You would think, with nowhere to go, no people to meet and lockdown restrictions keeping us at home as much as possible would be an artist's dream scenario...wouldn't you?
Well, not so much, it would seem. The majority of artists are really good at being by themselves, hiding away with a good reason to be anti-social. But when the rest of the world gets to join in, it's not such a 'party for one' any more, is it?
Horrific global crisis aside, the world got to focus in on itself and find out what really matters. Unsurprisingly it wasn't all about shopping, partying and making money. We quickly realised where our priorities needed to be: family, community, and safety, with heightened respect for healthcare and normal day-to-day workers who would have such a huge negative impact on everything if they're not there. We tried to support local businesses, especially the ones who managed to "pivot" their skills and switch their products or services to online shops within weeks. Resilience was tested to the extreme. We'll talk about it for decades, I'm sure.
The long recovery process has seen families come closer, teachers put on pedestals (how do they put up with our children every day of the week?!), communities full of positive people to support each other, a whole host of obscure videos online showing how people are coping with isolation, and a plethora of ways to keep the family entertained. There was warmth and sunshine. And furlough - that was a new word to most of us.
What about those artists then, who should be producing galleries full of artworks, surely, with all this enforced time at home with the art materials, yes...? Wellllll....it's a bit like wanting something you haven't got. When you've got it, do you really want it any more?
With all the restrictions being imposed there seemed to be a significant divide: on the one hand, there were creatives who lapped it up, ordered a year's worth of art materials and got stuck in - even roping in the rest of the family to get involved in varying forms of creativity. Some even learned to sew and made hundreds of face masks and PPE for the health care workers, and then for everyone else once we realised this thing is going to be around for quite some time, and we were going to have to adapt. On the other hand, you had those who went into freeze mode - can't face the shut-down, can't face the apparent 'freedom' to create. Just Can't.
I was one of the latter. Even furlough for a month from the day job didn't produce any Great Works. At least I was consistently un-motivated: it always seems to take me quite a while to think about a painting in normal circumstances, before I actually get pencil to paper, and it appeared lockdown and furlough was going to be no different. I did stretch across that divide and order more art materials - I was buying stuff I hadn't used before and was trying to expand my repertoire while things were quiet...
Then art classes went online, and with little hesitance I discovered I could still create, and produced a drawing of a colleague's new puppy who I'd met a few weeks before lockdown. Then I drew a snail. My brother took up photography just before lockdown, and had been exploring local woodlands, capturing the finest of detail from a different perspective. His macro photo of a snail showed so much detail in the shell that most of us would never have noticed, and it captured my interest - I had to try and recreate it in pencil, using some of my new art materials, of course. So I can say I was (eventually) productive during lockdown, even if it was just the one piece...
Fortunately we are, as humans, very good at adapting, and gradually we start to peek our noses out of our front doors and emerge into the daylight, cautiously, tentatively, and blink at the vivid distant landscapes that stretched out before us. Were those fields always that green? Was the sky always that blue? Did the air always smell so fresh? With the constraints slowly easing, the subconscious stress and artist's block dissipates, and there is hope of creation flinging itself back into the swing of things. Here's hoping, anyway.