Maria Farmer lives in the heart of Barry. During the day she has a rewarding career working for Action For Children and, in her spare time, she’s building a reputation for her quirky artworks and is on to her second children’s book. Vale Life wanted to know more about her Vale life and, creatively, what makes her tick.
Please tell us about your background…
I was born and brought up in Penarth. I joined the Royal Navy from college (five years there), met and married Andrew whilst still serving. We moved to Barry shortly after getting married (been married for 32 years!). After we married, we did spend some time travelling together, then started a family; Tom was born in 1996 and Sam in 2006.
What do you like about where you live?
I particularly love the beaches and parks Barry has to offer. There’s such a variety of places to go for walks, and the new developments happening around the waterfront are particularly exciting. Barry has a lot of great restaurants, but I would say my favourite would be a meal at The Captains Wife near Sully (a coastal village between Barry and Penarth), next to the open fire on a wintery day!
Are you working right now?
Yes, still working, despite Covid. I Work at Action for Children as a School Bursar. This will be my 26th year there. It’s a great school based in Penarth and cares for children with complex social and emotional needs.
Have you always been artistic?
Art was my favourite subject in school, although I was so determined to join the Royal Navy, it never occurred to me to pursue any formal study of it though college or university. I have always enjoyed painting the odd watercolour over the years, but it has only been in the last three or four years, since our oldest son left to go to University and our youngest is becoming more independent that I found I had time available to pursue my interest.
A friend of mine invited me along to a life drawing class, and although I was initially unsure about what to expect, I was surprised to find that, with some guidance from the instructor, I was able to produce fairly decent sketches. It has given me a new appreciation of the skill of artists who can draw and paint the human form, it is a fascinating thing to try to replicate muscles, bones, skin, proportions etc., and has taught me a lot about anatomy which has been an interesting bonus!
What is your favourite media?
My favourite form of painting is watercolour and ink and I particularly enjoy painting landscapes whilst I am out and about travelling or on holidays. Recently, I have developed a quirky style of illustrating houses and buildings and these have become very popular. People have commissioned paintings and illustrations of their houses for all sorts of reasons – some because they want a reminder of their homes being safe havens during lockdown. Some have commissioned a painting of their childhood homes, and others just to have a painting of something personal and individual to them. These pictures have led to commissions for other types of buildings. For example, the owner of The Butterfly Collector, a micro pub in Barry has sold prints to its customers, and a wedding shop located in a listed building in Worcestershire have also purchased a painting.
Having viewed this style of painting, customers have wanted to immortalise other things they hold dear to them, I have painted motorbikes, scooters, yachts and even pets! My latest commission is for a Christmas card for a local Children’s Theatre Company and involved creating cartoon characters from photographs sent to me of the students performing.
What size are the paintings usually?
Most of my commissioned pieces are around A4 size and are for sale between £30 and £60 for an original. I have looked at other sources for similar works and have not seen any original pieces for anywhere near this price, so I believe my fees to be very competitive. They are in a great price range for a special personalised gift, and all I need is a couple of photographs to work from.
How do you promote your work?
I sell via social media sites and I have a shop on Etsy MariaFarmerArtStudio, this allows my art to be accessed worldwide, selling pieces to people in countries such as USA, Austria, Germany, Australia. It still gives me such a thrill to know that I have, for example, a picture hanging in someone’s apartment in New York.
Do you take on any commercial work?
Another ambition I have had for many years, was to illustrate a children’s book. I had created a character many years ago, but didn’t know what to do with it. I started to draw him in different guises, and slowly, over a few years an idea developed around the drawings, which led to writing a story about a little boy who loves to play dress up, something I had a lot of experience with raising two boys, one of which has a particularly fantastic imagination.
The book is aimed at children between the ages of about four and six years, it takes them on a journey through the week of ‘Sydney Jessop’ and his various costumes. It is a story of how wonderful young children can be at just enjoying what makes them happy, despite what is going on in the world around them. Towards the end of the story, Sydney starts to realise what he enjoys is not the same as everyone else and starts to conform, however, his friends teach him that enjoying different things is not a bad thing and he should be true to himself.
I think there is a pressure for children to grow up so quickly, the power of playful imagination should be nurtured and encouraged for as long as possible. I have used Amazon KDP to self publish the book which is available from Amazon by searching my name and costs £5.99 for a hard copy or £2.99 for an e-book version.
Any plans for more books in the future?
I am currently working on my next book which will be about a little girl who overcomes her shyness. I plan to create a series of these books, using a different character and touch on themes which parents/carers and children of this age can relate to.
Are you an artist in the Vale?
Have you thought about promoting your skills in Vale Life? For more information,please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include Vale Life Artist in the subject box.