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2020: A year of painting

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

As we near the end of another year, I don't know about you, but I always begin to realise how much has actually changed and happened in a single year. It seems to fly by so fast, and we're always looking on to the next thing that we don't really stop to appreciate the small achievements and to take time to recognise all the hard work that we put in.

I think especially because this year has brought some events that have constantly affected our plans and consumed our thoughts, it's even more important to remember that our lives still carried on and good things still came about in the midst of it.

At the beginning of 2020, someone asked me if I could sum up how I would like the following year to be in just one word, what would that word be? I said "Discovery" because I knew I wanted change that actually meant something. Things are always changing, but I wanted intentional change that would lead me somewhere. To be honest, for the majority of the year I forgot about that word and didn't even think about it again until now, looking back at this year and realising that it really has been a year of discovery and change. Lot's of good discoveries, lot's of bad discoveries. We've all discovered how it feels to have the world change around us. I think all this has definitely impacted my paintings this year.

In this blog post, I'm going back through all the collections and artwork I created this year, including my favourite piece, my most challenging piece and my most unexpected piece.

  1. IMAGE: A collection of painted portraits, JUNE 2020

For the early part of 2020, I had been working on my first "collection" of paintings that I started in late 2019. Portraits hadn't been something that I had practised much with before, so I really wanted to challenge myself and give myself a reason to practise them. The more I painted, the more I enjoyed the whole process and it opened up a whole new area of opportunities. Since then I have been so fortunate to have been commissioned to paint some wedding portraits, and general portraits including my "portraits for NHS heroes" contribution, shown in the picture on the right.

This was also the first time I had collaborated with another creative for a project. My cousin is a talented writer and worked with me to create pieces of creative writing to go along with each artwork, using the imagery and title of the painting as a prompt. It added so much to the collection, and really brought the stories of each portrait to life.

You can find more of her writing on her successful blog

In March 2020, the whole country went into lockdown and all my exhibition plans were cancelled. I had booked a gallery in Brighton in April for the launch of my portrait collection which had to be cancelled. At this time, I also ended up moving back home to Reading, where I had planned to have a second exhibition a bit later in June. Luckily by June, lockdown was over and I had a small exhibition for this collection, but unfortunately due to the circumstances, it was a very small turnout. I did, however, create a video, virtual exhibition experience for anyone who couldn't make it, which is available to view on Facebook, youtube or by clicking on the "IMAGE" portrait collection menu in my website gallery. I will leave a link to it below for those of you who missed it.

2. "Like A Dream" July - August 2020

Following on from the portrait collection, I dived straight in to a new series of work called "Like a Dream". This collection was inspired by night-time dreams, a mixture of my own dreams and other people's dreams.

This collection had so much variety and really allowed to me be creative with the ideas and execution of the work. It was interesting to me to hear that many people had been experiencing more vivid dreams more often since lockdown began, and made this series very appropriate for the times.

For this series, I did something a little different, and decided to more than one artwork for each dream concept. I created a main one, mixed media on canvas, as well as a paper study/studies to go with it. This meant that I could try out slightly different approaches to the same idea which led some to very unique pieces.

"A Weight Was Lifted From My Heart" 2020

Each collection I create has a statement piece, which is usually a giant 100 x 150 cm canvas and sort of sets the tone for the whole body of work. This painting in the picture above was the statement piece for "Like a Dream", and is probably one of my personal favourite creations from this year.

Some of my other personal favourites from this collection include:

"A Charge in the Atmosphere". "It wasn't how it seemed". "Night light"

If you are interested in finding out more about this collection, then I write a bit more in depth about the idea behind it in this blog post:

You can also purchase work from this collection in my shop under the title "Like A Dream"

3. "DARK NIGHT" The Winter 2020 collection, September 2020 - February 2021

To finish of the year, I am now in the midst of my most recent collection, "Dark Night". As this collection is still a work in progress and all my plans for it are still in works, I can't say too much about it yet, however I can share with you a little about what to expect from this collection and what I'm hoping to achieve.

This is probably my most personal series yet, and I think the theme is very relevant for the year with all that has happened. To sum it up, as you can probably tell from the title, it represents a "dark night" which is a visual interpretation of a time of depression, sadness, or loneliness. All the lights that feature in the dark night, represent moments of hope, and the kind of 'fire' that keeps you holding on.

For this collection, not only will the originals be for sale, but I'm also planning on getting a number of prints done in A3, A2 and A1 sizes, so that there's plenty of options. This collection is all about the imagery, so the prints will hopefully be just as impactful as the originals.

I am also super keen to exhibit this collection in person, because each painting comes together to form a story, and I want people to experience that story in the flesh. This means that, provided there is no lockdown and in-person exhibitions are possible, I will be organising an exhibition early 2020-2021.

If you are interested in purchasing work from this collection, I will be releasing them to my email subscribers first, before the exhibition, so that they get priority. If you haven't already signed up but would like to be, you can find the sign up form on my website homepage.

*Please note that if you do purchase work from this collection, you will not be able to collect it until after the exhibitions are over.

So these three collections have been this year's addition to my painting portfolio, however they are not the only pieces of artwork I created this year. Down below I'm going to highlight some of the pieces that I will remember this year, either because they were my favourite, were really hard to paint or just came out really different from my usual style.

  1. My personal favourite painting of 2020

"A Pleasant Place" Mixed media on paper, 2020

This painting is my favourite this year because it's an image that just takes me somewhere else. It's like if I had created my perfect earth, this would be a place in it. There's something about trees as well, especially really tall ones, that makes me feel small and reminds me of my insignificance. Not in a bad way, but in a really freeing way. Like the only thing that is required of me is to just live and enjoy life.

2. The most challenging painting of 2020

"Out of my Hands" Self Portrait, 2020

"In the depths" 2020

This painting above is my self-portrait from my portrait collection, and was the most challenging painting for me this year in many ways. From the ideas, to the execution, to everything. I almost gave up and didn't do it after re-painting it about 3 times. Initially I was doing something completely different to what you see above, and it was on a square canvas. This is really funny to me, but underneath my octopus painting "In the depths" is my face, attempted about 3 times!

I finally felt able to paint my self-portrait when I stopped worrying about getting every feature right, and started to focus on capturing my essence instead. When I thought about who I am, I felt I needed the background to help tell the story. You might think it's a cop-out to cover half of may face with hair and in some ways, you would be right, however, it felt easier for me to translate my character this way.

3. My most unexpected painting of 2020

"Imperfect" 2020

This painting was part of my portrait collection, and was my most unexpected painting of 2020. I never would have painted this by choice, but it came about without intention, and became a style of it's own. I don't think it's something I could replicate again, and that's what makes it so special. This piece challenges me in many ways, but I'm so glad that it interrupted my style and pushed the boundaries a little bit.

The piece that has inspired me for new work in 2021

"This is the Place" 2020 (SOLD)

This piece was the most fun I have had painting in a long, long time. I just let it be whatever, and didn't really care about the outcome, but when it did begin to take shape and I realised how much I loved the final creation, I definitely cared about it then! It was a painting that reminded me of how much I enjoy this, and so of course, it's a direction I want to follow in the new year.

My current collection "DARK NIGHT" is special to me, but it is what it says in the title "dark", so when I have finished it, I'm planning on being as bright and colourful as possible, just like this painting!


So this is all for 2020, my year of painting.

Also, for those of you who have been following my collection releases this year, or even those who have just discovered my artwork, I would really love to know which painting is your favourite too. I have explored so many different styles and subjects this year, and it's always interesting to find out what captures others, so feel free to leave a comment below.

I'm excited for 2021, and let's hope it's a good one!

Happy new year...

- Sophie

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