An artist in lockdown

Sarah Nelson framing monoprints for Jason Michael's pop up

[Local artist Sarah Nelson wrote an article called ‘An artists diary‘ during the last lockdown which attracted a high number of viewers so we asked her to write a follow up three months on. If you’d like to share your lockdown experiences with Rye News, please tell us your story.]

Sarah’s Diary

Continuing to make art during lockdown has given me a focus, kept me present and creative and stopped me worrying too much about the future.

I am fortunate that I have a studio next to my house to work in. I don’t want to imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t had this. Construction of the studio started 18 months ago, paused in lockdown one, but was finished before two. For me lockdown has presented a chunk of time in which to create and am conscious of trying not to waste that. I aim to draw, paint or scribble something every day.

I haven’t seen my brother and his family or my parents for over a year now which is so sad. ‘Zoom’ and ‘WhatsApp’ are great, but ultimately a hug’s what you want. My teenage sons missed their ‘A’ levels and GCSEs respectively. The eldest was planning a gap year to Australia, but instead, is here in Rye manning the phones at ‘Pizza and Prosecco’, the youngest is now home schooling, and playing Led Zeppelin on the drums ….

We three miss socialising with people other than ourselves, sharing opinions and ideas and I really miss looking at actual art in real spaces. I did manage to get to some exhibitions last year; I had to retrieve my submission from the RA and combined that with a visit to their delayed summer exhibition. My picture wouldn’t fit into an RA locker so I carried it around the exhibition with me!

Pre-Christmas, in a windswept barn, saw Dougal McArthur’s ’The Worm forgives the Plough’, an exhibition of his photography, the staging, open to the elements, cleverly reflecting its subject, the cyclical pattern of nature.

The second weekend never went ahead

My own work was shown as part of Jason Michael’s ‘Winter Pop-Up Gallery’, curated in his home in Fairlight, though this was cut short when East Sussex jumped into tier 4. I had arranged a ‘by appointment only’ open studio to run over two weekends, and the second weekend never went ahead. I really hope galleries will survive this pandemic.

Selling work has meant being more pro-active, maintaining a profile on social media and keeping in contact with clients. I’ve learnt how to use Mailchimp, send email campaigns, and have continued to take commissions for pen and ink drawings of homes and buildings.

Artists Support Pledge’, an initiative started by Matthew Burrows Studio, has facilitated other sales. The idea is to post your work for sale on Instagram for not more than £200, once you reach £1,000 of sales you commit to buy work from another artist for not more than £200, continuing a flow of sales. Anyone can buy the work.

A bonus of the pandemic is virtual access to museums and exhibitions that otherwise I wouldn’t have seen. I had a ticket for Emin/Munch ‘The Loneliness of the Soul’ but sadly, that is unlikely to reopen. You can take a virtual tour around it, it is very beautiful.

Podcasts have been a massive feature 

Podcasts have been a massive feature of my lockdown, I paint while listening to them. A hands down favourite is ‘Talk Art’ with Russel Tovey and Robert Diament, they are good mates, actor and gallerist, and have had some excellent guests; Tracey Emin, Stephen Fry and Michael Craig Martin, it’s now in series eight.

In early summer 2020 I enjoyed a couple of days drawing sheep shearing with Nicola Hill and Yvonne Bates. At Sussex College, Hastings, the print course went ahead and I translated the shearing drawings into screen prints. I’ve also been able to use the great facility of the print room at Rye Creative Centre.

Luke Hannam hosted an outside drawing group in an open sided barn at ‘Tillingham Wines’, we continued drawing through a storm one evening with rain splattered ink and soggy paper. Nick Archer created ‘Art Classes in Rye’ by Zoom, printing without a press was my favourite block.

I have drawn my sons moulded into chairs and sofas. We’ve watched a lot of ‘House’, a US medical drama with Hugh Laurie on Netflix, we guess how long it will be before the patient is given a lumbar puncture! There’s comfort in repetition in lockdown.

Reading really early about overlooked women

I’ve only been able to read really early in the morning. ’Ninth Street Women’ by Mary Gabriel paints a rich portrait of five women abstract expressionists working in New York in the 1950s; Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, who had the misfortune to be married to Jackson Pollock. It is shocking how many women artists have been overlooked by art history.

Michael Craig Martin’s ‘On Being an Artist’ , includes descriptions of the teaching at Goldsmiths in the 70/80’s, which sounds great, and Damien Hirst’s hosting of the first ‘Freeze’ show. Some of Jerry Saltz’s 63 observations in ‘How to be an Artist’ are – don’t be intimidated, do the work and don’t forget to dance!

I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram, it can be distracting, annoying and addictive but also inspirational. In lockdown with Instagram, I’ve found so many new artists and different ways of working, a rich cornucopia of ideas. By engaging with this and sharing my own art I feel part of a global community and less isolated in this on-going bubble.

I hope that we will all be able to come together again soon and that the future will continue to be a creative one.

To contact Sarah, see details below gallery.

To buy work from Sarah or to commission a drawing contact her direct at or sarahnelsonstudio

For sales from the winter pop up gallery contact Jason Michael on  or For ‘Art Classes in Rye’ contact Nick Archer.

Image Credits: Sarah Nelson .


  1. Knowing Sarah and having 3 pieces of her work at home, it’s good to know that she’s doing well. We are so pleased with our pictures and a 4th pen & ink drawing of my brother’s house given as a Christmas present, now has pride of place in their home.
    Like Sarah we too, look forward to hugs again from friends and family.
    Sue Hart

    • Thank you Sue,good to know that you are all well and you and your brother happy to have my work in your homes.Yes hugs again soon I hope.


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