As I stepped inside I was greeted by a scene of concentration – eleven artists were at work painting a portrait and the day’s tutor Chris Tkacz was busy offering guidance and advice.
The hall is home once a month to The Phoenix – a group of like-minded amateur and professional artists who just want to paint, learn and chat.
It was formed six years ago by Susan Burgess and Valda Sampson and now they have 15 members from all over the county and three people on the waiting list. The day I went along they were painting model Elizabeth Broome who was sitting in a deck chair.
All 11 artists were tackling the challenge in a different way and Chris was helping them overcome the hurdles they encountered. Some were clearly outside their comfort zone, but that is all part of the fun and the general idea.
There was much good-natured banter and when Chris asked them as a group their opinion on portrait painting more than one person piped up: “Avoid it next time.”
But armed with the advice they had gleaned during the day-long session they could take their canvas home and finish it at their leisure.
“We all look forward to the meetings and we all learn a great deal whatever our experience. We try to vary the subjects and have had sessions on subjects as diverse as print-making and egg tempura. It really is quite rewarding,” said Susan.
They attribute the popularity of the group to the relaxed atmosphere and the quality of the tutors and demonstrators booked for the Tuesday sessions.
The list of other Derbyshire artists who have been guests is indeed impressive. Andrew Macara, Sandra Orme, Brian Pashley, Roger Allen, Louise Jannetta, Cheryl Wilbraham and Ingrid Karlsson-Kemp have all been in recent months. The Phoenix also organise trips to exhibitions and each year they stage a show of their own work.
“This year 12 of us are exhibiting work and the show will be at Cromford Mill from August 31 to September 5,” said Susan, adding: “Everyone is welcome.”