A CORK artist whose busy lifestyle saw her struggle to find time to be creative set herself a challenge that left absolutely no wriggle room for excuses.
Throughout an entire month — 31 days — Macroom-based Siobhan Duggan created an original piece of artwork every single day. And little did she know the effect it would have for her email subscribers, which grew from 150 to more than 123,000 across four continents.
Each morning at 7am, Siobhan sent an email with an image of her piece of art accompanied by a positive quotation capturing her mood from the previous day, which to her surprise struck a chord with many.
The subjects of her works included the countryside around Macroom including nature reserve The Gearagh, as well as West Cork scenery and wildlife paintings. Through a silent bid system, people bid what they were happy to pay, with the artwork then sold to the highest bidder of the day.
Siobhan worked with Southern Advertising for a number of years before setting up her own design business for almost 10 years.
“When we had our daughter in 2014, I closed my design business and concentrated on design and marketing for my husband’s business,” she said.
“I’m not a full time artist, time is divided between working on my husband’s business and raising our daughter. I never prioritised my art — I always put it last, fitting it in when I had some ‘spare time’. But creating art is very important to me and I knew I had to do something to make it a more regular practice.
“So I made the decision to throw myself in the deep end and paint a small painting everyday for 31 days in March. I made it public knowledge so I would be kept accountable — I told my followers they could expect an email with a new artwork every morning in March. I committed to it quickly so that I couldn’t talk myself out of it!
“I was amazed at how well the project was received and little did I know at the beginning how much the world would change in those four short weeks. I think the email each morning was a little brightness in what was otherwise a strange time. It was a break from the news of Covid-19 when the world was at the cusp of change. The best part of the project was the emails I received from people to say how they looked forward to the email each day, with many asking me to keep it going for as long as lockdown continued.”
It was a huge commitment and involved many late nights, she admits.
“I had to divide my day carefully, with the aim of getting most of the work done while my daughter was at school early March, but of course with the lockdown midway through, my schedule went out the window so most evenings and nights were spent finishing a piece.
“There were nights when I saw 2 or 3am but I’ve learned that I’m pretty determined (some would call it stubborn!) and if I promise someone something, I will get it done. If I hang around waiting to be inspired then nothing gets produced, inspiration comes during the making. On a couple of occasions what I was working on didn’t work out and I had to start all over again at 10pm at night.”
It was a blind bid system, starting at €40, and people bid what they were happy to pay, with paintings going between €120 and €300.
“I never planned the subject in advance, I painted what I felt like painting on the day. Besides one still life and one floral, most were landscapes and some animal paintings, my favourite subjects. I love to capture the colour and light of the landscape, and the essence of an animal. The messages I received from followers kept me going. I was inundated with messages and emails of support. Some jokingly requesting to keep doing it for the year!
“Some said a particular painting made them recall a special memory of a place or time or of a loved one and they shared this story, with me which was so precious. The project has given me the impetus to continue to create many more such pieces in the future.”
Her current work is focused on the nature reserve, the Gearagh, which she believes is undiscovered by so many. “Beginning in January, I visit one spot in the Gearagh on the morning of a full moon. I document the same scene to show the ever-changing colours and light on the landscape throughout the year. Following the full moons, I’ll complete the year with 13 paintings. I love this spot at the Gearagh it has a calm and peace no words can explain.”
Siobhan sent the 31 artworks to Canada, USA, England, Netherlands, Australia, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“I look back on them all now and I ask myself how did I do it? But It goes to show what can be achieved when we commit to something — I surprised myself really.”