Art at the Park – Meet the artists: Sonia Coode Adams MBE

3 minutes

Sonia Coode Adams MBE has been painting since she was child but admits that until lockdown she had ‘never painted a landscape’.

As a child born during World War Two, Sonia Coode Adams had little paper to draw on – a shortage of paper meant thin pieces of paper found in cigarette boxes were her greatest joy.

Sonia said: “My mother and grandmother were both very arty but in those days, just after the war, we were desperate and those little papers were all we could get our hands on.

“I would ask anyone who arrived at our house if I could take all the little bits of paper out of their cigarette boxes.

“I eventually went to Byam Shaw Art School, part of St Martin’s, although I only finished four terms before marrying my husband of 63 years, Giles.

“I used to paint pretty much full time and had exhibitions locally and in London but I found being an artist quite lonely. I felt I couldn’t do it any longer and became an art consultant for 20 years.

“It was a wonderful job which came about when Giles moved to a new office in the city and I suggested ‘why don’t we have some really nice paintings’ – instead of prints of the London or birds that everybody else had in the 1980s.

“I was given £10,000 and bought 30 lovely paintings, modern British work by the likes of Julian Trevelyan and Ivon Hitchens. They were so cheap then!

“It was an amazing collection and I thought ‘gosh this is something I could do as a job’ and it went from there. It was the right time and nobody else was doing it.”

Lockdown Garden

Sonia, who is president of FirstSite art gallery in Colchester and awarded an MBE in 1998 for services to the contemporary arts and the community in Essex, says she is ‘thrilled to be invited to exhibit at Art at the Park’.

She said: “I support Home-Start Essex – it is a brilliant charity and I know so many families need extra help and advice.

“I will submit paintings that are representative of my work; two summer garden paintings with day lilies, verbascum, geraniums, roses and salvias.

“These are the last in the series of 68 where I painted the garden all through the seasons. There will also be one of my husband Giles and I litter-picking and a view of Italy with cypresses and a burning sky.

“My work remains similar to what I was doing in the 80s; flat areas of colour, although when I was younger I was a bit bolder. Now I can feel I am not as bold as I was, I can’t quite do it!

“The garden series that started during lockdown and until covid I had never painted landscapes. I hadn’t found how I could simplify landscape or flowers, particularly and then suddenly it came to me. I did one and then since then they have all been the same, consistent.

“I discovered simplicity and tried not to see the detail.

“When you see a tree you see all the leaves, so how do you manage to paint that without painting all of the leaves? You have to try and paint it another way.”

Art at the Park in aid of Home-Start at Braxted Park, Witham, runs from February 1-4, 2024, supported by Howden. Work will be on display in the grounds and Georgian house with prices expected to range from around £15 to £50,000.
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Insurance advice

If you own an item with special provenance, be sure to add the information to your insurance policy as this could impact its value. Retain the invoice, paperwork, photographs and serial number (if relevant) as effective record-keeping is an essential part of building a collection.

You will need to keep up to date with its value, as in the event of a claim you don’t want to realise you’re underinsured. It’s also important to decide upon the basis of valuation. Most times it should be for insurance purposes, but in some circumstances you may be able to insure at auction value, although bear in mind that what you agree may be the most you get back.

To speak to Howden about your insurance, please call 020 8256 4901 or email