AN ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE: Thought of the Season
Well, what can I say? This year, so far, has been the most unusual, difficult time in my living memory, and for millions of other people the world over, as the population of most countries on Earth have had to deal with, and come to terms with, what has been described as the worst pandemic since the Spanish ‘Flu in 1918/20, a century ago. It has been, and still is, tragic, worrying, unprecedented in the impact it’s had on people’s lives, their work, schools, universities, businesses and physical and mental health. Life as we knew it ceasing to exist, or put on hold, for months. And with no clear picture as to how how our futures will look.
In this Blog I’m not going to go into the politics, the conspiracy theories, the rights, the wrongs, the mistakes, the scientific or medical aspects of this period in the life of humanity - I’ll leave that for others, and there’s been a lot! - but I will briefly talk about what it’s meant for me, as a person and as an artist.
Little did I know on 4th March, earlier this year, when I wrote my Spring ‘Thoughts of the Season’ Blog, just how much things would change so quickly! At that time I was aware of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 that was emerging from Wuhan in China, but it seemed only a distant kind of threat to the UK at that time, even though cases in Tenerife and Italy, then Spain, were emerging. Because it hadn’t yet become the huge threat it later became during March, I didn’t mention it in that Spring Blog. As Spring moved on, however, the situation became increasingly worse very quickly, and watching the news about Italy, the worst affected country outside China at the time, and the fact that other countries were reporting outbreaks, including the UK, I decided to put myself into self-isolation. As many of you already know, I have autoimmune diseases, in which my immune system attacks my body and goes into overdrive. To control this and stop healthy tissue, bones and joints being destroyed by my traitorous body, I need to take strong immunosuppressant drugs. With this in mind, I decided to drop one of the drugs (with ‘consent’ of sorts from my Consultant), to give my immune system a better chance of fighting this virus should I be exposed to it. But I didn’t dare stop taking all my medication, for obvious reasons, so I was still immunosuppressed and vulnerable to infection.
About ten days later, on 23rd March, it was announced by the Prime Minister that the whole of the country was to go into lockdown, and those in the high risk, vulnerable group (myself included) should go into isolation for 12 weeks. Three months of not seeing anyone outside my own home, not being able to go outside the confines of my own house and garden, having shopping delivered and so on. The worst part for me was not seeing my daughter and granddaughters, only keeping in touch by telephone, FaceTime and social media. No hugs! But on the whole I’ve managed quite well, with only a few wobbles from time to time.
Luckily I don’t live alone, I am retired, and have a home that’s roomy enough, despite being a bungalow, and a garden that’s quite large. We also live in a semi-rural, coastal village that’s usually very quiet. I also have a small studio to paint in. All these things have made a huge difference, and I count myself as being very fortunate - it’s been a lifesaver. Plus the fact that I’m a bit of a hermit anyway!
So now I’m writing this at the beginning of June, the meteorological start of Summer, with Midsummer’s Day coming up in a couple of weeks time. The nights have been getting lighter and lighter up to this point, and a lot of the days have been warm and sunny to enjoy some outside time in the garden. I’ve even painted outside from time to time (although I do prefer my studio). With still being confined to base, so to speak, it hasn’t been possible to get out and about to paint or take reference photos, so most of my paintings have been miniature florals (that have sold well) or wildlife. People in general have wanted bright and cheerful images, understandably. In the middle of May, I also painted a larger than usual for me oil painting on canvas, of Bamburgh Castle from the beach and sea aspect, in an impressionistic style. So now that Summer is starting I’m thinking of expanding my repertoire into semi-abstract painting for a change, plus more impressionistic paintings of land and seascapes. Maybe more florals and wildlife. I’ve got time after all haven’t I?
And really thinking carefully about whether or not to add an online shop to my website and sell online, as galleries and gift shops remain closed for now, although the easing of some aspects of lockdown may mean they will reopen by the middle of June. Hmmm I’ll have to consider the pros and cons of doing that...... an online shop could be risky and expensive.
Summer...and I have to admit it’s not my favourite season, both as an ordinary person and as an artist, which probably sets me apart from the majority. Of course I like not being cold, and being able to wear less heavy clothing, but sometimes (as a self-declared hermit) I find summer to be a bit too ‘full-on’ with too much pressure to be constantly out and about doing things because the weather is fine and the days are long, and I hate crowds - yes, I’m weird! But this summer it might be different if restrictions are still in place, which I’ve been advised will be until 30th June in my case, even though the government are now saying the shielded group can go outside once a day from 1st June, and meet one other person at a two metre distance. Part of me is itching to get out and about now after over ten weeks in isolation! How contrary is that? Told you I was weird! But only if I feel it’s safe to do so, and wherever I drive to isn’t bustling with people.
When I can safely get out to visit places I love, take photos as reference for future paintings, and maybe sit and paint ‘en plein air’, I’ll be heading up into deep Northumberland for a few hours as soon as I can. If and when shops, cafes and pubs are open again I’d love nothing more than a trip over to the Lakes, or up into the Scottish Borders. There’s always so much choice in these inspiring places to keep an artist busy for years ahead.
Hope this finds you all safe and well, and that life hasn’t been too unkind to you over these last few stressful months. Take care and, if the fates allow, I’ll see you in three months time with my Autumn ‘Thoughts of the Season’ (my favourite time of year). ❤️🎨👩🏻🎨