Like all of us I have been wrestling over the last 2-3 weeks with my reactions to the developments happening all around us and the far reaching implications for ourselves, our loved ones, the NHS, the economy and so on. I am sure that I am not alone in having to deal with and reflect on all sorts of emotions, thoughts and reactions as the days and weeks go by.
I read one artist saying on instagram that they felt it really difficult to pick up a paint brush and paint again at the moment – it all seemed so pointless or indulgent in the light of the current situation. I do understand that and I must admit that I found it hard to draw or paint over the first two weeks, simply because at times I felt so overwhelmed in myself, or I needed to be available for other family members going through their own wobbly period. I think that, now, slowly over time, we are all finding a new rhythm for life and a new way of doing things for the time being, and it is certainly true that we need to take it just one day at a time for now. The outcome of this reflection for me was to return to drawing and painting to give myself some ‘time out’ and to stop becoming too maudlin.
I had big plans for this year to spend a lot of time in the Peak District, exploring certain areas with a view to collecting my own photos, experiences and inspiration for a new series of paintings. This was following a brief visit last year to Winnat’s Pass – that crazy, but oh so beautiful, tear in the landscape near Castleton. I just loved it and want to find my own interpretation of it. But of course that has to be put on hold for now; we have to stay at home.
So I trawled through past photographs from last year and decided to do a series on Malham. We had a beautiful summer’s day there last year walking around Gordale Scar, Gordale Beck, up to Malham Cove and over the tops. Again I had planned to go back to explore further this year, but I am determined to not sulk about that and instead keep positive! I found that I had sufficient photos to inspire my memories and it was good to spend some time thinking about what worked compositionally and what views really caught my eye on that day.
Doing these two pencil sketches gave me great pleasure a few weeks ago – it was almost quite meditative spending time focusing on the detail.
I had already planned a really big painting (for me anyway – 61 x 91cm) of Gordale Scar and I felt this composition really expressed the awesomeness of that huge space, and being so close to the massive rock faces.
In addition I started this painting of Comb Scar above Malham Cove (50 x 70cm).
Both paintings are still a work in progress as I want to build up several levels of detail but it has felt really good working on such a big scale and is teaching me a lot about sizing up – it definitely is a bit more challenging as the canvases get bigger!
It has provided a bit of a haven for me being transported back to Malham and my memories of that hot summer’s day, with lots of blue sky. I have also noticed, maybe in part because both paintings have a lot of stone in them, or maybe because of a kind of ‘devil may care’ attitude, I have been slapping the paint on rather more thickly than I usually do and I am loving it! I am really liking the texture that is building up to express the ruggedness of the rock face.
So, I would say to all of us as artists that it is still important to keep painting, drawing and sketching, even if we have to amend our original plans. It will help to keep us grounded, give us moments of joy in amongst the worrying times, help us to continue to learn and grow as artists, and provide us a quiet space for reflection and meditation.
This photo is of my 2yr old granddaughter playing with paint a few weeks ago. This was NOT a restful experience for grandma, and I may tell you more about that later! But watching her made me think ‘yes, it is still good to play’. It doesn’t necessarily change the world (although some might argue it could); it doesn’t diminish what some people are going through right now (although some might feel it does) but it just might help to keep us balanced and grounded.
In addition to this, like many social groups, Huddersfield Art Society have been setting different art challenges for members to do each week, to help keep people in contact as a little community. People can then send in photos of their finished pieces that are put on the website or facebook page so that we can keep encouraging and supporting each other. Here are some of mine so far – not particularly outstanding or consistent with the web site theme, but I think it is really good to make use of these forums and ideas people are coming up with to stay connected and share things other than the awful news we keep hearing about each day. I don’t think that is indulgent at all. I think it is crucial.
One of these challenges was a themed sketchbook and I had started to develop some idea of what I might do. But then I listened to the Art Juice podcast with Alice Sheridan and Louise Fletcher about their ‘Mark This Time’ initiative which seemed an ideal forum to connect with others. You can see more about this and my response on my ‘Around My Home’ page by clicking on the button below.