Palm tree painting during lockdown

Once upon a time all I painted were palm trees and we will move onto that in a moment. During lockdown initially it felt quite difficult to focus on making art. I started off painting a few large canvases that were quite emotional in their content, large doves with expressive words integrated such as hope, trust and gratitude.

Lock down and the way our world has changed has had its inevitable impact on everyone and so far I feel lucky to be here, to feel healthy and for the people I love to be well too.

Artistically like many I was feeling a huge pressure to use this time as a big opportunity to get a body of work completed or at least to embark on a new project like my desire to create an e- course, catalogue my paintings properly, redesign this web site and countless other projects on the to do list.

However with the enormity of what was going on around us, the tragedy for many and the anxiety of watching the world respond to the pandemic, making art seems pretty crass. But it isn’t, creativity is a great outlet as a coping mechanism at difficult times – it is something that can be controlled to a degree at a time when everything else seems beyond our control. So I did what most artists do and just went into my shed every day and did something, even if all that something was, was a bit of tidying up.

The aforementioned canvases were there, fortunately purchased just before everything closed, so I just poured my emotions onto them and spent time building up marks and colours to give me a tapestry to work with on something. It’s a great way of overcoming artist block. I know well the saying that inspiration catches you working and have generally found this to be true.

To begin with as mentioned I painted a couple of dove paintings. Large expressive works that are entirely imaginary. I usually start painting without a plan and let the imagery come through. Here are the Dove Paintings that were inside of me wanting to express how I was feeling.

Dove – Gratitude – Sending Love ©Mary Price 2020
Dove – Hope and Trust ©Mary Price 2020

These paintings were cathartic to paint, and as making art does, allowed me the opportunity to express feelings like the desire to be free again but also the love I feel for life, family and friends and the trust in and gratitude for the key workers who were and are keeping the world ticking over as we grapple with and learn to live with the coronavirus.

The third dove is where the palm trees come in. It just wasn’t working and so as I often do in these cases I turned the painting upside down and there it was the image I loved for years and had laid to rest – a palm tree. Here it is not working, at least for me. And below it the palm, working for me!

Dove – painting that for me, at the time was not working ©Mary Price 2020
Palm of Hope ©Mary Price 2020

This painting is still in progress. You may be able to pick out some bird shapes and I plan to enhance these. The lockdown bird chorus has been one of the resounding pluses of this experience we are all undergoing and I want these paintings to mark this time. I’m not sure yet if I will be offering these paintings for sale – at least not just yet. Sometimes you paint something that seems too close to let go but I usually find that that feeling wears off once there is an offer on the table.

The surprising reacquaintance with my old love led me on to order ten canvases. I have to say that Nick from Bristol Fine Art has been amazing during lock down. In order to keep his customers well stocked with art supplies he has been running a delivery service. So much to be said for supporting local businesses right now. I decided to keep the pressure off and paint small.

Over a period of around two weeks I painted all ten canvases with imagery to cheer me up. A holiday to Portugal had been cancelled and I wanted to be transported into a holiday mode so worked on a series of palm tree paintings. Each palm is painted from my imagination but I have made countless drawings from real palms many times in my concertina sketchbooks when I travel so the muscle memory of the shapes is ingrained into my being.

Here are a few of the palm tree series.

I posted the progress of this series on Instagram and was delighted to see the very positive interest. It seems I am not the only person wanting a bit of holiday inspired colour in their life right now.

During this time there has been a very successful hash tag called artists support pledge where artists have been posting work with a view to making £1,000 sales and then pledging to buy the work by another artist to the value of £200. The hash tag was set up to bring attention to the fact that income sources for artists such as exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, market stalls and workshops had all been stopped during the lock down.

I decided to sell the palm tree paintings at a very reasonable £75 plus postage and to run an Instagram event one Sunday to trial the water. The paintings sold out in 15 minutes! Yes they are originals and £75 is a low price for an original painting but I wanted to spread the joy, it did not feel to me entirely to be about making money.

When you paint the gift is in the making, as an artist you are doing what you love so why not spread that gift by making art affordable. The gift repaid itself as I’ve been working on commissions ever since.

The experience has taught me many things about art, art business and why I do this thing. It has never been for money. What it is about for me is verification and this lockdown has brought me back to what I want to do, what I love and also it would appear to what I was meant to be painting all along.

People used to look at my work and say why always palm trees – well the answer is simply that I like them. No, I love them in all their swaying beauty and how they symbolise good things in life. I have embellished the colour and many of the palms integrate arches bringing another life long theme into the mix – that of travel memory.

When the current commissions are finalised I plan on making another sale but these will be first offered to those who sign up to my news letter. I’ve been very lazy at blogging and newsletters of late but I aim to change this.

You can sign up for the monthly (well that’s the intention) newsletter here, no spam, just honest insights into my shed studio life and latest updates on new paintings and prints – oh and at some point news on an e course. It will happen.

Pop Up Shop at Tobacco Factory

Fot the next week I am sharing a pop up shop at the Bristol Tobacco Factory with batik artist Jo Whiteland. We are selling a range of paintings, prints, lampshades, bird wall decorations and painted plant pots

Our pop up is situated in the brand new Makers Market that opened this week in the former Thali restaurant. The space has been divided up into indoor shop areas surrounding a central café. Each pop up has wall space featuring lovely old brick and plywood which makes a great foil for our brightly coloured artworks.

Pop Up shop at the Tobacco Factory

The first day was really busy with hundreds of people pouring in to see the new Makers Market. We had a great day selling with lampshades, prints and bird décor doing extremely well. We were lucky to get a space with an incredible recessed area that works brilliantly for displaying lampshades

Our Pop Up at the Makers Market is open for one more week from Tuesday 10 December until Sunday 15 December. Do come along to see us and get some inspiration for Christmas Gifts made with heart.

One of the Boho style birds – each is a unique painting and a very affordable way of buying an original piece of art

For more details about the Makers Market see the Tobacco Factory website here

Two new ‘Happy Tree’ paintings now on web site

The past year has all been about happy trees. I started painting these bright, colourful intuitive paintings following a holiday in Majorca in June 2018. The style of painting that developed over the next year or so went from being a glorious travel memory to a series of trees that celebate colour and exude optimism. Two new paintings have just been added to the original pages here on the artistintheshed website.

Happy Tree with Butterflies ©Mary Price 2019

The painting above ‘Happy Tree with Butterflies’ was a joy to paint. I loved layering the bright colours and introducing the abstract butterflies. The painting has for me a real sense of optimism, something that I am consciously integrating into the feel and the emotion that is poured into each artwork. The tree is as you can see, entirely imaginary – it has a tree shape but that is where any nod to representation ends.

For me making art is all about playing with the colours and introducing varation with a range of mark making tools. I use paint brushes but also anything I can find that will make an unusual or interesting mark on the surface. This way of working, I believe brings a dynamism to the final artwork.

In this painting I have decided to make the background more of a block of colour and I’m happy with the way this acts as a foil for the detailed marks in the tree bringing them into focus more effectively. Previous tree paintings have had more detail which is also something I enjoy because of the richness this gives to the painting however it’s always interesting to trial different styles.

Happy Tree – Meadow Notes ©Mary Price 2019

In the second happy tree I have really gone to town with adding sparkle using dots applied with a spotter paint brush from Pro Arte brushes. I love these brushes because they are quite stiff and enable precision mark making easily. Although I often use cheap brushes in the first few layers in my paintings for the final details that will be on show I love to move to the better quality tools that enable good control over the kind of mark that gets made. That said for the very tiny dots I have also used an old favourite – a bamboo skewer. The randomness of the mark with the tiny imperfections on each dot made this way appeals to me.

The paintings are now available for sale on the Happy Tree Originals page here on the website. Feel free to send me a message if you are interested. Details about how to buy my art here

Stop press: Both paintings have now sold but prints are available of the Happy Tree with Butterflies image

Shed is best studio/workshop in Cuprinol Shed of the Year competition 2019

Artistintheshed studio reached the finals of the Shed of the Year 2019 competition sponsored by Cuprinol and was voted by the public to win best studio/workshop.

Over 3,000 sheds were entered into the competition and you can see details and media coverage on the shed in the media page.

Mary with Cuprinol Plaque awarded for best studio/workshop – photo Democracy PR

My shed studio is a huge painting. The front elevation is decorated with abstract symbols inspired by natural shapes such as seed heads and flowers and the side panel has been used as a canvas for a large happy tree painting.

I’m delighted to win the award as its such a fun competition that really digs deep into the quintessentially British obsession with garden sheds. My she shed studio has transformed my life giving me a dedicated space where I make my paintings. But more than that since decorating the studio every morning when I look out of the window it makes me smile and inspires me to get in there and start painting.

Huge thanks to everyone who voted, to Andrew Wilcox who works with sponsor Cuprinol to organise the competition each year and to Democracy PR in Manchester for managing an amazing PR campaign.

Art studio is finalist in Cuprinol Shed of the Year 2019

Shed in 2018 with giant cosmos

My she shed studio reached the Cuprinol Shed of the Year shortlist of 21 during the summer of 2019.

The shed was entered into the competition just a week before the deadline almost on an impulse so to get through to the final shortlist was amazing. Following selection for the shortlist the shed has featured in national media and I was interviewed on local TV. More media coverage can been viewed on the Shed in the Media page. 

image courtesy of South West News and Media

The summer of 2018 was the best in the UK over 40 years so I took the opportunity to transform my art studio shed by tackling my biggest canvas to date.

The studio had originally been painted in a very practical but rather boring garden white shade and although it looked tasteful I decided I wanted a change. I wanted bright, bold, in your face and to create a bit of garden magic that was totally unique and reflected my love of colour.

painting the details onto the shed walls

When I began to doodle a few flowers onto the doors I had not immediately decided just how  big the project would become. I think I had run out of large surfaces to paint on and it was such a glorious day that before I knew it the doodling had progressed to the window surrounds and then the entire front elevation.

As I already had some large bottles of studio acrylics from Jacksons Art I decided to use these and they actually went onto the surface very smoothly. I used foam decorating brushes to apply the back drop colours mixing the shades as I progressed brushing the paint onto the shed directly from the paint bottles. The colour scheme that started to emerge is reminiscent of the beautiful blue that Jacques Majorelle used for his phenomenal Majorelle gardens in Morocco, somewhere I hope to visit in the not too distant future.

Once the back drop colours had been applied I set about introducing little symbols, marks and flowers in contrasting warm colours – cadmium red, fluorescent pink and highlighted with titanium white. It was at some point in this doodling stage that I decided that the shed was not just going to be decorated but that it would become an actual painting.

 

side elevation with tree painting in progress

the tree on the side panel begins to take shape

I began to realise that this approach mirrors entirely the way that I paint. There is rarely a defined plan about what my paintings will be because I like to work from the gut using my instinct and intuition as my guide rather than trying to represent what I see accurately. I always paint in layers and allow each layer to determine the next direction  as the artwork progresses.

This is how the imagery and the colours started to work on the shed. And the ferocious heat last summer meant that the layers quickly dried so that I could cover up bits I was unhappy with and add details working swiftly between creating undercoat and applying decorations.

There were a few practical glitches with the paint application, the heat meant that as the paint dried little bubbles appeared in some places. Acrylic paint is not really designed to be used as a outdoor paint but I have decided that this will be a work in progress that morphs over time. We will have to see how the paint lives up to successive winters  and the ravages of rain, cold and possible snow but so far so good.

In a way this does not especially matter to me as the smooth surface is not important. I  can always get the sander out and see what effect that might have on the imagery and colour.

Shed details

I purchased my shed from Dunster House Ltd in 2014. It is a Lantera 12ft by 8ft off the peg log cabin. The design complies with planning height regulations. The roof is customised. The shed is not insulated but I just wrap up warm in winter! 

Decoration

The external walls are painted with Jacksons Art student acrylic paints, Arteza outdoor acrylic paints, Liquitex acrylics and a little Golden acrylic paint. The external walls have not been sealed. I am going to allow the weather to do its thing and repair and update the designs every year. The paint was applied with decorators foam brushes and fine art brushes and a variety of mark making tools. I have not sealed the paint with varnish as I know this will yellow the colours.

Global Attention

As I used the hashtag #tinyhomes in my initial posts on Instagram about the shed decoration the shed was noticed by a magazine in Japan called Koya Life who featured a double page spread with images. 

Where from here

Once the outside is  completed  I plan to tackle the inside space. I have some plans but they need to take in to account that  the interior needs to be flooded with light. I’m thinking of including inspirational quotes from famous and not so famous.

The shed studio is an ongoing project and it’s likely that it will morph continually.

shed in 2019 with wild flowers and sweet peas

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