Art for all is Shazia's Chichester art trail inspiration

Shazia Mahmood is a huge believer in art for all – and that’s precisely why she is so delighted to be taking part in this year’s returning Chichester Open Studios Art Trail.

Shazia Mahmood
Shazia Mahmood

The event went online last year amid the pandemic; this year it is back live, but also with an online element for artists and members of the public who aren’t quite ready to go back in person.

Shazia is among the artists who can’t wait to open her doors. She is looking forward to welcoming people to Cross Trees, Burlow Close, Birdham, PO20 7ES (plenty of parking on the drive).

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“I am a regular with the trail,” Shazia says. “I have done it since the beginning and I just think it is great the way that it gives the public the opportunity to engage with the arts. I really do believe in art for everyone. I believe everyone should have the chance to do art. I believe that everyone is an artist.”

The sadness is so many people are told early on that they aren’t very good at art and so stop: “It is something that is taught out of people and people just grow out of it because they are told that there is good art and that there is bad art and that they are just not doing good art.

“Of course if you commit to it for a long period you will get better and better at it, but you can only commit to it if you enjoy it and you won’t enjoy it if you are always being told what to do and if you are always being told that you are not doing it right. You hear lots of children saying ‘Oh, I am so bad at drawing!’ and I want to tell them ‘No, you are not!’ I think it is so sad. I think it is to do with the education system worldwide.”

Shazia’s hope is that a hidden blessing of the pandemic is that more and more people will have discovered that, yes, they really can do it: “And that they have found just how self-soothing art can be.

“And the art trail is a good way to put that across. Going into a studio, everyone has a preconceived notion about what a studio is like and it is great for people to come into one and see how it really is and what really happens.

“I have been doing this for 26 years, making art, making a living out of it. I have done my own thing and I sell throughout the world. Last year, yes, it was rubbish home-schooling the kids, but it was also brilliant. It was like someone gave me permission to do my art. I have been very productive because what else was I going to do?”

Shazia is a landscape artist: “It gives me a great opportunity to explore different materials. I really believe that paint has changed, the substance has changed in recent years. There has been a bit of a revolution. I mean, the materials themselves. There are a lot of different new mediums on the market. It is very exciting.

“My passion is landscape and coastal painting, particularly The Witterings and Scotland’s incredible coastline. My home is nestled between the beautiful South Downs National Park and the rolling sand dunes of West Wittering, and this provides me with endless inspiration for my paintings, which are available to buy as oils on canvas, watercolours on paper, giclee prints or small cards.

“Landscape is important for me because it is an ever-changing subject. When you are watching a landscape, you are just trying to capture that moment in time, and that’s what I am really interested in doing. Landscapes are so changeable. The weather moves across. Light changes. Colour changes. It is just a wonderful, endless source of inspiration.”

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The 2021 trail concludes on Saturday and Sunday, July 17 and 18. Venues will be open from 10.30am-5pm each day bringing together 132 artists exhibiting a wide range of work across 112 venues (16 of them online only) in and around the city of Chichester with a number of different trails within the trail.