Abigail McGourlay's award-winning self-portrait shows how the artist coped with lockdown

Brewing © Abigail Mcgourlay

Sheffield artist Abigail McGourlay has been named the winner of The Arts Society's national competition in support of young artists during lockdown with her painting, Brewing.

The self-portrait shows Abigail drinking a cup of tea in the bath, two things she says she has found comforting during the last four months. "I've struggled with the current situation both mentally and physically. The uncertainty of lockdown put me in quite a stressful mindset, and I found it, at first, difficult to feel motivated. But it is due to lockdown that I have rediscovered my love of painting. This piece captures a real moment of comfort, in both my two favourite things, a warm bubble bath and a hot cup of tea and in myself."

Abigail was in the middle of finishing her second year of a Fine Arts degree at The University of Leeds and was also working as a swimming instructor when Covid-19 hit. She was furloughed from her job and has been continuing her studies from home.

"I decided to take back some control that the quarantine had denied me and set goals for myself, I began to learn French, work on my fitness and flexibility and most of all focus on my painting projects. Despite the struggle, I feel that I am much more optimistic about my future now, I know I want to make changes to my life and I have been proving to myself that these changes are achievable over the past few months."

Young artists entering the Isolation Artwork contest were asked by The Arts Society to respond to the theme of isolation and have produced new works that reflect their experience of lockdown. Many of those entered explore feelings of uncertainty, isolation and loneliness, as well as nature, connection and love, using subject matter ranging from self-portrait to shielding loved ones, and materials ranging from acrylic to biro and pencil.

"I can't stress enough how important these opportunities are for artists in the early stages of their career," continues Abigail. "Brewing is such a personal piece, that allowed me to really experiment with my style without restraint and it's an absolute delight to have had such a positive response to it."

Abigail's artwork, alongside the other seven shortlisted artists, can be viewed as part of a virtual art exhibition here.