Home really is where the art is for artist Dawn Crothers as she prepares to launch Staycation, an exhibition showcasing a new collection of paintings of some of the Northern Ireland’s most famous beauty spots and attractions.
Entitled simply ‘Staycation’, the collection was inspired by the renaissance of holidaying at home which was brought about by Covid-19 travel restrictions in 2020 and 2021.
Artist Dawn Crothers explained: “Staycation was one of those words that started to roll off the tongue throughout 2020 and 2021. With no one being able to fly or holiday abroad, we turned to exploring places of our homeland here in Northern Ireland and coastal retreats such as Portrush and Newcastle were once again destinations of choice for local holiday makers.
“I was also hugely encouraged to see the beautiful beaches of the local coastline like Seapark and Helen’s Bay rediscovered once more, and to witness the surge in appreciation for all the amazing places of interest and beauty we have right on our doorstep.”
Inspired by the sudden rise of the staycation, Dawn set about working on large paintings in oil of local beauty spots.
“I remember going for a walk on the beach at Helen’s Bay with my husband and children one day and being struck by just how happy everyone appeared to be,” she recalled. “The sun was shining, people were in the sea and playing games on the sand or queuing for ice cream and there was just a very tangible sense of community fun.
“I wanted to encapsulate that very evident sense of relief and freedom people were feeling after weeks of lockdown, and the newfound appreciation that people found for nature and the outdoors and the world around us in Northern Ireland.”
Nostalgia was also a key influence in the new collection, which depicts memories of growing up on the Shore Road in North Belfast and visits to the iconic Barry’s Amusements in Portrush or Dundonald Ice Bowl for ice skating.
Over the past 18 months Dawn has embraced both the challenges and opportunities brought about by Covid-19, including launching a series of online art classes to cater for demand for virtual activities and hobbies during lockdown periods.
To date, she has taught over 50,000 students online in schools and colleges across the globe, including the USA and South Africa. Her school program has also been taken up locally by primary schools throughout Northern Ireland, together with a range of health and wellbeing-inspired art therapy group classes for NHS staff and patients.
The ‘Staycation’ exhibition launches on Saturday 27 November, 10am – 5pm at the Dawn Crothers Art Gallery and Studios at Lismachan Art Gallery, 378a Belmont Road in Belfast. Mulled wine and festive treats will be served throughout the day.