The 100 intuitive palms project 2021

In February 2021 I decided to jump on the 100 project band wagon, a commitment to doing something creative every day for 100 days. I didn’t make it easy. My project was to complete a finished intuitive painting of an abstract, imaginative palm tree every day for 100 days.

Some details from the palm tree paintings painted for the 100 day project 2021

Each morning I committed to post the painting made the previous day onto my Instagram account – artistintheshed – however it turned out. 

Why palm trees you may ask? 

Well back in the first lock down when the coronavirus pandemic first hit the world I needed a positive and uplifting distraction. 

Of course there was far worse going on around the world with thousands of people dying, an overstretched NHS here in the UK and elsewhere and many thousands of people seriously ill after contracting COVID-19. And as a result we all found ourselves in a situation where our movements were curtailed in a way many of us had never experienced before as we grappled with what was being termed ‘the new normal’.

Travel was a very big part of my life prior to the lockdown and we all faced a prolonged period of time where not only could we not get on an airplane or ferry but we were restricted to our immediate locality. I am not complaining but I missed the freedoms pre pandemic desperately as trip after trip after trip got cancelled and I pushed booked flights forward six months at a time and then again.

I love Southern Europe, who doesn’t quite frankly, and for me a big symbol of the beaches and cities of my favourite places in Spain and Portugal is the palm tree.

My first encounter artistically with the palm was made when I was 19 years old. There was a manky old palm on Exmouth beach in East Devon that fascinated me – I loved the shapes in the trunk and the wild swaying dancing arms that are the fronds and leaves. I painted and drew this palm tree repeatedly. Another favourite stood alone at the beautiful old station that was demolished shortly after I arrived in Exmouth to study.

Early palm drawing made when I was 19 in 1980

Palm water colour at the old Exmouth Station made when I was 19 in 1980

Later in my twenties I spent time travelling to exotic countries with rain forests and palm fringed beaches. Wherever I went I took sketchbooks and made drawings and little paintings in my travel journals. Always the palm tree was prevalent.

Watercolour – the garden Ubud Bali 1990

An example from a travel sketchbook – A view from a favourite cafe in Sitges 2019

There is something about the way the palm symbolises positive, uplifting and happy times that made it feel to me like the right thing to paint. In May 2020 I bought a few 30 x 30cm canvases and began to paint bright colourful palms that were entirely imaginary yet all were based on the emotions the trees bring to me. Everyone was feeling restricted and more and more people spending far more time on-line than might ordinarily be the case.

Some of the palm paintings created during the first lock down in 2020

The palms resonated with many people as did my comments on Instagram about how I was feeling and how the trees were cheering me up enormously. People offered to buy and before I knew it over 30 little paintings had sold. I had a sale on Instagram, something I had never down before, and the little painting sold out in a couple of hours. I will admit I was offering at a low price but a big part of me wanted these happy little paintings to be as accessible to as wide a market as possible. It was not all about money but more about the fuzzy nice feeling you get when you know that you can spread some joy out there.

Roll on January 2021 and we are by then all feeling properly fed up. Lockdown for three months ahead in the darkest days as the second wave of the pandemic spread across the world with devastating impact. 

It was around this time that I found John Peddar the print maker on Instagram and his fabulous initiative ‘one of many postcard’. The idea is that artists make prints or paintings and offer them up free with free postage and people then ask for an artwork and in exchange donate or give time to a cause that is meaningful to them. I painted 24 little paintings that were given away and resulted in causes that needed help receiving something from donations. I don’t know how many people took part in this but believe that there are hundreds of artists and as a result hundreds if not thousands of donations of money and help.

Little paintings made for ‘One of Many Postcards’ I called this series ‘let the sun rain down on your heart’ They very loosely take reference from the motifs used in the palm series created in May 2020

So that felt good and then we were suddenly in February and I noticed that people I followed on Instagram were signing up to the 100 day project. I am a busy painter and lucky to have commissions to make but I needed the freedom of a personal project that might work along side to enable me to develop my practice.

I decided to start painting one painting a day with the idea that it would become a collection. At the time I was unsure if I would stay the course but I reckoned that if I at least chose something I loved doing and that made me happy there was a chance that it might be feasible and that I might possibly reach the 100 mark. I set a time limit of up to three hours and each morning got up and went straight into the shed, sometimes even before showering or breakfast. The palms became my morning meditation.

A palm in the early messy stages

With either music or a podcast in the background I would just layer up colours and marks as the fancy took me and each time with each new painting trying something new. The something new might be a simple addition or technique such as a new way of using a favourite old brush, daring to use colour combinations that I hadn’t tried before or bringing in washes, marks or whatever seemed to work in the moment. 

The freedom the series brought has been extraordinary. Also the discipline of committing to something and executing it has been a saviour particularly when we were locked down right up until April. 

When you have a project that is absorbing and all consuming whatever is going on, the wider world takes a momentary back seat as you enter that time capsule known by artists as flow. Nothing else matters other than the peice of work in front of you and that focus enables an escape from everything.

It is cathartic, healthy and some may say insular and introspective. I would say it is crucial for well-being and a balm for the soul. Artists and creators of every kind reading this will know exactly what I mean.

when in the flow the wider world can take a back seat

Doing the same thing for 100 days inevitably meant that I created a collection. The responses from Instagram followers kept me committed and I am so grateful for the encouragement that really helped me to stay the course with the project. Thank you if you are one of the people who commented regularly – it was so helpful.

The first 50 palms were offered for sale in April and the second 50 in May. I made a decision to keep the prices accessible. I want my art to be affordable to all budgets but to equally allow me the luxury of affording good quality paint, nice brushes and an infinite supply of good paper and canvas. 

As I write this over half of the palms have sold. I kept the copyright as I always do and had a selection of 20 palms professionally photographed so that customers will be able to buy prints in the future. The prints are offered as giclee prints on paper and on canvas. The print are larger in size than the originals.

The project has taught me how satisfying it is to stick to one subject and to concentrate on making works in series. It has also taught me the immense satisfaction to be gained in offering work at an affordable price online and to enable people who may never have considered buying an original painting before to take the plunge and to start a personal collection. Many people who bought told me it was the first time they had ever purchased an original painting.  I think that is so wonderful.

Would I do it again?

I’m planning next years 100 project already. Will it be palms again? Wait and see and I’m saying that as much to myself as I am to you.

Mary holding Palm number 100 – it is called ‘Queen of Palms’