IN CONSEVATION WTH PIERRE BARTON-PINK
THE COMPLEAT ARTIST
Winchester Street, Salisbury
"If I close the shop tomorrow I would have still have won because the
knowledge and growth of knowledge has been so good.”
Over the past two and a half years in The Compleat Artist has established its self as a shop of quality art products, styled in an old fashioned way.
Owner Pierre was born in Tokyo, but grew up in Brockenhurst in the New Forest before moving to Salisbury to study.
While studying on an art foundation course Pierre came across a book called Sight-Size Method by Nicholas Beer, who runs The Sarum Studio, an independent fine art school in Salisbury. He immediately signed up to study at the school to focus on his love of oil painting and the Sight-Size method, with a plan to study for 6 years.
But lockdown was to take Pierre in a slightly different direction!
I met Pierre in his shop and started by asking what inspired him to become an artist?
"It was the book I was gifted - the Sight-Sized Method and in it was a photograph of artist Nick Beer’s art studio and where it was at 56C The Cathedral Close, Salisbury.
I was living and studying art on a foundation course nearby at the time and decided to visited Nick’s studio. That visit was the ended the foundation course and into full time education studying under Nick. It was a mix of very practical learning and working as his studio assistant, mopping out the kitchen, making tea!
I had originally planned to stay 6 years, then lockdown came along. To keep me busy during this time I worked full time as a painter and decorator.”
"We all had to find something to do, so well done! Why did you decide to open your own art shop?”
"As we came out of lockdown, I came across the previous art shop here up for sale. I told Nick (Beer) I fancied doing a project because I was bored after lockdown and he said “Well why don’t you do that!” To which I replied “Why not!
That happened in November 2021 and by January 2022 I was open!"
“Perfect! Have an idea and go for it! Don’t plan - life is to short for planning. You can plan as you go!"
"I packed all the planning I possible could in to a month, then the rest of it was setting up relationships with supplies and distribution and then building all the units, product testing and all that.”
I decided to name it the Compleat Artist shop as a nod to the previous Compleat Artist in Crane Street, Salisbury, which closed in 2015 after more than 60 years of trading.
From the beginning, I wanted to set it up as an art hub where people can come for advice and demonstrations and to encourage more people to get into trying new things, new materials.”
“Do you look back already and think about where you are now and the progress you’ve have made since starting?"
“Just seeing how much I have already added is really mental. I remember at the beginning when I was unpacking it all. All the deliveries came at the same time, the whole floor was filled with boxes. Unpacking it all, it was a nightmare, and then running it through the till to set it up. I basically had all the whole stock for the shop all at one time.
I seem to remember it being so much. But I look back now and I’ve doubled what I had then. I now have so much more, and now I want quite a bit more again! Yes, a lots changed."
"How did you decide which suppliers and distributers to go with?”
“That was research and relationships. Some companies don’t have sales reps, they don’t have catalogs, its just online. You don't get to deal with any people and that I tend not to be that interested in because it takes the personality away.
With a lot of my company I have a rep come who has since become somewhat of a friend. They give me products to test, they let me handle and try it all, which is just great”
“Do you test all products to be confident when talking about them?”
“Yes I do. For example, I’ve used all these brushes, believe it or not!”
“So you know absolutely everything about all your stock, because you have tried and tested it”
“As much as I can, the product choices are very much built from relationships, that’s a really important part of it and a lot on where it is manufactured as well.
I really like supporting the UK manufactures. Europe and the USA as well. But mostly UK products, plus some Italian, French, Dutch and even Japanese companies. Not a huge amount from Japan, but the Fine Liners definitely are, made by Mitsubishi, they are really nice!
There has been a lot of trial and error! There has been a selection of products I had at the beginning I no longer have in the shop, which has all been part of the journey so far.
There are products I have to stock that I don’t necessarily want to, but the demand is so big. But mainly I want the shop to be like the old style chemist with the really traditional, absolutely stunning quality of product that I love just looking into and messing around with.”
“Do you enjoy that part of it?”
“I really enjoy finding new products.”
“Finding, testing and selling. Do you enjoy the selling part too?”
“Yes I do but I’m a bit of an introvert to be honest. So this has been an interesting push for me.
It has been an interesting conversion and challenge, but I’ve learnt a lot and I have made some really good customer friends - people just come in, sit down for a chat, which is lovely.
I’ve also gained art mentors to help me with my oil painting.”
"It is very ‘old shop’ looking and has an old shop feel, which is lovely”
“I could go even further back, though to be fair I do also stock more affordable products as well. I have a general rule to include professional, mid and lower ranges. The mid and affordable tend to be much more affordable and the lower ranges are really accessible.
I even stock canvases in all three, which is ridiculous with the limited amount of space I have to fill, but good practice to do!
I can’t do it with everything, but for acrylic, oil and watercolour paints, canvases, papers and brushes I can.”
“Whats the best part of your job?”
“I know what the worse part is!”
“Ok, whats the worse part then?”
“The website! The ongoing amount of work that has to go into it is insufferable! Data entry and all that I absolutely despise it and it all takes so much time!
But, thankfully it’s getting there.
I think my favourite bit is… or one of my favourite bits is exploring new products. When I get sent samples I love it!
I got sent this the other day, from a new supplier. It’s a handmade rag cotton paper. It’s beautiful and made in India.
I cut out pages and give them to customers to try it out. It means I can test it on say 20 different artists. I found that is the best way to test products. It’s not just my opinion, but other artists as well - they get to see and try them too.”
“That helps to build relationships too… test and feedback”
“I’d say that is one of my favourite parts and then obviously when an order comes in! Unpacking all the new stock… that’s another bit I really like, haha unpacking orders - that sounds so miserable!!"
“Not at all, it’s like Christmas isn't it!”
“Yes like Christmas, unboxing presents. Unpacking presents I can look at, but not use!"
“As the owner of an art shop and an artist, how do you feel the visual arts community in general could be better supported?”
“In short, I think that the art groups that run things for people do it so effectively and benefit many local artists, that we would benefit from more. Many of the great events put on for artists are set up independently such as the art market. The creatives manage it and benefit from it.
Just looking at the beautiful galleries that we have in this country and the artworks. I think visual arts is very important and not represented enough in Salisbury."
“We have the art trails alternating the Salisbury and Wylye art trails works well”
“Yes, these are an amazing outlet for artists and should be getting as much support as possible. It could be fun to almost have ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ route where your immersed in it, almost like bunting following it. A really immersive arts event.
In terms of tourism too, you want as many tourists doing it as possible, because at the end of the day the more tourist the better for the local artists.”
"I like that idea… a visual yellow brick road approach with more signage around the whole town. It should be everywhere and embraced by the everyone.”
“An entire community event!”
"What or who inspires you most? Obviously you’ve mention a couple of people, but in terms of your art or in terms of running a business is there anybody? Or have you just stuck to your own vision?”
“To be honest I don’t take the whole inspire by thing. Its for me, without sounding too independent. I like to challenge myself really, it’s not so much a some one inspired me thing”
"So visually the idea was for a shop with its old school style approach?”
“Yes, old school independent art shop that we used to have. You walk in and you actually have someone who can help you out. It’s about service, it’s about products. That's how I wanted it to run and thats very much how it’s running.”
“And how do you see it moving forward?”
“I want the shop to be even more full!
I’ve got some great ideas and I want to bring out my own canvas range. That's a this year thing, so sooner rather than later.
I’m getting my own stretch bars manufactured, it’s happening. Out in the next few months!
From there on who knows! But not knowing is part of the enjoyment.”
“What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given - maybe Nick saying “go for it”
“In relation to the shop, yes definitely!”
“And what one thing would you like your visitors to take away from visiting your shop?”
Haha! I don't know - some knowledge really. I do like handing out knowledge.
When a customer is handling a product I like to give them a weird bit of knowledge that links to it… product knowledge.
Or something interesting like… artists used to have to invoice separately for the Lapis lazuli because the original ultramarine blue was so expensive and mined in Afghanistan. Odd I know, but I love all that sort of stuff!”
"And finally, what does your art and being an artist mean to you, the artist?"
“Oh thats everything!"
“So why did you chose to go this way and not pursue you art?”
“I like the materials… I really enjoy the materials. The oil paints… seeing who makes what better, all the bottles of substances and testing them. The brushes… what shape works, which company is doing it best”
“The shop has become a really good way to help with your art”
“My knowledge now compared to January last year has increased greatly. I have just spent everyday learning, its been incredible.
The access to product information that I now get with all the catalogues, and manufacture spec sheets is so good and so very interesting.”
“I’ve just noted down - Shop… everyday learning for my art!”
“Yes basically. I’ve learnt so many more skills it has been great. I love it.
If I don’t take any away from this, the amount of knowledge I’ve been able to gain would be still a winner.
Along with the friends I have made, my art and the shop are the perfect combination!”
Thank you Pierre.
I wish you much success and enjoyment finding more wonderful products for you and your customer to try out and look forward to seeing how The Compleat Artist moves forward over the next two and half years!