“Two trees under a chaotic sky”. This etching turned out to be an extraordinarily prescient one in that I made it just before the terrible discovery of my husband’s terminal illness in June 18. It now has further meaning for me in that it feels symbolic of the struggle that everyone is having (not just us artists of course) to stand strong against the chaos that surrounds us all just now.
I’ve just been chatting with some fellow artists (online of course) about coping mechanisms during Covid. We agreed that, even at the best of times, we often suffer from a profound sense of insecurity about what we’re doing and where we’re going in our work, and this has been compounded by our isolation during this crisis.
In the back of my mind is a question I always used to ask my students in the early days of teaching – who are you doing it for in the very first instance? I confess that I often experience a feeling of flatness on my return from my visits to the London galleries and, having been inspired and overwhelmed by the stature of all the great artists that I’ve been looking at, find myself battling with the intrusion of those other questions. Why bother? What makes me so special?
But then I remind myself that I’m following my own path, and that’s what matters, and without the ability to work, I would go bonkers no matter how many ups and downs I encounter on the way. Many of our insecurities revolve around the issues of credibility, the confidence to put ourselves forward, the capacity to deal with rejections, the affirmation that selling brings and, it goes without saying, the need to sell in order to put food on the table for many of us. But, in the first instance I’m doing it for me and then everything else follows. This said, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s only the viewer who completes the work. And that’s what we’re all missing at present. I think it’s the main issue with me anyway. I’m also missing the camaraderie and support that are such wonderful features of our workshop sessions under normal circumstances.
The isolation that we are enduring now only serves to intensify these aspects of “being an artist”. In my lighter moments I remember to be thankful for having creative outlets to help me through all this, and as I work I try to project to when we can gather together again and move forward after Covid, and share our work with the world once more. Meanwhile, I think of those two trees still standing amid the chaos – backs to the storm – and resolve to keep upright!!
This is a rather curious little poem I wrote a few weeks ago – not quite sure exactly what it means – but, somehow, it feels hopeful.
The bird turns
I see cobwebs
and tiny moths
the crazed glass
I see raindrops
and the universe
then the bird turns
a glinting eye
its wings illuminated
for take off.