Samarivan painting of a vw camper van in a forest for The Samaritans charity art auction

SAMARIVANS – a fundraising painting for the Samaritans

I’ve been following the art of UK realist pop artist Sarah Graham since 2020. She paints bright artworks of sweets and toys from yesteryear which bring a joyful boost to my social media eye candy feed.

As well as being an amazingly prolific artist, she is also a mental health advocate, after suffering her whole life with Bipolar Disorder. The brilliant news is that her condition has been in remission for 4 years now, and to celebrate, she has organised a giant fundraising exhibition to raise funds for her local branch of the charity The Samaritans.

She says,  ‘The money raised will all go to my local branch of Samaritans (North Herts and Stevenage). Like all branches, they take calls from people across the UK and Ireland, and they are desperate for funding, so I’m hoping to raise as much money as is humanly possible. As I have mentioned, Samaritans have saved my life on more than one occasion. The work they do provides a vital lifeline for people struggling, and the volunteers are incredible.’

You can read more on her blog here

As soon as I saw the post about the exhibition I wanted to create something to help such a worthy and personal cause. As an artist, I know many people that have suffered poor mental health issues, and also know of many that have not survived the struggle. The improvement of mental health support is also something that is particularly close to my own heart because I too have struggled from childhood and my complex mental health issues have an enormous impact on my daily life even today.

Samaritan charity fundraiser acrylic painting of a green vw camper van in the forest for the Samaritans

Every artist was sent a parcel containing a canvas panel sprayed with the feint beginnings of a VW camper van image to decorate or create a work as they wished. I was working to a tight deadline so I opted to use acrylics for their quicker drying times. I often paint with acrylics and, because I love the layering qualities of the paint, I often use it for my abstract artworks that you can see here.

I started by making a rough drawing of a van and layering on colour. I wanted to portray the feeling of peace and tranquility I had experienced in the Schwarzwald forests on my recent camping trip to Germany, as the only time my mind is at rest is when wandering through the woods, listening to the creatures and admiring the warm light of the evening sun glinting through the trees.

But as is often the way with paintings, it just wasn’t working out and I took the big risk of destroying 3 days worth of work by sanding the whole lot back to leave a ghost of the image. The image above shows all the ugly stages of the painting! This create-and-destroy process is pretty normal for me and is often a necessary step in the development of the image I ultimately want to create.

I drew a new van over the top, that was a little smaller than the template, so I could include more of the plants and trees around it, which helped capture the right mood. I then spent a very meditative 5 hours carefully painting this version and feel I have captured the essence of the idea of seclusion and disappearing into the woods. The Germans call it waldeinsamkeit and it is the enlightened, sublime feeling that can come from being alone in the woods

I have called my Samirivan painting ‘Stealth Camper’ and it features the word ‘Shoosh’ on the van, to link in with my desire for peace and quiet in nature. I wanted the van to look like it had been in the woods a long time, but still lived in, perhaps by someone who has opted out of the rat race and is enjoying a simpler life in nature.

In our society, even today, mental health is still something that is not spoken about enough and the provision for help and treatment on the NHS is severely lacking with many waiting lists being years long. Often people with mental health problems are left feeling alone and out of options, so organisations like the Samaritans, that provide a free and non-judgemental service are a much needed resource.

The Samarivan Exhibition

The exhibition will be held at Arkley Fine Art in Hitchin, for a week while the work are auctioned online. The show will open on Friday 22nd September, with a private view that evening, which you are very welcome to attend. The show will be called ‘Samarivans’, and the exhibition will run until 29th September.

Sarah will has a dedicated page on her website HERE and you can follow the growing collection of vans that she shares on her Instagram

The works will then be for sale via an online auction on eBay. Watch out for updates  🙂

UPDATE March 2024: The eBay auction has ended. It was a huge success and I am pleased to say that my painting sold at a much higher price than I had even hoped for. I am so pleased to be able to have helped the Samaritans continue their meeting work.