'I'm really inspired by Ireland and the nature here'
Like many others, Moate-based artist Flavia Bennard learned a lot about herself and her surroundings during the pandemic. While she said nothing changed, the way the Brazilian native looked at the world did.
“I'm really inspired by Ireland and the nature here and sometimes I take for granted the small things. This is what really kept me going and helped me through the pandemic. Nothing changed but the way you looked at it did,” she observes, adding that appreciating the simple things more was the big lesson for her from our lockdowns to take into the future.
In recent months, she set herself the challenge of making a miniature painting a day and sharing the process on Instagram as part of a #100dayproject, something she has really enjoyed with the immediate feedback and encouragement of social media. All of the paintings, now for sale, are inspired by Ireland and the countryside that she loves so much.
“It actually worked out well for me. I like routine and it was a way to get me back painting for the fun of it instead of worrying about numbers and whether people were going to like it or not.
“It helped me get my mindset right. When you are painting small it doesn't feel like a chore at all,” explains Flavia, who was on day 98 when I caught up with her, which has resulted in beautiful watercolour paintings of places like the lakes of Killarney, Connemara, Belvedere in Mullingar, and scenes from the local countryside around Moate or deserted rural roads.
“I'm really enjoying what's coming out of it,” adds Flavia, who has been living in Moate since 2017, having previously lived in Athlone. “It really helped me through the pandemic especially during winter time with the darker days. It really helped me shift my perspective. It also helped me connect with other people online. It made a huge difference.”
Countryside scenes could not be more different from the busy, crowded city she grew up in between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo and the life she left behind in Brazil.
“We were really looking for a change because the pace there was a little too frantic for us. We were looking for somewhere a little calmer, where we could have a yard and dogs. It's also very safe here,” says Flavia, who lives in Sliabh Rua looking out on Moate golf course with her husband Roger and their two dogs.
Flavia sees inspiration for her art all around in nature, a shift that has happened since she arrived in this country back in 2014. Ireland is home to the couple now, so much so, that they are in process of becoming Irish citizens.
“I used to live in a big city in Brazil and here, it's just so beautiful. You can't help it. It kind of took over without me noticing,” said Flavia, who previously worked as an English teacher before returning to college to study Fine Art.
“I ride my bike on the bike trail here and the whole way is so beautiful especially when it is sunny and the flowers are out. I love that area. I love Portlick and Coosan Point. I also like the southwest like Kerry. The whole country is so beautiful,” she says.
In her view, a piece of art should be available to everyone whatever their budget and her website certainly reflects that with something for every price range.
When people asked for art they could use – Flavia developed a beautiful range of tea towels - based on her beautiful watercolours of flowers like peonies, lavender and poppies, which she says have really “taken off” and are one of the most popular items on her website. All of the tea towel florals are also available as prints or what she calls “peaceful art for your home,” something she'd love to expand to other products in the future.
Another element of her work is custom portraits or body positive paintings which she describes as a really interesting collaborative process with the client.
“That was really nice getting to know people and helping them to see themselves through the eyes of somebody else because we look at ourselves in a really harsh way. When someone else is looking at you, it's completely different,” she says of the body positive pieces.
Looking to the future, Flavia just wants to keep showing and selling her art in what form she can.
“I really like painting and it makes me feel happy. The whole pandemic was so depressing, everything on the news, I just wanted to make people see there is still beauty in the world and feel happy. It makes me feel happy when I see people's comments and they are enjoying them (the paintings),” she ends.