Two months ago ‘isolation’ meant the wide skies and empty horizon of the Southern Ocean; the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you and your small team of shipmates are over a thousand miles away from other human beings. Now, isolation means confinement, anxiety, the chill of loneliness and uncertainty. I think I’d rather face Cape Horn again!
Like me, you were probably in shock as the cascade of cancellations wiped out everything in a once full diary. You have permission to slap me if I ever complain again about being too busy. Goodbye to a full programme of talks, workshops, art classes, art holiday, work projects, sailing plans, music events, community projects, concerts, festivals – the day to day messy, busy stuff of life. Like birds that have flown full speed into a window pane, we’re hopping around in a daze trying come to terms with not being able to fly for a while and wondering what the future will bring to us all.
There are of course plenty of things to do. I am so fortunate that I’m used to being on my own and although I live in a space the size of a large bathroom I am grateful for the views from my little wheelhouse of wide open skies and river to ease the feeling of panic when it starts to bubble up. Grateful too that at the moment we still have the precious freedom to go outside and take a walk. As the weather warm up it will be a little easier to cope.
The artist in me enjoys periods of solitude, but the musician in me is less enthusiastic. Great for practising of course, but usually that’s balanced with the joy that comes from regularly listening to live music, sharing and playing with others, all now off the agenda. Simple pleasures, so precious.
It’s caused me to think harder about how much we do art, music, writing, anything creative, just for ourselves and how much we do to communicate with others. I sketched a decorated sea chest lid in Port Stanley museum in January that intrigued me, as this careful, colourful piece of artwork was done on the inside of the lid not the outside, a place where no-one except the owner would see it. Done, therefore, entirely for his own pleasure. Usually don’t we labour away at creative endeavours with some expectation that others will see, hear, read, eat, appreciate, be moved or cheered or entertained by them?
Then, of course, there’s that list of ‘THINGS TO DO ONE DAY’ that we all have, usually secure in the knowledge that one day never comes. Well, here it is. As someone posted online recently: ‘this is the time when a million people discover that they don’t actually have a novel in them’. My list of things to do does involve books, as four (yes, four! I have the attention span of a goldfish…) of them are already begun, so I have nowhere to hide. If even one of them sees the light of day after our confinement is over, I shall be glad, especially if it’s the book about my sailing and sketching adventures that I promised so confidently only a few weeks ago. I view my carefree sketchbooks now with a slightly different perspective and luckily I have the guidance of wise editor/publisher Julia Jones to help me make sense of it all. Time to stop faffing and Get On with It!
I’ve also picked up another project which I’d love to finish, and that’s my book on how to draw, for which I’m hoping to enlist your help. I’ll be making a few draft chapters available to download and need feedback from some would-be sketchers to see how useful it is. The first chapter is available here
Do let me know how useful it is and if it makes you feel you could make a start. I’m also looking into making some short teaching videos, just waiting for a phone tripod to arrive so I can set it up.
It’s interesting how quickly the phrase ‘stay safe’ has become our automatic form of farewell now. I wish you all well, stay sane too and keep dreaming, making, drawing, making music.