Living with the Pandemic: Nina Camplin
We asked Nina Camplin, mural artist, how she had been coping with the challenges of Covid 19.
Nina’s work involves creating faked realities, such as windows, doors and broken walls that open up the flat surface of a wall to give the viewer the optical illusion of an additional dimension beyond.
Her work has taken her all over the UK and has won her a number of awards, and we met her through her work with the VC Gallery where she was resident artist from August 2018 until August 2019.
Nina told us: “I am a mural artist specialising in trompe l’oeil. This has been how I have defined myself as an artist for the past ten to 15 years. Coronavirus has made me have to rethink this for several reasons.
“First, lockdown obviously restricted me from being able to drive up and down the country to do my commissioned murals.
“Secondly, due to not being able to work and exercise as much as I had before lockdown, my arthritis in my hips has become far more of a problem over the past six months and I am now finding it extremely painful to walk, stand or even sit for long periods of time.
“Thirdly, I subsidised my art by teaching life drawing to hen and stag parties on weekends. Mural work is not a steady income, so I needed to do something else to help bring some money in between commissions. These too have had to be stopped due to social distancing restrictions.
“When lockdown started, I saw it as ‘a bit of down time’, this happens to me quite regularly and it gives me time to catch up with admin, tidy my website and maybe do a bit of painting for leisure.
“When it began, nobody realised it would go on for quite as long as it has done.
“I started to feel completely stress free. I had no deadlines to meet and could just spend my time doing anything I wanted to do! The only real concern was the lack of money coming in, but then the government offered to pay 80% of what I would have normally earnt. This was a godsend, and gratefully received, also plenty to live on as I wasn’t going out and spending as much as I normally would have been.
“I started painting Welsh landscapes and put them on my website, and even worked out how to monetise my site so that all my paintings could now be bought direct from me, no third-party agent, no gallery fees. I still have to learn how to promote this properly, in order to actually get some sales!
“I also decided to start sharing my painting techniques by holding live watch parties on Facebook. Luckily I was supported in doing this by the VC Gallery and started to receive payment for doing tutorials on their behalf, which was great!
“I started to use my art to document the current situation, I produced some great pieces of work that I am extremely proud of, that would never have happened under normal circumstances.
“I got involved in a group on Instagram called Portraits for NHS Heroes, whereby artists were partnered with NHS workers and painted a portrait for them for free. I did three of these. One of my NHS workers took her portrait into work and showed some of her colleagues and, as a result, it looks like this may be getting me some commissioned work from her hospital, but I don’t want to say too much about this at the moment, just in case it doesn’t happen.
“Another of my documented pieces was a portrait I did of my sister, she is a postwoman and the workload that they have had to deal with at the Royal Mail has been ‘worse than Christmas’ throughout lockdown. I donated this piece to her work depot and it was hung in the staff canteen; one of the management saw it and it got coverage in the in-house magazine Courier which went out nationwide.
“I also won first prize in a competition that was set up for artists in lockdown. So I enjoyed lockdown quite a bit! I found it very inspiring! Then lockdown ended… Or did it? We are now back in local lockdown again here in the Rhondda.
“I still haven’t gone back to doing my mural work or the life drawing sessions yet. I have had a few clients asking me for quotes for some mural work, but I am not even sure I am in a fit state to do them, not being able to climb up scaffolding or stand for long periods of time due to my hips. (And while we are on that subject, it looks like I won’t even be getting an appointment to see a consultant for at least 10 months, let alone getting on the list for hip replacement ops).
“The online art tutorials became quite popular during lockdown and the VC Gallery managed to get funding to continue with those until the end of the year, as they are unable to hold workshops inside their workspace due to social distancing restrictions. I am now still doing live watch parties and also holding Zoom sessions, along with one-to-one mentoring.
“I am now in a dilemma, what direction do I take my art career in now? I no longer feel that I can call myself a mural artist, as I am not sure when, or even if, I will be in a fit state to do this type of work again. This means I have to redefine myself as an artist – what do I do? What do I paint? This may have happened at some point anyway, what with the problem I have with my hips. But who knows? I would probably have been able to see a consultant quicker if the hospitals were functioning normally and maybe had the operation and been back up the scaffolding within a few months.
“I have never worked for such a long period of time in such a small space (I have a table in the corner of my living room) or produced such a large volume of paintings in such a short space of time, many of which I am really pleased with!”
You can contact Nina via Facebook, or call her on 07947 044013
Or via her website: https://ninacamplin.co.uk/