artists' open houses

Jo Riddell: Voice of Experience

Most people who have attended the Artists Open Houses festival in Brighton & Hove will need no introduction to Jo Riddell, a painter and printmaker. She has been a part of the Artists Open Houses for over 10 years, and she’ll be exhibiting her work at this coming festival in May. Artists Open Houses spoke to Jo about her work and her thoughts on the AOH festival.

Jo took a foundation course at Great Yarmouth Art College, before moving on to complete a BA at Brighton Poly (now University of Brighton). After graduating, Jo illustrated children’s books for a number of years, and then, still in Brighton, decided to take an etching course.  She learnt the traditional method of etching on metal with acid and in doing so, rediscovered the joys of printmaking. “I love the whole process of mark making, the different ways you can render tones from greys to dark blacks” Jo says, passionately, of her craft.

Jo now works in a studio with other print makers using Acrylic Resist, which is a much safer method of etching but equally effective.

For inspiration, Jo enjoys walking in the Norfolk and Sussex countryside. This can clearly be seen in her work, which commonly features farm buildings, machinery, things hidden beneath hedgerows (like seed heads or dead birds), winter landscapes, still lives and portraits.

The first time Jo exhibited in the Artists Open Houses was in the early Noughties, at a friend’s open house. There she showed mostly paintings. For the last seven years she has opened her own house every other year. Of the festival, Jo says “The AOH festival has certainly grown each year and encourages an eclectic mix of work to suit all tastes, bringing a special atmosphere to Brighton each May”. As frequent visitors ourselves, we couldn’t agree more.

Jo is inviting some good friends to exhibit in her house this year. Her reasons for sharing her home - and exhibition space - are pretty straightforward. “I like to get a different mix of work: photography, jewellery, illustrations and prints to make it more interesting. I haven’t exhibited on my own yet as that would be too scary and intimidating for me. Not to mention the visitors!”

We asked Jo what she thought was the best thing about AOH. “Its inclusiveness” was her reply. “I like the fact that anyone can open their house as a gallery for a month and curate a show…” It certainly is a fantastic thing.

With all her experience of the Artists Open Houses we thought we’d ask Jo if she could pass on some advice. “The advice I would give artists who are opening their houses for the first time is to keep it simple; not to crowd too much in; to have fun and most importantly to have plenty of homemade cakes and tea in the garden!”

So there you go; some wise words from an artist who has successfully opened her house for a number of years. If you’re taking part for the first time this year, please enjoy it.

Also, you may find our comprehensive guide to opening your house helpful. It contains lots of advice on everything from insurance to refreshments!