When COVID-19 took hold of the UK in March, Richard Whittlestone, 57, who owns the Wildlife Gallery in Pilsley, was struck by its similarity to the scientific name for a family of birds.
The result is Corvids 19, an atmospheric scene which took flight in Richard’s imagination featuring jackdaws, rooks, hooded crows, carrion crows and ravens.
Richard said: “I kept thinking of the similarity between these two words and it conjured the image in my head.
"I sketched out the idea with the birds on a bleak hillside against a black stormy sky. It had this feeling of foreboding to match the terrible illness.”
Over the next two months, Richard would travel to work at the gallery from his home in Little Longstone to paint in the vivid details which bring the painting to life.
The acrylic on canvas image measures three feet by two feet. One of the few colours which breaks the gloom is a scrap of newspaper beneath a bird’s foot carrying the word ‘coronavirus’ in red.
He said: “It was a good way to get out of the house while the children were being home-schooled but it also helped me cope with this strange time we’ve all been living through.
"People were waking up every day asking themselves if it was all a dream, but I would wake up thinking about the painting.”
He added: "Painting hasn’t always looked after me as well as it does now, in financial terms, but ever since I was 15 I’ve just kept going even in the most challenging circumstances. I’m happiest when I’m working.”
Corvids was sold last month to a private collector familiar with Richard’s art.
Richard said: “Even before it was finished and framed, as soon as he saw it he offered to buy it. It was a shock to sell it so quickly.
"I’ve sold pieces in this price range before, but this a complete one-off. My work is usually based in reality, rather than my imagination, and this marks a particular moment in time.”
The piece will be on show at the gallery until the end of July. Visitors are welcome Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For more details, see richardwhittlestone.co.uk.