Press Release: Artists Rise to Lockdown Challenge


DIY Downloads to a Wallpaper Collective – Artists Rise to Lockdown Challenge

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Ailsa Black (photo by Alan Cairns)
Ailsa Black (photo by Alan Cairns)

Spring Fling artists are migrating to the internet to help others, explore new ideas and to strengthen their businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Right now 87 specially selected artists and makers were expecting to be hard at work preparing paintings, photography, prints, jewellery, woodwork and much more in readiness for Scotland’s leading open studios weekend.

But the postponement of the event, due to take place from 23-25 May, and the huge impact of the pandemic on all areas of life has changed everything.

With many parents facing a big challenge in keeping children positively occupied while the schools are closed, Ailsa Black and Suzi Plunkett, both put delightful artwork online that families can download and colour in for free.

Ailsa, based in Kirkbean, said: “I know how frustrating it is for people stuck at home, especially if they have children to think about. So I decided to put some pictures online they could download and colour in themselves.

“The response has been great and it’s such a pleasure when they share photos of what they’ve done.”

Ailsa is well known for her pictures of birds and animals (including her faithful collie Jack) inspired by village life and her local environment. Her jigsaw puzzles are also popular – one has been named among the top 10 to do during lockdown (

Suzi Plunkett specialises in pictures made up from dots – and describes the downloads she has posted as DIY (dot it yourself).

High end creative photographer Kim Ayres has started a regular Facebook group and is creating videos passing on the skills for taking fantastic photos.

Kim, from Castle Douglas, said: “It struck me that there are lots of people who love taking pictures but don’t have much opportunity to get tips, or have their own work critiqued, by a professional photographer.

“People have been really interested in finding out about different ideas and techniques. Something that’s really impressed me is that people have started sharing their pictures with the Facebook group for each other to comment on.”

At a time when so many creative people are stuck indoors staring at the walls, David Rushton has assembled an international online group of artists who are coming up with unusual and creative ideas for interesting wallpaper patterns.

David, who runs the MERZ Gallery in Sanquhar, said: “The idea for the MERZ Wallpaper Collective came about as we were preparing for Spring Fling, and due to the lockdown it’s grown digital legs.

“The idea is to bring together artists and designers from all across Europe with their ideas for wallpapers. The submissions we’ve had so far have been excellent. So the hope is that we’ll ultimately go ahead and get them printed.”

Potter Clare Dawdry has been bringing a smile to people’s faces by posting “mugshots” every Monday and, with galleries and stores all shut, is launching her own web shop on what would have been the Spring Fling weekend.

Clare said: “Without shops, galleries and events we’ve been having to think of new approaches. The Monday mugshots have been popular – and lots have sold.

“My next step will be to launch a proper web shop, which I plan to do on what would have been the Spring Fling weekend. Even if people can’t come to Dumfries & Galloway to see our studios over the bank holiday weekend, they can at least see some of the work online.”

Spring Fling 2020 is Scotland’s premier open studio weekend and is the flagship annual event of Upland CIC – Dumfries & Galloway’s visual art and craft development agency.

Not all artists are taking a technological approach to the lockdown. Hope London, from Wigtown, is putting paintings in her windows, and outdoors on sunny days, to give people something different to look at when they venture out for their daily exercise.

Artists who rent studios can face particular problems as they don’t have access to equipment or materials.

Renowned watercolourist Hazel Campbell said: “The last visit to the studio, with lockdown imminent, made me grab two A4 sketch books and a motley assortment of crayons, pencils and charcoal, with the brave thought that 'this would be good for me!'

“No paint and no brushes. I realised very soon that this wasn't easy, but then, why should it be easy. Fingers dipped in water over soft pastel looks amazing. I found a bottle of ink and cut some bamboo from the garden – wet fingers in among that looks different! 

“I realise that 40 years of having everything I needed, and doing what I was confident in, wasn't necessarily the way forward. I now see beauty where I didn't expect it, I enjoy seeing other people's work on social media. That said, I look forward to being back in the studio with a very large tube of white paint and some brushes.”

Joanna Macaulay, Assistant Director for Upland, said: “Spring Fling artists and makers have been responding to the huge challenges of life under lockdown with tremendous creativity.

“They have come up with all sorts of unusual and imaginative ways to help others, reshape their businesses and try out new ideas.

“And even though this year’s Spring Fling has been postponed we hope to announce some initiatives of our own in the near future that will help connect artists, makers and the public in new ways.”

Spring Fling is one of the UK’s most successful contemporary visual art and craft events having attracted well over 100,000 visitors (who have made more than 300,000 studio visits) since it began in 2003.

Visitors from the UK and beyond enjoy meeting the creators of high-quality work and see their studios in country and coastal cottages, farms, converted chapels, custom-built studios and a multitude of other settings.