The Times shines a light on student Samantha

Date 16.07.2020

With exhibitions cancelled and galleries and art schools shut, this year’s graduates did things differently as they showcased their work to an art world in lockdown. Speaking to The Times Saturday Review, fine artist and painter, and University of Northampton student, Samantha Ellis, talked about how she’s used art competitions to channel her creativity in lockdown.

Samantha said: “My end-of-year degree show has been cancelled and I’ve started applying regularly for competitions. These are great for keeping your creativity going, especially through lockdown, when most news is quite upsetting – they give you hope and a reason to prepare for when the world returns to normal.

“I’ve just been told that I have made it through to the second round of judging for the John Moores painting prize, a UK-based contemporary competition where submissions are exhibited at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. My work centres on climate change and natural disasters, and I submitted a painting called Mount Sinabung.

“The winner of the competition receives £25,000 and a solo exhibition. To get through to the second round feels almost unbelievable. I now have to wait a year to continue on with my Masters in Fine Art, but competitions such as these give me something to look forward to. To continue to create and paint throughout a pandemic has brought calm and peace to my life – I recommend everyone has a slice of the art cake.”

Talking about the experience of being featured in The Times, Sam said: “I can’t quite describe the excitement of opening up The Times in the middle of a busy shop and seeing your own face. I don’t think I have ever seen my Mum and Dad look so proud.”

The pride of being featured in a national newspaper, was coupled with sadness, as Sam reflects on finishing her final year at University in lockdown. She said: “Quite honestly, The Times came at the perfect time. So much hope was lost and during a time or sadness for so many It was hard to think anything positive would happen. To be even considered for any of these things was the best feeling and I am so grateful to the people that helped me along the way.

“The end of my degree to say the least was heart-breaking. My year group felt like a family. Sadly, with the pandemic and lockdown, there was no parties, no degree show and no real goodbye. I know we’ll all get together when it’s safe to do that, but for now, it’s just lockdown.

“To the artists returning to university in September, or just beginning in their first year, treasure every second. Every melt down, every laugh and every success because art is something that is in your soul. It’s something you’ve loved forever otherwise you wouldn’t have picked to study it at university.

“It can be so challenging and frustrating at times but when it works and people see that its working there isn’t a better feeling. Enjoy every inch of the experience because it will shape who you are and what you create in the most amazing ways. Take your time, have fun and I can assure you the laughter will flow.

Read the full article in The Times here (Feature behind a paywall.)