Edinburgh sketcher thanks small businesses with lockdown drawings
One of the most in-demand artists in the city who sketched small businesses that struggled during lockdown has said they were a ‘lifeline’ to him during the pandemic.
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When the reality of lockdown hit Mark Kirkham, whose Where Art I? competition has long been a popular feature in the Evening News pages, struggled to find inspiration without the usual buzz around the capital.
The dad-of-two is best known for his distinctive coloured line drawings capturing every aspect of the city, from festivals and popular vistas to hidden gems.
While working at home it wasn’t easy to come up with fresh ideas. But out on his daily walks with family Mark was struck by the plight of shops and other local traders who told him they were struggling to stay afloat.
The 46-year-old said cafes and other small businesses were a lifeline during lockdown – so he started drawing them as a thank you.
For the past decade Mark’s artistic skills have seen him win commissions from hotels and businesses across the city as well as many private ones, after he took the plunge as an artist in 2010. He felt strongly he wanted to give something back.
He has done one sketch a month and helped businesses drum up support by sharing the drawings on social media using #SupportABusinessSketch
The former graphic designer said: "I was going round shops that sell my work and a few said how slow things were after reopening in autumn.
"We spent a lot of time in Granton where we stay. But if we knew a cafe was open further afield and served good coffee that gave us a destination. It kept me going. It was a bit of normality. Though for them it wasn’t that profitable.
“I wanted to support these small businesses which are a huge part of the life of the city and something we need to make sure don’t disappear.”
So far he has sketched Blackwood Coffee, Crumbs Cafe, Gorgie Road Barbers, Kings Wark pub, Mark David Salon, Boswall Drive Post Office, Aquilla on Jeffrey Street and restored Stockbridge cafe Cowan & Sons.
Now he hopes to continue the sketches to give a further boost to business still recovering as restrictions lift.
He has asked for people to get in touch with recommendations of traders they feel deserve thanks for their efforts during the pandemic.
He added: “These small businesses have made such an effort and kept going even with hardly anyone around. They deserve the recognition.”
"It was hard at first during lockdown without the usual buzz around. But I grew to like the quiet, empty streets. It was good to see things from a different perspective. I usually work in ink and watercolour but sketched in pencil and watercolour for these, making a softer finish.”
"On a personal level I’ve captured time I spent with the kids. In years to come I will view the sketches like diaries of the past year, with all the others I did. They have documented a time like no other.”
"Who knows how things will go now maybe they won’t be needed but I want to keep going to help businesses. They created memories for me. And I love the randomness when people recommend places. I guess they have caught people’s imagination.”