The pandemic and artists

(by Kelly Pua & illustrated by Elysia Gilman)

I have always seen myself as a creative person. Doodling in the corners of my notebooks, canvas painting on the weekends, writing story after story in my journal. When the pandemic hit, I felt as if I had lost every creative part of myself. Suddenly, it became a mounting task to pick up a pen, a brush. Inspiration dried up within the walls of my house. The more time passed, the less confident I felt about creating again. Eventually, I just felt like I lost all my skills and became afraid to try once more.

Though of course, not everything was lost. Since moving to the UK, I am honing my creative abilities again, and have been trying new mediums. Looking at my own experience, I begin to ponder how other artists were impacted during the pandemic. Did they have positive or negative experiences? Was the pandemic a hindrance or did it enhance their creative process? I decided to interview artist Elysia Gil- man to find out.

Elysia is a young artist from Wales and primarily uses oil paint to create beautiful portraits, dynamic sporting scenes and other figurative work. Her masterful skills are apparent from her two-time feature on Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Week and her large TikTok following. Her TikTok videos are where I found Elysia at first, and after seeing her artwork on her website and Instagram (@elysiagilmanart), I was in awe. Her confident brushstrokes, dynamic choice of colour, and a keen eye for detail amalgamated to create striking and unique pieces. Hence, I became eager to learn about how the pandemic impacted Elysia’s creative process.

For Elysia, Covid and the subsequent lockdowns played a pivotal role in both her artwork and her journey as an artist. Before the pandemic, she was a first-year Fine Art student at university. However, she found the degree limiting as she was not able to develop the techniques she yearned to. The lockdown pushed her to evaluate her time at university and whether it was for her. “I knew deep down that I wasn’t enjoying the course, and what I really wanted to do was follow my passion of being an artist,” she says.

Moving back home to North Wales during the lockdown gave her the time and headspace to consider a different path, where she ultimately took the leap to leave university and set up her art business. “Look- ing back now, I’m so glad I did.” Elysia muses. Indeed, the pandemic overall had a positive impact on her art business.

As people were spending more of their time indoors and online, Elysia was able to start posting and sharing her artwork on social media. Moreover, more people were re-decorating homes during the lockdown. “Quite a lot of people were looking for artwork for freshly painted walls!” she exclaims, “so I found myself getting quite a few commissions as a result.”

The lockdown also gave Elysia more time to engage with art. She de- scribes it as a “blessing in disguise for artists” as it allowed her to paint every day and continuously create, which improved her skills significantly. Interestingly, the pandemic has prompted her to change her art process to adapt to lockdown rules.

The inspiration behind Elysia’s recent series of work based around the Savoy Hotel was drawn from a documentary on television. Moreover, as she was unable to travel to take her own photos, she had to rely on secondary sources like magazines. Although she describes that as a “drawback” of working during the lockdown, it has not stopped Elysia from creating beautiful paintings of the Savoy, enjoyed by guests and staff.

Reflecting on Elysia’s experiences, I am pleased to see that the pandemic has become a source of inspiration and positive change for her. It has made me more acutely aware of how different the creative process is for everybody but also showed me that fulfilling a dream is not easy and requires courage, determination, and hard work. Elysia has encouraged me to take a leap of faith and continue to improve my artistic skills and once again embrace art as my creative outlet.

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