Like most artists, Covid-19 hit me like a freight train. It seemed like one minute I was celebrating turning 60 and reminiscing about my first solo exhibition Masquerade featuring Venetian carnival masks, and the next minute my art school was forced to close. Crash. Bang. Wallop. Overnight seventy percent of my income was wiped out and I’m wearing a face mask.
Nine months of lockdowns later here in Dublin, Ireland, I have to say I’m really enjoying the enforced freedom from teaching has given me. For the first time in 35 years, I’ve been able to focus exclusively on painting. One of things that’s always worked against me as an artist was the necessity to sell straight off the easel to private collectors, rather than accumulate enough for an exhibition. As a result, much of my best work has never been seen publicly.
Moreover, it’s also been an opportunity to indulge my other passion – photography. The eeriness of Dublin’s empty streets at night is both surreal and magical, and I’m loving being able to wander round the city trying to capture this on camera. The added bonus is I can turn these photos into paintings and save them up for a solo exhibition when we’re back in the free world.
Meantime, I’m very excited with the reaction my ‘online shop’ selling framed prints and products featuring my paintings is getting. To be honest, I only started this as a way to plug time at the beginning of lockdown but have been wowed by the reaction it’s gotten so far. The jigsaw puzzles are proving especially popular but I reckon that’s as much down Netflix fatigue as anything else. Equally popular are the face masks, tote bags, pouches, and stationery. I didn’t even know what tote bags and pouches were before Covid-19 hit!
However, there’s no escaping the cruel irony that many products are emblazoned with images of carnival masks during a global pandemic where countless lives have been sadly lost all for the lack of not wearing one.