Painting during Lockdown

In week’s blog, we catch up with MAFA artist Gerry Halpin, who tells us what it has been like to paint during lockdown and the effects of the pandemic on his work.

Seadrift I, Acrylic on canvas.

Without doubt, the Covid 19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of most people with restrictions on meeting, travel and the enforced closure of many premises including art galleries both public and private, being most troublesome.

Although I had my painting materials available and was eventually allowed back into my studio, the travel restrictions played a significant part in the evolution of my work during this time.

Not being able to go anywhere near the coast for my sources of inspiration, I luckily had enough sketch and photo material to continue painting my shoreline studies and major works.

The most interesting development however came about from my walking around the immediate area where I live on the Pennines, my escape moments, and reconnecting with a familiar landscape which had been the subject of my work at the start of my painting career.

Whilst initially working from home and being conscious of not making a mess, so easily done with oils and acrylics, I returned for my landscape painting to sketching and using watercolour, inks and pastels.

The freedom of expression and interpretation I had evolved in my coastal paintings encouraged an exploratory approach with the water based media, focusing on the sensations of weather and the important visual elements which I saw on those country walks.

The ruggedness of the moors, the jumble of hedgerows, ancient gateposts, worn pathways and so on became important elements to consider in creating a compositional structure and also in recognising the need for a more muted palette, especially during winter walks.

Re-presenting this new awareness into paintings, with my earlier loose approach still in mind, and with a return to more fluid media, the challenge was to explore this wet in wet fluidity without losing control and most importantly, not losing sight of the structural elements of the painting.

It was very tremendously exciting to paint this way, mastering new techniques, learning from the failures and not being overly precious.

Became aware of the importance of white space within these ‘Moorland’ watercolours,  my recent acrylic ‘Shoreline Studies’ have also benefited from recognising the impact of the simplification of space.

The one has informed the other. 

Without that new opportunity presented by the imposed restriction on movement, staying within my own area, I doubt that I would have returned to this amazing landscape on my doorstep and to have developed a successful group of watercolour paintings which have become integral to my whole body of work.

Written by Gerry Halpin MBE PPMAFA  March 2021. Visit Gerry’s website to find out more about his artistic practice.

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