist?  When do people accept you as an artist?  The qualifications say I am an artist and if I was a doctor, scientist, architect that is what I would be called and recognised as.  But that is their conclusion, I am still striving to draw stick men
What is your favourite style of art?
I have chosen painting as my primary medium after working with many others so if painting is a style them painting it is.  I feel I have barely scratched the surface of its possibilities so it looks like a lifelong commitment.  That being the case however the art I would buy for myself would be anything other because I can be subjective about it.  I like ceramics in particular because I know nothing about it but I love performance art as well because it is something I don’t do.
If I were to pick an art movement it would be Fluxus and it may be clich├ęd but I do like Yoko Ono

What is the hardest part of being an artist? 

Being confident and staying confident.  I don’t think there is another job where you do the job and then leave it open to criticism.  Imagine that in the public sector!  This means that whatever you make has a reason because every mark may potentially need defending but out of that comes integrity

What is the best part of being an artist? 
I would like to say it is that you can sit around wearing a beret and smoking Gaulois but I think artists are more business conscious and mostly self employed so really it comes down to the freedom or lack of constrictions that that brings.

When did you set up Savooni? 
2017 about Christmas time

What inspired you to set up a gallery in Seaton? 
When we moved here in 2010 I thought I was the only artist in Seaton.  There was no art anywhere.  I was able to show some work in the Gateway but really just carried on with commissioned work from my home.  
At some point I met John Buckley who wanted to start an art market now Art @ Jubilee and this exposed some more artists.  The success of the market over a couple of years showed that there is a healthy art scene in the town and some of that group now exhibit together.
There are 2 things that really annoy me in the art industry. One is ‘we can’t pay you but you will get loads of publicity’; the other is councils raising money for public art and then getting an artist from out of town to make the work.  Yes I mean the ‘waves’.  So I joined the Town Council to try to ensure that this did not happen again (much good it did me) and eventually found a space to open a studio and workshop space to encourage art endeavor in the town.  Having a gallery space is great because it is a venue for all sorts of local talent.  Not the first art business and I hope not the last because how fantastic is Seaton now for art stuff.

Can you tell us more about the art classes you teach? 
I am really passionate about the classes.  I just do basic drawing and at present keeping it to still life because I can’t find a life model.
Drawing is the basis of so many things so I run art courses of 5 weeks for students on Thursdays and Fridays after school and drop in sessions for anyone else on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons, for more details have a look at the website

What have you learnt so far from owning a gallery in Seaton? 
1). I think I should wear a suit more.  2). People are really scared of galleries.  That is why I try to call it an art space.  Yes I would love people to buy more artworks but owning art is not the overwhelming aim of what Savooni is about.  It is about looking at art, talking about art and talking to artists and it is about making art.

What are your plans for the future of Savooni? 
What is happening at the present time is the plan and as a new business I feel I have to stick to that before considering a next step.  Obviously some small changes will always happen to refine that plan

A massive thanks to Rich Webster for his time. Please do be sure to pop in an see him at Savooni on Beer Road in Seaton. Take a look at his facebook page too :


  1. Great post and brilliant to hear more about Rich and his work.


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