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Case study: Celie Byrne

Celie Byrne is a Renfrewshire-based visual artist working primarily in portraiture. She has a background of working in community arts and has participated in a wide range of creative endeavours including large scale outdoor murals, installations and collaborative projects. Her work has previously been included in the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London as well as being exhibited throughout Scotland.

“It was before I got studio space… and I just thought, what am I going to do?”

Having recently returned to Paisley after many years living away and newly invigorated from completing a Fine Art Masters degree from Duncan Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Celie sought VACMA funding to help her develop a new project, providing structure and a deadline to help support its completion. Struck by how different contemporary Paisley seemed compared to the Paisley of her youth, Celie was keen to represent the new community around her in a series of 10 large scale oil portraits utilising studio space that she managed to secure in Glasgow’s Pipe Factory.

“It’s given me a purpose and a deadline”

Celie was awarded a grant of £750 which she used to assist in covering expensive material costs for the paintings. In order to identify people she wanted to feature in the series, she set herself a set of simple criteria. Each subject had to be a person living and working in Paisley that she had had a meaningful conversation with, resulting in a diverse series including bus drivers, Celie’s neighbour that had needed help cutting her lawn and a local man who she had shared books with whilst unpacking to move into her new home. This has allowed her to hone her talents and skill in portraiture further as well as embed herself in the local community.  

“Had it not been for that £750, I don’t know what I would be doing now.”

The grant has helped Celie refocus her practice and be ambitious with her work in a new environment. Celie has already successfully shown one of the portraits in a group exhibition held by Edinburgh Palette during the August 2023 Edinburgh Festival. Ultimately the intention is to exhibit the finished portraits in a public setting in Paisley, for the community to enjoy, as well as look to tour the works elsewhere throughout the West of Scotland to help establish Celie’s name. Having never applied for Creative Scotland funding before, this grant has provided a boost of confidence and helped foster her ambition. Celie is now looking to move her studio to Paisley and seeks to apply for funding for a future collaborative projects or an artist’s residency.


Find out more about Celie and her practice here.

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