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 ©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

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.

Paintings for sale in gallery

Later this month 14 paintings and 4 prints will be available for sale at Tinca Gallery in Portishead near Bristol. This lovely spacious gallery sells paintings by several local artists I admire so it’s great to be in good company.

I can’t say how fantastic it feels to get some validation from a gallery. This is the first time I have shown work in this way. It’s scary but also really affirming. I will be featured as artist of the week when the paintings are on display on the gallery Facebook page very soon.

These are the limited edition giclee prints that will be included for sale.

I will also be offering these in my Etsy shop eventually. Each step takes time and this one has been taking forever but I don’t want to spend too much time glued to the computer. It will be up and running as soon as I can manage and announced here and on social media when ready.

It’s quite a steep learning curve getting work prepared for a gallery – painting the edges of large canvases, mounting little paintings onto MDF boards that need to be primed, emulsioned and sanded and finding out how unsuited IKEA Ribba frames are for showing in galleries. They look nice  and are lovely for home but galleries cannot fix screws into the frame without them disintegrating. But it’s all a learning process so I know this for next time!

Here are three tiny paintings that I finished recently that are a new departure that will be on display.

The gallery has also taken on one of my very large paintings inspired by my recent trip to Cadiz. I’m fascinated by the ornate doorways and weathered textures of Southern European buildings, it’s amazing how you can stumble on really magnificently decorated homes that are often hidden down narrow streets. The fact that these buildings are hidden has not stopped the builders and artisans from festooning them with beautiful tiles, wrought iron work and sculptured facades. This one is called Casa or An Imaginary Home. Like much of my work it draws on travel memory for inspiration interspersed with my own license to explode the colour onto the canvas

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Casa or An Imaginary Home 100 x 100 cms acrylic on canvas

Earlier this month I had another lovely moment – my first Instagram sale that came about as a result of a 100 day project challenge that I’m currently doing to try to hone watercolour painting skills. Watercolour is a medium that I love the look of but find difficult so I’ve been trying to get better at it.

Instagram is where I post progress images and finished work very regularly so do feel free to follow – I’m @artistintheshed surprise, surprise!

Here is the little painting. Just a bit of fun really.

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I will keep you updated with the date that the work goes up in the gallery. Thank you for reading.