CONCLUDING a stunning exhibition in Teignmouth Arts Action Group’s newly renovated gallery this week, local painting group Flying Colours is showing no signs of slowing down.
‘The reception for this exhibition has been very good,’ said Elaine Best, a long-time member of the group, ‘everybody is their own worst critic, you constantly wonder why you’re doing this.
‘But there’s a certain comfort seeing the standard of work by your peers and thinking that you’re part of that group. But it’s just an amazing feeling to hang your work, have people enjoy it and want to put it on their own walls and look at. It gives you a huge buzz.’
Hailing from across Teignbridge, the artists that make up Flying Colours have been painting together for decades, but are always keen to add new members to their ranks.
Flying Colours began its story in Dartington in 2005 under the guidance of teacher and mentor Gahan Oliver.
‘We weren’t called flying colours then,’ Elaine added, ‘the name came later when we started doing charitable work with Devon Air Ambulance.
‘I found the group through word of mouth, I came down from up country and I wanted to paint more than anything else.’
Flying Colours members are from all walks of life. What’s kept them together is their love of art and their desire to dedicate a few hours of their week to painting.
Elaine said: ‘You can hear pin drop when we meet. It’s not a granny’s meeting where we all have cups of tea and chat. Sometimes we can all explode with noise, but ultimately we’re there to paint.’
That commitment to painting shows in the group’s quality of work, quality that hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2016, Flying Colours was selected in a competition to show their work at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.
Elaine said: ‘It was extraordinary. There was a huge space where they curated and hung our work beautifully.
‘That was such a big thing for us.’
Many artists in Flying Colours have continued to soar, such as Chris Pitman and Claire Jenkinson. But the group unanimously agreed that the ‘glue’ of Flying Colours is Gahen Oliver, who has taught and mentored them since day one.
Even at 81, Gahen’s energy and passion continues to push the group’s creative boundaries.
‘What she does is take each individual artist, look at them personally and develop their work,’ said Diana Lewis, another member of Flying Colours.
‘In other words, there are no clones here. She will look at an individual piece of work and give it a lot of thought. It can be the most subtle change, but it can make your painting suddenly zing.’
After residing in Dartmouth and then Bishopsteignton, Flying Colours have now moved their weekly session to Ipplepen Village Hall, 11am-2pm., Thursdays. Even after almost two decades, the group continues to flourish and is always open to new members.
Diana said: ‘Come with an open mind, be prepared to be experimental and go for it. We’re very supportive of one another.’
Elaine added: ‘For me, the main part of it is having a sacrosanct day where we all meet up and paint. That’s the main thing that I treasure.’