Sheffield Painter Wins Arts Society Isolation Artwork Competition

Abigail McGourlay Brewing Arts Society Winner ArtsSocietyNewcastle1.9.18_001

Abigail McGourlay, 20 from Sheffield, has been named the winner of The Arts Society’s national Isolation Artwork Competition for young artists during lockdown with her painting titled ‘Brewing.’

‘Brewing’ is a self-portrait which shows Abigail drinking a cup of tea in the bath.  Two of the things she says she’s found comforting during lockdown.

Abigail McGourlay Brewing Arts Society Winner

Artist, Abigail McGourlay

“I’ve struggled with the current situation both mentally and physically.” Abigail said. The uncertainty of lockdown put me in quite a stressful mindset, and I found it, at first, difficult to feel motivated. But it is due to lockdown that I have rediscovered my love of painting. This piece captures a real moment of comfort, in both my two favourite things, a warm bubble bath and a hot cup of tea and in myself”

“Feelings of uncertainty, isolation, loneliness”

Young entrants responded to the theme of isolation and have produced new works that reflect their experience of lockdown. Many of the works explore feelings of uncertainty, isolation, loneliness. And some harboured nature, connection, and love. Subject matters ranged from self-portrait to shielding loved ones, and materials ranging from acrylic to biro and pencil.

The winning painting by Abigail McGourlay was selected by public vote and is part of a virtual exhibition on The Arts Society’s digital platform, The Arts Society Connected. Abigail was one of eight artists who had works shortlisted for the prize. The judging panel included Rebecca Hossack, Charlie Waite, and Dan Evans. All eight artists works feature in the digital exhibition which runs until the end of July. As winner of the prize, Abigail will have one of her artworks featured on The Arts Society’s 2021 Membership Card. And she also receives a £50 Cass Art Voucher.

When lockdown hit, Abigail was in the middle of finishing her 2nd year of studying Fine Art. She was working as a swimming instructor and has been furloughed from her job, continuing her studies from home. And she found the lock down experience incredibly stressful. She says “I decided to take back some control that the quarantine had denied me and set goals for myself. I began to learn French, work on my fitness and flexibility and most of all focus on my painting projects. Despite the struggle, I feel that I am much more optimistic about my future now. I know I want to make changes to my life and I have been proving to myself that these changes are achievable over the past few months.”


The winning artwork, ‘Brewing’

“A real moment of comfort”

She goes on to say “I started sketching out this self-portrait at the beginning of my 1st year of University. But as I started to develop and focus on my sculptural practice in university, many of my painting projects were put on the back burner. It is through this piece, and the time I’ve been given in lockdown, that I have rediscovered my love of the painting medium. This piece captures a real moment of comfort, in both my two favourite things, a warm bubble bath and a hot cup of tea and in myself, I am never usually the subject of my own work and this piece has allowed me to explore my own features in ways I have never felt comfortable to do before.

The Isolation Artwork Competition was set up by The Arts Society. It supports young artists and students during lock down. With 90,000+ members, The Arts Society is a leading arts education charity. And there’s a global network of over 380 local Societies. These bring people together through a shared curiosity for the arts; helping to support young artists in the early stages of their career.  In April, The Arts Society launched The Arts Society Connected; a digital platform with the aim of help older members of the population stay connected, educated, entertained, and informed.

The work of Abigail McGourlay, alongside the other seven shortlisted artists can be viewed as part  of a virtual art exhibition here:


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.