Paints you can hold in your hand and how to buy them

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One of the first pandemic gestures that had a big impact on the art world was the commitment to support artists, initiated by the British painter Matthew Burrows. He pitched the idea on March 16, 2020 and started posting on Instagram the next day with the hashtag #artistsupportpledge

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The idea was simple. He wrote: “You post images of your work that you are willing to sell for a maximum of £200 each (excluding postage). Every time you hit £1,000 in sales, you commit to buying the work from another artist for £200.” The movement had a neat generosity and circular economy style. It has been adopted around the world, with artists releasing artwork for less than £200, €200, $200 or the approximate equivalent in their own currency. The support pledge market, open to anyone who wants to buy or sell art, has led some social media users to consider starting a small art collection during the lockdown. In some cases, potential buyers now had direct access to small works by artists whose work they might never otherwise have been able to afford. First-time art buyers are usually told to start with fine art prints, as they are cheaper, but the pandemic has seen a broader shift from painters to smaller works ranging from around €100 all the way up. ‘to, many of which can be held in your hand.

This trend has been visible at the annual RHA show in Dublin for several years now, before the pandemic and throughout the lockdown, even when the exhibition has gone virtual. The now regular wall of small paintings is usually strewn abundantly and quickly with “sold out” red dots.

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This is good news for artists and collectors. Tiny paintings being sold on social media could act as a gateway to larger gallery purchases, if a buyer’s potential budget grows. Small paintings are also a way to commit to supporting an artist’s practice without breaking the bank, and a practical answer to the question, how do I start a small collection of Irish art? Here are eight artists with some ideas to get you going:

Janet Murran

Based in West Cork and often capturing the light and changing colors on the banks of the River Illen near her home in Skibbereen, Murran sells unframed 12cm x 11cm charcoal and acrylic paintings on board for £125 € via its website. She regularly posts about them on Instagram.

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David Smith

Smith, based in Sligo, returned to Ireland from Hong Kong in 2016. He has just opened a solo exhibition of new paintings, called An island disappears, at the Custom House Studios and Gallery in Westport. He posted some of his coat-sized monochrome, sepia and greyscale forest landscapes on Instagram. The smaller paintings measure 20cm x 25cm.

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Frances Ryan

Ryan’s small paintings are inspired by his garden in Bangor, County Down, and the birds that visit it for food. She sometimes sells small mixed media paintings via Instagram for under £200, and also often has a range of small works available on her website.

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Mollie Douthit

Cork-based oil painter Douthit sells naïve-looking interiors and food paintings through Molesworth Gallery, like this sandwich painting, That’s it, i.e. 13 cm x 18 cm. His little painting, Life in Lockdown, Part IV: Lying on My Kitchen Floor to Ward Off a Migraine, was shortlisted for this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize, currently on display at the National Gallery of Ireland and traveling to the Crawford Art Gallery in April.

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Gabhann Dunne

Dublin-based Dunne, also shortlisted for this year’s Zurich Portrait Prize, sometimes sells tiny, postcard-sized paintings alongside other well-established artists at the Russborough House Art Car Boot Fair, a collection charity fund organized each year. You have to show up and buy in person, but you can catch tiny insect paintings like this bee, posted on Dunne’s Instagram in 2019:

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And these, which were on sale at the Art Car Boot Fair last September:

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Una Sealy

RHA member Sealy is known, alongside Dunne, as a judge on RTÉ Television paint the nation. A figurative painter based in North County Dublin, she usually sells larger works in galleries, but she also sells smaller paintings at Russborough House’s annual Art Car Boot Fair. She also does live portrait sessions at this annual charity event, but be warned, timeslots fill up fast.

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Hanneke Van Ryswyk

Van Ryswyk paints the effects of extreme weather on imaginary landscapes and seascapes, inspired by the vulnerability and beauty of the Wexford coast, where she lives. She has small acrylic paintings on canvas for sale on her website, like Bridge which measures 15cm x 15cm and costs €250. She also points to small newly available works being sold at gallery shows on Instagram.

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Paul Doron

This 2005 AIB Art Prize winner sells small, lavishly painted abstractions in thick, bright colors via Instagram, but you have to be quick to catch them. Prices range from €100 to €200. The smallest measure 15 cm x 15 cm.

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