This year, artist and illustrator Owen Mathers has really had to draw on his resources. In this reflective piece, he is thankful that he has still be able to create artwork and connect with people
As an artist and illustrator, I finished 2019 on a high with more and more ‘live’ illustrations commissions coming my way, having been building these up over the last few years. When 2020 began I had a full Spring/Summer of weddings to illustrate and several events: locally and in London.
And then COVID happened! As the situation unfolded it became more and more apparent that these events were not going to be happening, which was a big blow to my income and a key part of my practice. This meant I had a bit more time on my hands and, being a person who likes to always be busy doing something, I made a few projects.
In May I produced a small activity booklet called ‘drawing your home’ filled with drawing tasks to do around the home, which was fun to make.
I also made some illustrations themed around the coming together of communities, one with houses joined by rainbows and another of the Norwich skyline with the message ‘Stay safe Norwich’ – I sold prints of these and donated all profits to the NHS, raising £245.
These items are now in the permanent collection of Norfolk museums. They had asked for me to contribute to their Coronavirus collection to help show how the community came together during this time. It’s great to think that these things will be kept for prosperity. It was lovely to see people sharing my pictures online and using them to spread hope and positivity during the challenging times.
I also did a handful of live drawing sessions on Instagram, where I completed drawings live on camera. I really enjoyed doing these and connecting with people through drawing. I believe drawing is a great way to feel calmer and happier. People I had spoken to all enjoyed completing simple acts of drawing and occupying their mind with the act of creating something.
As an artist who loves working on location this had proved a bit tricky during lockdown. I had to improvise! I completed some commissions using Google Street View to give me the perspectives I needed. I did enjoy setting up in the garden a few times in the good weather, painting the newly planted flowers in our garden and experimenting with large scale artworks in different styles.
Before all of this, I had been working with Lisa Angel on a collaborative product range. I was honoured when Lisa first contacted me about the possibility of working together. From our first discussion we knew Norwich itself was a natural subject for the collaboration. The city is a big inspiration for my work and, also, the Lisa Angel brand itself started in Norwich.
I’m really happy with how the range has turned out and I was very excited when we could finally launch it early September.
The curated range of products includes a tote bag, greetings cards, notebooks, wash bag, jewellery holder and scarf. All are illustrated with Norwich scenes by me. It’s amazing to see these all out there now and being bought and loved by people who have a connection to Norwich.
As lockdown eased and normality started to return (well – not quiet) I have been busy completing personal commissions for individuals alongside work for local businesses who are launching ventures and pressing on in the face of things. We have all had to adjust what we do and how we work in the face of the pandemic. Remaining optimistic and positive will guide us through, no matter how hard that is sometimes.
What a year – it’s certainly one we will all remember! Personally, it’s taught me the importance of the little, simple things. Going for daily walks, saying hello to neighbours, finally getting round to reading that book and connecting more with family and friends (let’s not mention the many pub quizzes!). We’re not out of the woods yet but here’s to the future and whatever that holds for us all.
As the country entered its second lockdown in November, I simply carried on doing what I do from home: working through commissions for individuals and businesses who were keen to remind their customers that their shop was still open, or that they were still trading online. It’s great to be able to create artwork to raise a smile and connect with people. As Christmas approaches, I hope to continue to stay busy and be able to see my family. I’m looking forward to 2021 and normality!