Guest Blog for International Women’s Day 8th March
Finding my voice
Essentially I tell stories of people and their places through painting. I work with home produced egg tempera paint on linen, striving to reduce my environmental impact as much as possible.
I discovered the technique of ‘bonad painting’ in Sweden in 2004. Having been an illustrator all my life, I always worked for money as someone else’s paintbrush or pen; never developing my own voice. But in my own time, inspired by The Bayeux Tapestry, I stitched and created big tapestries with words woven into the images; each piece taking around three years. My head was full of stories I wanted to tell…
In 2004 I visited Sweden as part of an eco-tourism project and there discovered ancient paintings that looked like tapestries. These were created on re-cycled linen in the 1700 and 1800s telling bible stories using the food, transport, landscapes and homes of the local people to illustrate the tales. This technique had died out and the small museum we visited treasured the remaining pieces.
I came back home and experimented until I was able to produce pictures in the same way. On returning with my work to Unnaryd in Sweden, I was asked to teach so… YES! For 11 years I ran workshops there every summer, helping to revive this art in its native place. Now it’s a living form of folk art, practised and valued by many young people in the area.
This history and technique gave me ‘permission’ to do the same; to tell stories through people and places I experience. I realised that we all have stories and folk art is an excellent medium through which to share them.
Pretty soon I started to create community folk art paintings with hundreds of people using the historic timelines of places or stories of specific events. It was wonderful to witness whole communities jointly telling their local tales.
The freedom and permission to tell your tales can be cathartic. In my workshops I often find people open up about experiences or issues buried deep in their hearts. They release their stories and feel relief!
As we went into lockdown on 23rd March 2020, I thought ‘this was going to be a totally new and weird experience, I want to record it, I will paint a picture every day’. I shared those pictures on social media, telling the story of my lockdown which resonated very much with a growing number of followers. I felt grounded and secure with my daily task.
After 84 pictures a book was created (The Isolation Chronicles) and we came out of the first lockdown. Then we went back in again and 96 pictures later (having lost my elderly Dad to Covid) a second book was published; The isolation Chronicles II.
The books contain a day by day record of the news as it happened as well as the daily painting. They continue to be purchased as people want to recall and keep a record of what we have all been through. The books are on sale at Sue's website
Now we have the awful situation of Russia invading Ukraine, our hearts are breaking. I have shared a picture on social media that I painted in 2015 when all the Syrian people were forced to flee. Its called THEY ARE US. We are all human beings; vulnerable, peace seeking people. Many people are sharing this image, wanting to show love and care for fellow humans. Stories express empathy and understanding and can uncork emotions.
So my take-away is:
- Tell your story, anonymous goods sell cheap, open up and be known.
- Its hard work keeping a lid on stories.
- Stories kept secret can wear you down from the inside, let them out through words, poems or pictures.
- Stories enable empathy.
I have The Haybarn Gallery at Beechenhill Farm, my family’s organic farm in the Peak District National Park. Here also have three lovely holiday cottages, a wood fired hot tub and sauna, beautiful views and miles of walks from the door. www.beechenhill.co.uk
- The Haybarn Gallery is open for visits by arrangement, if we are in, its open!
- Peak District Artisans are joining me in the Haybarn for Derbyshire Open Arts on 28th to 30th May 2022.
- I have an exhibition of the Isolation Chronicles at the Nicholson Institute in Leek 4th June to 16th
Sue Prince OBE DL
social media @sueprinceartist
Derbyshire Open Arts
10-4 Saturday 28th to Monday 30th May 2022
Sue Prince Artist and ten fellow members of Peak District Artisans
At The Haybarn, Beechenhill Farm, Ilam, Ashbourne, DE6 2BD
Solo Exhibition of the Isolation Chronicles by Sue Prince
Featuring The Gratitude Sculpture
4th June to 18th July 2022
At The Nicholson Institute, Stockwell Street, Leek ST13 6DW
Great Peak District Art and Design Fair
Evening of Friday 29th July to Sunday 31st July 2022
The Devonshire Dome, Buxton SK17 6RY
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