Art, life

Emerging

“Seedling” 18×14, oil on canvas

To say that the pandemic lockdown has been hard on me would be laughable. I know that a lot of my art community made jokes about being easily able to isolate, only to find out later that they went out more than they had supposed pre-pandemic. They didn’t think about all the shows and fairs, and frankly just supply runs that ended in stimulating conversation (even if it was about the viscosity of paint.) A lot of introverted artists found out that they weren’t actually introverts, but rather independent workers, and there is a very big difference!

Around the three to four month-mark, I started noticing that some members of my creative community were beginning to climb their walls, noses pressed to the windows, eyes wide with the dawning realization that this wasn’t ending any time soon. This wasn’t some cute little interlude where people panicked, hoarded toilet-paper and beef jerky, and then it was suddenly over, and everyone got to say “remember when” as they ran into each other even years later (Y2K, anyone?) This wasn’t scary-fun anymore. A couple months more, and an even larger portion of the community was starting to lose it, and so it went like dominoes.

Even worse, most of us thought this forced lockdown would lead to lots of new work, because we would finally be given the time free and clear of other obligations to create! Art would be painted, books would be written, clothes would be designed, sculptures would be born!

…hello?

But, that’s not really what happened. Instead, we found ourselves ricocheting around thinking about too much and nothing, and in the end creating very little. Not everyone was like this, as some really did thrive (and I’m totally envious of that!) But I think it’s fair to say that most creatives struggled with creating, even when given the space and resources to do so.

I felt awful for a while about my lack of production, until I looked back at history and saw that the creative explosions didn’t happen during the hard times, they happened after. A shared experience, processed, and then translated into productivity. I’m hopeful that will be the case for me as well. It is somewhat reassuring to see that pattern, even though it feels horrible in the moment to be given time, space, materials and even inspiration, only to find a lack of energy to MAKE. All the ingredients, and no chef, so to speak.

This pandemic lockdown has been really hard on most people, and my fellow creatives are ready to be set free soon like beautiful birds finally released back into the wild. They have suffered, and their feathers have dimmed during this, but vitality will return! However, not all of us have fallen like those dominoes. Not all of us have our noses pressed to the glass and are thinking “I can’t wait!”

Yes, I am one of the minority who didn’t mind the withdrawal. This lockdown, this extended altered reality has had its annoyances, but has not been hard for me. I am lucky that even with some major income changes, we were and are ok. I’m lucky that I live in a rural place with a common practice of living stocked-up at all times, because we don’t get the store very often (and traditionally, winter in Vermont can mean you don’t get to the store at all sometimes!) So, we didn’t even have a fear of toilet-paper shortages. We have had some life-and-death crises with our family (and I learned that my driveway can accommodate an ambulance and half the volunteer fire department in their individual cars, to my surprise), and I have suffered some harsh personal losses… but I’m ok.

Personal interactions have been almost zero, and I am ok. It’s no reflection on the people I am friends with, as they are wonderful and amazing; it’s just me. I knew I was an introvert, and this period of being truly allowed to be introverted and no one scolded me for not showing up somewhere was a bit of a relief (minus some zoom calls, because you can’t get away with anything on those! No potted plants to hide behind, anywhere!) It’s not that I don’t want to be invited, and attend some things, it’s simply that I didn’t mind having nowhere to go, too. When you’re introverted, but still really like people, life is a constant pressure of “you should” and feeling guilty or that you’re failing when you don’t.

Still, a deeply introverted artist being given the opportunity to be as introverted as she likes, while still being secure, and given the space to create should have been thriving and creating like a cartoon character on too much caffeine. Instead, I feel as though I have retreated even further. Somehow, that feels as though I have started to ice over as things slowed and slowed, until they were almost at a standstill. I wanted to create, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to bridge the gap between should and did.

So, I started doing some limited pet portraits, officially, to fill the gap of just being lost and to also motivate me to actually complete things.

“Lilly” 9×12 oil on panel, commission
“Sprout” 5×7 oil on panel, commission

I even did the Mother’s Day card for WomenSafe:

8×10, oil on panel (available in card, or a raffle for the original. Anyone donating $100 or more is entered.)

But, they’re not my goal. They’re a placeholder. Maybe a really good one right now, given the loss of my sweet Cleo and my dear Socs.

I have finally realized that I am looking for my voice and purpose with my art. I have the technique (and I’ll always be learning more and trying to be better.) I have the supplies. I have the time. But, I don’t have my purpose, yet. More, I don’t want to come out of this lockdown not having found it, so I feel that ticking clock too. I want to shoot out of the gates, once they’re opened back up, with a purpose. Hit that expected wave of creativity with full intent.

As people are being vaccinated (and I have one shot down, the other coming up soon,) and we’re starting to see signs of people reemerging from their forced hibernation (safely, I don’t even know what to say about the states who have decided it’s all a manufactured crisis. Well, I do know what to say, but that’s a lot of cussing, and I try to refrain from that on here.) I’m hoping to come back out with a real direction, that will maybe lessen the longing to go back inside.

How was this whole forced isolation for you? Were there benefits? Will you be changing anything about your lifestyle going forward because of it? I’m very curious!

2 thoughts on “Emerging”

  1. Forced isolation hasn’t been bad for me. I’ve adapted to no get togethers and actually wish there were even fewer (my family has been forcing them because they’re social freaking butterflies, which I hate). As for creativity? Nada. I’ve had all sorts of ideas with zero follow through. And we’ve had troubles here as well that I’ll get into on my blog sometime in the future. Not ready yet.

    I hope you’ll be okay.

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  2. Kyra, I certainly relate to your post. The dawning realization that this wasn’t ending any time soon became my source of anxiety. I also think most of us (as my writing community is also reeling) were wrong in thinking with this “free” time we’d be able to produce new works. This has been largely a time of liminal space, for me. But I’m relearning to be compassionate with myself as it seems I won’t be able to reach my goal, right now. I guess working on placeholders as you put is something too, and will hopefully add to the whole.

    Btw, I really love your painting, Seedling, it’s timely! If you read my latest post, you’ll understand why. I’ve been eyeing your outstanding artwork, for a while. But shipping costs remain a hindrance, for I live at the end of the world. 🙂

    Anyway, look after yourself and keep creating!

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