A mother-of-two from Buckinghamshire has described an upcoming art exhibition featuring her work as ‘bittersweet’ after she picked up her paintbrush following the deaths of her husband and father.

Nikki Pearce, 51, lives in Chalfont St Giles and studied painting at the Wimbledon School of Art in the 1990s, where she met her husband, Steve, who was a fellow art student. 

Over the years, and with the birth of her two children, however, she lost the habit of painting for leisure, with her interior design office job taking up much of her time. It was Steve’s death in 2019, following a long struggle with depression, and the passing of Nikki’s father around a year later, that made her reassess her priorities.

“After Steve died, the world just fell apart. The house was under renovation at the time, so we were in a rented flat, and as soon as I moved back in, without thinking I just knew that I had to start painting again.”

Her father helped her to repaint parts of the house – and Nikki’s first artwork in years was an abstract piece that she said bore some resemblance to the Japanese artist Hokusai’s wave print and which was designed to hang in a dark blue room her father had decorated.

“That piece felt very intuitive. It’s a piece that I still have and that I think about a lot. It just felt like there was something in me while I was creating it – I don’t know if I would say it was about grief, but it does hold a lot of meaning.”

READ MORE: 'It's so sad': Staff and residents protest shock closure of Bucks care home

Nikki’s father passed away at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic – and she continued to use her art as a way to process and reflect upon her feelings, painting nature scenes including Black Park in Wexham, a place she used to visit with both her husband and her father.

She met Tracey Hayden, the artist-in-residence at the newly opened Hayden Gallery in Marlow earlier this year and the two quickly connected. Nikki’s work will be shown, alongside other local artists, in an exhibit opening at the new venue on October 14.

The 51-year-old said she feels “really privileged” by the opportunity – which is nonetheless bittersweet, in the absence of the loved ones she wishes could be there to support her. She is also keen to encourage others to tap into their creative sides as a way to “find some relief” from difficult emotions.

“Art is often quite an isolating task, but you can take anything to it – whether you’re feeling terrible or brilliant. Grief is a big thing, and it comes in so many forms, so just making the time to pick up a pencil and draw every day has helped me so much in dealing with the loss of Steve and my dad.”

“Something I’ve noticed is the value of becoming visually aware of the world around me – the beauty in watching the birds and focusing on painting a plant or a sunset.

“I would love to be able to depict those little moments and glimpses in my work. I hope people feel that even slightly when they look at my paintings.”