How to make to most of the time Coronavirus Covid-19 will give us.
I know; you are being inundated with emails from a plethora of companies telling you how they are going to support you through this crisis. Broadcasters will be supporting children at home by providing special TV programmes for them and many suppliers are telling you that they will do everything they can to continue to make deliveries.
There are also people selling online courses at discount prices which look very attractive and artists are clubbing together selling their work at discount prices, claiming that once they have sold £1,000 worth, they will buy from other artists. Call me a cynic but artists desperate enough to do this are not likely to buy from others.
There really isn’t anything I can or want to add to this. We don’t know how long this will last, we are not going to rush out and buy new artworks, but the bigger problem seems to me to be ‘artist’s block’. So how do you get around this feeling of despondency, lack of ideas and general unhappiness at our current situation?
Firstly I would say in those hallowed words ‘this too will pass’, When you are feeling low, just remember this. It might not be fun, it may go on for far longer than we want it to and we may very well all lose someone loved by us, but nothing stands still.
Artists are, generally, very good at self-isolation. I know that I have spent weeks holed up in my studio not speaking to or seeing anyone. But suddenly when we are told we can’t, we want to. So what can we do to get though these strange and difficult times?
In the words of Douglas Adams, don’t panic. If you haven’t ever listened to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is 42 years old this year and 42 is a rather significant number in this work. BBC Radio Four is currently re-airing the series, and it is well worth a listen. So, don’t panic. We just need to readjust our focus and look closer to home for inspiration.
If you are reading this, you have access to the internet. Hopefully you have access to a printer, too. Even better a colour printer.
My first suggestion is that you surf the net and find images that make you smile. Copy these onto your computer, print them out and use them to make an inspiration board.
Honestly, you will surprise yourself. I did one last year and discovered a love of floaty fabrics when used by ballet dancers. The fabrics remind me of the feathery fins of tropical and cold-water fish, a theme I have been exploring for many years. So surprise yourself and find something new about yourself.
Having made an inspiration board, make a desire board. This doesn’t need to be pictorial; it can simply be a list of things you want to happen with your artwork. However, a pictorial one will probably appeal more to the artist in you.
A friend did this recently and one of the items on her board was to take part in an art fair hosted by The Contemporary Art Fair company. She told me that within 30 minutes of putting this on her board, I had contacted her about sharing a stand at Sandown Park in September. How cool is that?
Armed with all this new information about yourself, see if you can find a new direction in which to take your work. Maybe you will discover that you really like a particular colour combination. You could see that you like fine line work or you really like the current large abstract works which have become fashionable.
Now is the time to experiment and try something you like but haven’t tried before. No one is going to see it except you, unless of course you want to share it on social media, so you need not worry about making mistakes.
Where social media is concerned, you are going to have time on your hands so if you haven’t already, look up Instagram, create an account and see what you can find on there. Post your new work too if you are happy with the outcome. If working on a small screen on your phone isn’t fun for you, try Pinterest. You can open an account on your tablet or computer and start looking at all the wonderful images people present there.
Both of these platforms are free to join and you can save images you really like to reference them another time.
If you are looking for more inspiration, why not check out YouTube. You don’t need an account; just go into YouTube and search for what you are interested in.
Here you can learn all sorts of things for free, yes, I said FREE!
There’s no need to sign up to expensive online courses, pretty much anything you want to learn about can be sourced through YouTube.
I love watching other people painting. Seeing their approach to working, how they apply their paint, ink, resin, pencils etc., is not only fascinating to watch but is inspiring. You may not like the final outcome, but you will very often learn something new.
A particular favourite of mine is an Australian channel called Colour in your Life. A lovely man called Graham Stevenson started this series years ago. I used to watch his shows when I lived in the USA. Graham visits artists in Australia, New Zealand and the USA and spends a day with them whilst they show you how they make their particular style of work. It is brilliant.
No, I don’t like all the work (that would be impossible), but I can honestly say that every time I watch a show, I learn something. It might be a process or something about a product. It could be an approach which I had never considered before, or it could be an understanding of how to finish a piece of work. There are painters, printmakers, potters, people who use technology, people who are purists. There is pop art, classical art, symbolist art, romantic art, the list goes on and on. So many things are discussed and so I challenge you to take a look.
Finally remember this. There is nothing you can do about the situation except take preventative measures to keep yourself safe.
If, as I know a few of you are, you are in a risk category, then do take extra care of yourselves, but don’t stop making art. Don’t stop looking at art made by others. Whatever kind of art you enjoy: sculpture; photography; dancing; singing; painting; prints; gardens; or ancestral homes, the internet can bring you close to these things. They can fill you with inspiration and they can make you smile.
A footnote to all this. Earlier this week I saw a friend who has young children and was dreading them having at home indefinably.
She has a child who is particularly bright and so needs a lot of input and my friend was really worried how she would cope. The advice I gave to her could just as easily be used by you.
My advice to her was this:
- Set yourself a timetable of things to do. In her case, an hour a day of literacy and an hour of maths. Add to that some history, geography, art and science and her children won’t fall behind their peers. Initially that didn’t help until I helped her break it down further.
- Start the day by getting them to help make breakfast and then wash up and put away. Then, whilst they are feeling fresh and ready to go, tackle the literacy and mathematics which the school will set for them. With a little break in between, tackle something small. Learn a new set of times tables, learn how to tie shoelaces and neck ties. Anything small which you can just spend 10-15 minutes on should do it and that sets the morning up for national curriculum learning.
- At lunchtime, get them to help make the food. Cooking skills are an essential life skill even if you are learning how to make pizza. Cutting up vegetables to make lasagne, making soup or teaching them about how to cook meat if you are meat eaters, without making yourself ill by undercooking it.
- In the afternoon a geography lesson about the countries affected by the Covid-19 virus will help with learning about where countries are in the world. Learning the flags of those countries could be incorporated. Taking that into history they could look at the plague and the Great Fire of London and learn about what was happening in the world around that time. I have lent her a bunch of books to inspire her too but one is timelines of history around the world.
- Kitchen sink science is a great way for children to learn basic science and the book on how things work will be a fun project too.
- I also suggested a 30-45 minute PE session everyday will help to tire them out.
- On the art side they have pencils and paints to have a painting session but I also suggested cutting shapes into sponges so they can make prints on cards and then send their artwork to family members they can’t currently visit.
- Sewing is another skill I suggested she incorporate along with learning keyboard skills. I know they teach this in school these days but the earlier children learn to touch type the better. I have suggested she teach them how to research on the internet and also how to send an email. I have promised to reply to any they send to me.
We live today surrounded by so much we can tap into and maybe we will all learn new skills we can pass on to our children and grandchildren or can use to help older members of our community.
If you are really struggling to find inspiration, send me a message and I will happily talk through some ideas to help you stay sane.
Set up a “phone a friend” circle so that you don’t feel so lonely. You could even set up a reading group online and discuss books using Skype. This is a fantastic time to learn lots of new and wonderful things.
Oh and I know I said “finally” a few paragraphs ago but I just wanted to say to my photographer friends, why not try taking photos of areas in your homes from very different angles to normal. You may find something wonderful comes out of a different perspective.
Keep safe, keep washing those hands and using hand cream to stop them drying out, cracking and making you more vulnerable to germs.
I look forward to the end of this and what ever new beginnings emerge from it.