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Interview: Mani Parkes

Mani Parkes is an artist from Lincolnshire who loves to create acrylic paintings that make people smile.

I've experienced this sense of joy in every artwork she has painted, and felt the same smile perched on my face while reading her answers for this interview. I invite you to come fall in love with her art and world through this interview:

Your art evokes a sense of calm, with dogs on boats and couples falling in love. Does your art reflect your life?

I would like to think that my art does reflect my character and how I choose to see the world. I try to look on the bright side of life and I take great pleasure in the little things. I’m constantly looking for beautiful things to be inspired by and I’ve found that I don’t have to look very far ! Whether that’s nature, a scruffy old dog, a cute little cottage or an old couple holding hands. I believe that my work captures a slower pace of life and hopefully illustrates the loveliness that I see in the world.

There’s a dog in every painting, which is just so satisfying! What’s the story there ?

As you can tell, I adore dogs. I’m the sort of person who follows your dog down the street just to say hello. Dogs are so loveable and they are always happy to see you; I recently read that a dog is the best friend that you will ever have and I believe that to be true. With so many different breeds, shapes, sizes and characters it makes them irresistible and so enjoyable to draw. Within my paintings, I try and convey the wonderful relationship between human beings and dogs, that feeling of unconditional love and companionship.

You graduated in 1997 and have been making art since. I’d love to know about your explorations as an artist that led you to this quintessentially Mani Annie style of painting. I graduated in 1997 but I didn’t actually begin painting again until our youngest child Archie started school in 2009! I got married in 2000, renovated an old house ( that nobody wanted to buy because it was in such disrepair ) and our lovely daughter Daisy was born in 2001. So for a long time, my creative life was left on hold. I really missed being creative so as soon as Archie started school, I decided to go for it.

The first painting that I completed was a very simple boat scene, almost abstract. A lovely Mum from the school run wanted to buy it from me and that kind gesture gave me the confidence to carry on. I’m not sure where my style has come from but it seemed to develop quite naturally. I’ve never sat down and contrived a style; it just seemed to happen.

Are there other forms of art you enjoy playing with as well?

I only use acrylic paint, pencil and pens, ink pens are amazing for doodling in my sketch books. My lovely husband treated me to a Nikon camera quite recently, which is really exciting but I’m still learning how to use it.

What’s the last dream you had ? What do you think it means ?

Ooh I love talking about dreams! Last night, I dreamt that I had accidentally painted over a finished painted which I had sold to a customer. I was so happy when I woke up.

You joined Instagram In December. What has your experience been using social media to show your work to the world? I’m so grateful that I stumbled upon it. :)

I only joined Instagram in December but I’ve had a Facebook page since 2012. Initially I was quite nervous about showing my work to the world but everyone was really supportive and kind about it, which was a great boost to my confidence. Not long after I joined Facebook, I was contacted by The Mulberry Tree Gallery in Dorset, who were interested in exhibiting my work which was amazing, and I’m still represented by them. I really love Instagram! The photographs are amazing and there are so many wonderful artists to follow. I’m so happy that you stumbled across my work too, Thank you very much.

What are some personal rituals or habits that have kept you going creatively for all these decades?

1. I have always kept a sketchbook and if I spot something inspiring or an idea pops into my head, I jot it down immediately. My sketchbooks are jam packed with scruffy doodles and thoughts. They have a completely different feel to my actual finished paintings, where my paintings seem calm but my sketchbooks are a truly messy affair. At art school, I used to be quite precious about them and wanted every page to look perfect but now, I embrace the mayhem and appreciate the process of developing an idea.

2. I always listen to the radio while I paint and if it’s not going well, I take my dog Florence for a walk to clear my head.

Lincolnshire looks gorgeous! I can see that you experience something magical in your hometown, a beauty to the scenery that only you, the artist seems to see. Would you agree? How does place influence your work ?

Yes I would agree with you, Lincolnshire is such a beautiful place but many people seem to think that the flat landscape is mundane. Personally, I believe it has its own special charm - the vast expanse of sky makes it an extraordinary place to live and the light can be quite spectacular sometimes. Initially, I was inspired by the quaint buildings and quirky characters that I spotted in my hometown but as my work has progressed, I find myself leaning towards the special places that I have visited. Many people think that I live near the sea because I have a thing for painting coastal scenes, fisherman’s cottages and fishing boats...One day, hopefully.

How are you holding up during the quarantine period ?

I’m doing well thank you, to be honest the quarantine period hasn’t been that different for me as I usually work from home. At the beginning of the COVID outbreak, I found it quite tricky because with both children at home, it was hard to concentrate on my own work. My daughter had a Uni deadline and my son had lots of school work to do online too, which was stressful.

Has your relationship with your studio changed during these last few months though? I'd love to see photographs! It’s funny you should ask me about my studio. For the last 10 years, I have worked at my living room table but I’m happy to tell you that I’m currently having my own studio built at the bottom of our garden. My lovely Dad and Husband are renovating a broken-down brick shed into my own space, which I’m really excited about. It’s nearly finished now and hopefully, I shall be in there by the end of September. When it’s completed and I’ve settled in, I will happily send you a few photographs. I will have a little wood burning stove too, so Florence and I shall keep cosy during the winter months.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m currently working on a large commission - my customer has requested a painting of her family during lockdown, which I think is a brilliant idea .

Haha! What’s the best piece of art-making advice you ever received ?

I love this Oscar Wilde quote: You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.

Thank you so much for your time, Mani :)

Go follow Mani's art on Instagram and check out her website.

Interview by Rohini Kejriwal.


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