Lockdown an inspiration for Wellington artist Tatyana Kuilda

Artists were hit hard by COVID-19, with most unable to work at all during lockdown.

But one Wellington artist, whose talent normally lies with painting portraits in the flesh, found new inspiration in the quietness, leading her to creating an entire new exhibition.

Art isn't just a job - it's a way of life for Wellington based artist Tatyana Kuilda.

"I love interacting with life and being able to observe it," she told Newshub.

Her love for painting was born into her and eventually took her all over the world.

"When I was 17 and I left my home country, I came to America and I started my visual arts journey."

Tatyana and her husband are the only two people in the country to have studied at the prestigious Florence Academy of Arts, spending four years training to paint portraits from life, a method that's been used by artists for centuries. It's now a method being taught in New Zealand.

"Somebody like Sargent who famously painted these beautiful portraits, this is the kind of education he would have had. We brought the method from Florence to Wellington and we just had a vision of sharing the skills that we have accumulated with Wellingtonians" she told Newshub.

Tatyana started her academy Anthesis Atelier in 2016 taking on people from all ages - the youngest student is 11 and the eldest is in their 50s. The one thing they have in common is by the time they finish the programme here they will all be able to paint from life.

"I do offer a skillset where someone can take a pencil and make magic with it."

But when lockdown happened, life completely stopped for Tatyana - she went from painting well-known politicians like Sir Bill English and Green Party leader James Shaw to the likes of the legendary Jane Goodall, to having no work at all.

But in some ways lockdown made her more creative and open to trying something new - the end product a new exhibition called Still Life in Isolation, painting inanimate objects instead of living and breathing ones.

"I enjoyed going foraging on little trail walks with my children and picking sticks and shells, just playing with colours and shapes and not being so committed" Tatyana said.

The exhibition is on display at Kiwi Art House in Wellington until the end of the month, and as for Tatyana you'll find her back in her studio, swirling colours, creating life and her next masterpiece on canvas.