WEEKEND WEB: Artwork from ashes to help heal the pain

Artist Zoemarie Sheldon at work.
Artist Zoemarie Sheldon at work.
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Reporter Kate Chapman meets Gedney artist Zoemarie Sheldon, who keeps memories alive by working with the ashes of loved ones

A creative artist has realised her ambition of helping people through her artwork – by undertaking commissions incorporating the ashes of loved ones.

Artist Zoemarie Sheldon works on her special commission.

Artist Zoemarie Sheldon works on her special commission.

Self-taught artist Zoemarie Sheldon, from Gedney, was approached by Zoe Brown, who wanted a portrait of her grandmother Vicky Hurlock painting, using her ashes, to present to her mum Rae Hurlock for her 50th birthday.

Zoe searched all over the internet for an artist to take the project on, but could only find someone in America, who wanted thousands to complete the commission.

She then stumbled upon Zoemarie’s work through Facebook and was delighted when the mum of two agreed to help her.

“We’re a very close family, and for my mum to be without Nan on her 50th birthday was going to be hard, so I wanted to find some way of her being there,” explains Zoe, of Holbeach.

Zoemarie Sheldon (centre) presents the finished painting.

Zoemarie Sheldon (centre) presents the finished painting.

“I’d heard of ashes being used in paintings before, but just couldn’t find anyone anywhere to do it.

“I connected with Zoemarie over Facebook and when I saw the finished piece, I couldn’t have pictured anything better – the image she produced just blew us out of the water and it was like Nan was still there with us. I just couldn’t stop looking at it.”

Zoemarie (38), whose work featured in the South Holland Open Arts exhibition this year, researched painting techniques incorporating ashes online before accepting the commission and worked with acrylics and watercolour on this piece.

“Zoe gave me a brief of exactly what she wanted – an abstract picture showing a lady in an English country garden, sitting on a bench, wearing a lovely purple dress and a big red hat that covered her face,” says Zoemarie, who also runs party entertainment business Partyangelz.

“She also gave me some photographs of her Nan and told me all about her and when it came to painting the picture, having heard all about her, I felt like I really knew her.

“Rather than follow the plans for the piece that I’d drawn up, I ended up working free flow. To see her mum’s reaction when she saw the painting for the first time was wonderful. She knew who the lady was straight away. She was crying – but they were happy tears.

“Some people find the concept of using ashes strange; it was emotional, but I also felt very respectful to this lady and was honoured to help her family keep her memory alive.”

• For more information about Zoe’s artwork or to commission her follow her Facebook page The Art of Life at www.facebook.com/zoemariesheldon