Life As A Visual Artist During The Pandemic
JMCAnderson, St Marys Works Residency, 2016.
Firstly, I thought I would explain to you all a little a bit about who I am and what I do. I’m British, half Jamaican and a Curator/Artist located in the field of contemporary art. I go by the name JMCAnderson and my work explores language, narratives and co-creation with community groups. The Coronavirus outbreak has and still is changing the way everyone in the world is working and living their daily lives, artists are learning to adapt to a ‘new normal’ and are strengthening their online presence in response. There has been a push for people to take this time and use it wisely by being productive. Creatives have particularly been using any spare time they have to create new work and experiment with different skills, mediums and technologies. However, what about those who have been struggling to find motivation to create and form new ideas?
At the very beginning and for pretty much most of 2020, I had found that this prolonged 'forced' down time and shift in my daily routine to be very difficult to be creative or think clearly. I was unmotivated and anytime I tried to create or experiment with anything I wasn’t getting anywhere and felt uninspired. What I was taught through university was that an Artist’s block was common and to work through it, but this wasn't working and I was afraid that others were moving forward, and I was being left behind. Those who couldn’t enter their studio space or workplace, set up dedicated areas within their homes. However for me in a very small one bed flat, with one room that’s both the kitchen and living room, whilst also living with another, creating a work zone was, and still is, absolutely impossible.
I started to feel less guilty when I had read multiple articles explaining that it’s ok to not be productive during this time, and that this is actually still the case now, especially with this being a very dark and gloomy third lockdown. An article written in April 2020 by the Huffington Post called ‘It’s OK If You’re Not Being Productive During The Covid-19 Pandemic’, referenced to the fact that we are 'conditioned' to be as productive as possible. Upon some self reflection, I found I do tend to live by structuring my days with continuous to-do lists and if it's not work, then I’m working on my own practice and projects. In a normal day to day life I’m out of the house more than I am in it. What we all need to understand is that the pandemic is something we are all muddling through in our own ways, and that it’s important to focus on the here and now, but also to hone in on what activities make you feel at your best. Here are my top tips in keeping your creative brain active and healthy:
No pressure - Do not force yourself to create something specific, have fun and experiment. If you're someone that likes more of a routine and structure, create a 2 to 3 day plan/to-do list in advance, but do not worry if this plan changes.
Stay active - Go for a run, do a HIIT workout or just a walk round the block.
Participate in online workshops, talks and symposiums - This could be in your field of art or in another to gain new insights.
Engage in creative prompt challenges - This might introduce you to new ways of creating and igniting new ideas. Take a look at 64 Million Artists.
Read - both for your practice but just for fun too.
Connect - This has been the biggest shift in focus around the world, where the meaning to connect is continuously being explored in multiple ways. Why not talk to someone you wouldn't otherwise see as often due to distance, or better yet, why not engage with other creatives or creative organisations locally or regionally to see how they are connecting with others.
Creative briefs and call outs - Looking out for creative briefs and call outs can be a great way to start thinking creatively once again. Call outs that come with a brief and/or theme already do half the work for you, by offering a starting point and sometimes even list some potential questions, that you may attempt to answer within your work.
Not all of the above pointers will relate to everyone, however if you find something that works, stick with it. I’ve found looking at what resources and activities others are engaging with on social media and a google search, to be very helpful and one of those most recently is the Sculpd kit.
Sculpd are an organisation that sell at home craft kits specifically for those that would like to engage with clay. The clay they offer within their kits is air dry clay, which means that you do not have to use a kiln or use the oven. Their kits are great starter packs and come with detailed instructions on how to make your own pots. If this doesn’t get you inspired or thinking creatively, they have a wealth of images on their Instagram page sharing what others have created. If you want to take it one step further, you can enter their 'Throwdown' monthly competition to see if you have a chance of winning some prizes.
I’ve personally found creating endless and meaningless sculptures and pottery to be very therapeutic and has really helped with my overall well being, by engaging in something that isn’t directly associated with my practices and/or work. It has also sparked a few ideas that I’m looking to develop in the future.
Written by JMCAnderson