‘Positives are there if we choose to look’ - artist’s message of optimism during Covid-19
- Credit: LITTLE JO ART
A former body piercer who took a “leap of faith” to become a professional artist is enjoying boosted sales this year as people focus on their homes.
Jo Graham, known as Little Jo, from Bury St Edmunds wants to break down barriers around subjects like mental health through her work of mainly pencil drawings.
Her former job was at Tattoo Art in the town for 11 years - as a receptionist, body piercer and tattoo designer - before she took the jump to turn her passion for art into a career five years ago.
MORE: Global interest in portrait of Ed Sheeran created by Ipswich artistJo, 35, who is self-taught and trades under Little Jo Art, said the national lockdown earlier this year gave her time to focus on producing art - and it’s “probably” been her best year for sales.
She said: “A lot of people have been redoing their homes and decorating. I have heard a lot of people have been buying art, which is amazing.”
Jo said becoming a professional artist was a “massive leap of faith” but she “just went for it”.
She is known for her portrait of one of Bury St Edmunds’ characters, Corky Mansfield, who died in 2016.
MORE: Bury St Edmunds pub hosts guest ale in honour of local legend Corky who died last weekShe felt compelled to create the piece on learning of his death and it went on to win the prize for ‘best drawing in any medium’ at the Bury St Edmunds Art Society Annual Art Exhibition in 2017.
Recently, she has completed a series of miniature pencil drawings of keys called ‘Keys to life (from the mind of an Artist in lockdown)’ inspired by the first national lockdown, though she said she has always been interested in keys.
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“I hope that the pieces within this series will convey a positive message of optimism and personal growth that can be taken from a situation that is both worrying and unsettling and completely out of our control, but from which positives are there to see and can be taken if we choose to look for them,” she said.
MORE: Coronavirus on the visual arts: ‘It’s become much harder for artists to make a living’Jo said lockdown earlier in the year had been a “really worrying” period for everyone, but so many people used their time to be creative - producing art, baking and taking up hobbies.
“The government provided financial help in the end and that took the pressure off. You have this time to do what you want with and you don’t have to worry. That daily grind in life has been taken off you.
“I know for some people it hasn’t been an easy time for one reason or another, but for me it’s been a nice, refreshing change.”
MORE: Young artist grabs the opportunity of lockdown to make a career out of artThe artist, who also works part-time in a warehouse, says her work draws on her own experiences, such as mental health and death.
She added: “If I can catch people’s attention and get them thinking quite deeply about the subject and take something positive from it that would be fantastic and I would be so pleased.”
As well as drawing subjects that interest her, she also takes on commissions for portrait work.
She has also recently picked up her paint brushes again after a long time.