Mum-of-three Sensimania Keates has become a social media favourite since the first lockdown in March, producing a plethora of captivating artwork that has since sold in auctions and even seen her grab a runner-up position in an art competition. But Sensimania’s art has a remarkable story lying behind it that inspired her to begin producing it in the first place.
With lockdown looming in March, social media became saturated with stories of people learning new skills to stop themselves from going stir crazy at home. However, for Flackwell Heath resident Sensimania Keates, rediscovering her passion for art and painting was more than just a bit of fun to keep her occupied: it was a form of self-therapy to help her through the combination of lockdown alongside a personal home trauma.
“As lockdown started, it had been 11 weeks since I’d broken up with my husband. It was just me on my own with my kids and I just thought ‘wow, how do we get through this?’” Sensimania says. “The days were fine doing what I needed to do, but in the evenings my head would be all over the place.
“I did decorative art at uni and haven’t done anything with it since, so I just started drawing and painting. It was just something that stopped me from thinking.” For Sensimania, this was just an exercise in using her talents to keep her from thinking about what she was going through. But, with the power of social media on her side, it quickly turned into something else entirely.
“I posted it on Facebook and people would say ‘oh that’s amazing!’ and it spurred me on and I kept going,” Sensimania reflects. “I started painting and drawing things – I haven’t done anything creative in so many years – and then my eldest son said ‘can’t you paint something cool like a lion?’ So I did, and that was the first one I posted and I had a few people ask me if they could buy it!
“And I thought ‘I’m not trying to sell anything, I’m just doing this to keep occupied.’ But the more I would post, the more people were liking and asking to buy things.” In the end, it wasn’t the positive responses from potential customers looking to buy that led Sensimania to start selling her work, but rather a practical reason.
“I had a wall full of pieces and I thought ‘this needs to go!’” she laughs. “It was obviously full of memories, how I was feeling was reflected in all of it, so it was all bittersweet memories.
“I decided to do an auction just for the amount of what it cost to make, so I listed things for £4 and £6 on a canvas and asked for 50p above the asking price. The first auction, one piece went for £200, others were going for hundreds. It was just 1 piece per day for a week and everything went for a good amount.
“From that I got a commission list from August all the way to Christmas! So I decided to do another auction in October and that was even better received! Some pieces went for hundreds. It’s absolutely blown me away.
“People started messaging me saying they were disappointed to miss out on pieces so I started getting prints made. I’ve got a website and I’ve started doing cushion covers, and I’ve already got umpteen orders!” With such a whirlwind rise to her work, it’s still a real surprise for Sensimania that both her artwork and her incredible story have been so widely celebrated.
“It feels like a complete blur because I started it with no agenda,” she says thoughtfully. “I never thought I’d be an artist, never wanted to be an artist, and it’s all been so well received. I’ve got an Instagram page and I get people messaging me saying I’m an inspiration! It’s spurred me on, and I’m so glad I could have a positive impact on people when I was going through the toughest time. It amazes me that it came across in that way.”