In Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is the combination of the two Chinese characters, ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’ and upon reflection over this lockdown period I feel that these two words do indeed illustrate what a crisis such as Covid-19 actually is.
Of course, if I could take back Covid-19 I would without question. No amount of opportunity is worth the deaths, heart ache and stress this virus has spread across the world over. The reality is however that I do not have this ability and that the only productive option for me during lockdown was to find the opportunities this time had to offer.
So, what have I been doing? Initially, probably like many, I was lost and started by rushing into too big of projects with no real thought process behind it. Result – one painting I am happy with the others still left half finished. I had to rethink on how I would effectively invest my time as I knew I never would get an opportunity like this again. Why don’t I stop trying to make pieces of art and instead just do what I never was able to do before? Study, study art practices and techniques. I started by booking one to one lessons over Zoom with an art teacher primarily with portraiture in mind. Instead of following the tutor’s instructions I simply asked to listen as I watched and lapped up everything they had to offer. Each lesson I finished happy but hungry and excited for more. So where else could I learn? I started reading books, looking to old masters and liaising with current artists who I look up to. I put the hours in and for the first time an image I created gave me something I never experienced before. I was proud of a piece of work. A charcoal sketch of a bearded man in a hat. It was not perfect; I can see the imperfections but the progress in the process and finish for the first time astounded me and opened my eyes to the possibilities and that I could actually do this.
My works I created during furlough have been sold and commission requests have come in. In addition, from June 1st through to September I have some of my works, soft pastel and charcoal up for sale at the Mall Galleries online ‘Buy Art/Buy Now’ under their collections title ‘Award Winning Artists 2019/20’ due to winning the ‘Unison Young Artist 2020’ at the Pastel Society Annual exhibition earlier this year. With the acceptance from Unison for ‘Associate Artist’ crowning these successes, I start to think I could become a full-time artist.
Then today hits. Its a Friday, and at 5 O’clock today we have our weekly conference call with work where there is potential to hear a date for us to all return to our battle stations in the world of retail. Whilst I am aware many of my colleagues are desperate to get back to work, whether that is due to monetary reasons, boredom or I think in some cases to save their marriage, I feel deflated and once more reflective about the prospect.
Like a secret desire I question, “Can I make it as an artist?”….”if I really get my head down, how much can I learn and grow?”….”what am I capable of?” A montage usually accompanies these thoughts, each with their own argument as to why I should not follow this train of thought. Lack of stability, money and is this too selfish upon my partner? What haunts me the most, however is the one I have started to experience the last couple of years when friends, surprised to see me working at the airport on their way through, ask why I am no longer a manager but a sales assistant. To respond it is because I have returned to University to finish my Art History degree and to focus upon becoming an artist has often seen people who were sometimes once close friends, raise an eyebrow and look down upon me in an dismissive manner. Those moments have been awkward, and my cheeks even start to burn up now as I think about it. I am no longer of their professional circle but a stupid woman on a frivolous void of a journey.
This is where the argument for me to becoming a full-time artist usually ends, yet today is different. Today my conference call brings me face to face to the realistic and logical alternative of returning to a standard job. My stomach sickens. Thinking over the lockdown, the progress, the increase in skill, understanding and confidence within such a short space of time has made me realize that the latter is no longer an option. So, when lockdown is over, I will follow my instinct. The next time someone asks me the question “what do you do?” I am not going to be a sales assistant or a manager. ‘I am an artist’, one who’s cheeks no longer burn red at this statement but instead holds her head up high ready to find the next opportunity.