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Fran White

Fran White


For many years I have been visiting Emily Ball at Seawhite for painting courses, but this stopped during the pandemic. Having recently started going again I was reminded of the importance of routine and the well-being benefits I experience as a result.

Routines help us create positive daily habits that we can organise our time around. Things that we deem important, to maintain happiness and feelings of fulfilment and self-worth.

I first discovered Seawhite of Brighton in 1995 while I was studying print and Weave at Farnham. Long before they had a retail shop we used to visit their warehouse and select art supplies. It was my drawing teacher, Penny Hopkins who told me you could go directly to their warehouse in Partridge Green. You could also buy these same sketchbooks from the College shop but going direct was clearly cheaper for students.

I discovered Emily Ball via the ‘grapevine’; it could have been our neighbour potter/painter Clare Sutcliffe, fellow Pure artist Edith Barton or my Australian friend Jane Grinling, a dress designer who used to trade in London as Jane Caitlin. I met her through friends after she’d moved to Sussex. She designed some jackets for my Linen Shop business and she also taught me watercolour painting at her home.

Andy + Fran in jacket designed by Jane Caitlin
Andy and Fran in jacket designed by Jane Caitlin

I initially joined Emily Ball’s RACKHAM CONTEMPORARY ART courses held at Rackham Village Hall. This was one morning a week and culminated with an Exhibition there Summer 2005. When I joined Emily’s Wednesday group in October 2005 Emily was renting studio space from the Seawhite Art Shop, suppliers to Colleges & Museums, in Partridge Green. The Wednesday group course was for a full day, 9.30-4.30, spread over Winter, Spring and Summer Academic Terms. Eventually Emily moved totally to Partridge Green trading as the EMILY BALL AT SEAWHITE Contemporary PAINTING COURSES.

Head, Hands Feet 2005

The first Seawhite course I attended was Hands, Head & Feet in Autumn 2005 tutored by Katie Sollohub, and the most recent has been The Creative Painting Space January 2022 tutored over 3 days by Emily Ball.

During these 17 years I’ve been on many year long and short courses, as well as several online during the lockdown; Wabi Sabi with Helen Turner; Putting People into Paint tutored by Helen Turner & Gary Goodman; Painting Pattern & Expanded Painting with Nick Bodimeade; Master Classes with John Skinner; Art as Autobiography by Katie Sollohub, and a variety of courses with Simon Carter, Gary Wragg and Julian Brown.

Other regular habits and routines I have developed over the years include meditation, cooking, walking, pilates, yoga, and visiting Art Galleries. Due to the orientation of our home, I tend to spend the mornings in my office/sewing room where the sun streams in and the afternoons in my studio on the western side of the house. In the mornings I focus more on paperwork and computer-based activities. In the afternoons I enjoy contemplating, exploring and creating.

Record keeping is another habit I have developed. Before digital photography I recorded our home and family life in large albums, this was inspired by my father who did the same for our family when I was growing up. I have 20 of these which we regularly refer to when reminiscing &/or reminding ourselves of various dates and years.

Similarly, I have lots of sketchbooks where I kept a record of most of the courses I attended at Seawhite, writing notes learnt from tutors on each different course, as well as printing out photos of the work we all did and the Exhibitions we were all involved in.

Record keeping is important to me as it is evidence of my ongoing curiosity and interest in continuing to learn. It also gives structure to my day – stops me being diverted, keeps me focused, busy and happy.

As a family we all have a tendency to being very focused when involved in what we each do best, a shared work ethic; diligent, finishing jobs. I’ve also learnt a lot from three girlfriends whom I met locally through my children’s schools. We all shared a love of textiles and creativity. We have supported each other bringing up our children, school runs, holidays, watched them marry and have their own children.

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After completing a distance learning course, A Creative Approach to Textiles, with the Open College of the Arts, my dress historian friend Andy and I went on to different colleges as mature students. We shared ways of dealing with our workload/studies and our families.

I met Chris at our village school gate when we were delivering our daughters. She taught deaf children and was a huge help to me when I started wearing hearing aids. Chris has taught me many routines – gardening and book reading to name a few. In 1998 she and I started a Book Club with Emily, this became 5 members. We have all learnt from each other ways to work, rest & play – even taking time out to go together to Ragdale Spa.

Chris, Sue, Emily, Jo, Fran Book Club people

Since 1995 Edie and I have been holidaying with our families in North Cornwall. We’ve spent many happy hours walking the cliffs and beaches, collecting pebbles, sketching and boogy boarding. We’ve been to many Seawhite courses and she has taught me routines around painting and creating. I find her artistic creations endlessly inspiring.

Fran and Edie Horsham Artist Open Studios

Various people I follow on Instagram mention routines – for work as well as for Artist retreats – in fact, one of these is in Cornwall. Being a member of the Pure Arts Group has also introduced me to new ideas and ways of living. Recently I came across Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s new book Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways to Feel Great Every Day. A routine he suggests is to “go on holiday every day, your daily holiday should be something you do alone, that brings you into the present moment, that doesn’t rely on a smartphone and that is done in complete silence”. Examples are walking, running, yoga, swimming, cycling.

These observations have introduced me to new ways to structure my days. Giving me space to follow my painting. Gifted me ideas on where and how to be creative.

Hopefully, they will also help me divest of old limiting habits such as procrastinating so I can spend more time in my studio… creating.

Fran, Jane, Chris Frida at the V&A

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