Can we all agree 2020 is messing with us bigtime? Is that not universal?…. Sure feels like it.
2020 started off for me in Charleston South Carolina this year where I was showing for the first time at North Americas premier wildlife art show SEWE (The South Eastern Wildlife Exposition)….a ton of work went into getting myself there and I was charged and excited for all that this new year would hold and it was all beginning at SEWE!…post show I felt strong coming off a very positive experience, ready to fulfill my commitments from the event and beyond……enter Covid 19.
We were home no more than a few days when all the news began to break on a larger scale of the global pandemic that was now rapidly spreading and about to cease the entire world. As the earliest days passed and the world shut down I was overcome with a sense of dread for what might lie ahead, how do we navigate this? what will happen with my work? how long will this last??!!
After almost 30 years of a full time career in art, uncertainty in general is no stranger, its no friend, I am however used to it, it became very clear that the entire world was about to learn a bit about what its like to live with a lot of uncertainty, which for all intents and purposes is THE life of an artist, never knowing whats next, wondering, will I be able to pay the bills? stressing from one job to the next in the hopes nothing goes sideways leaving you with even bigger more frightful holes to fill and on it goes.
Once the initial fear settled down a bit regarding the perceived impending long term doom, it was internal rationalization time….I worked for a few days to cultivate an attitude predicated on the idea that regardless of circumstances we must try to make the best of this difficult time, if we don’t, I felt it would be somehow be even more regrettable down the road. If life was going shut down, then I needed to use this time to make some creative gains wherever I possibly could sans all the usual distractions both self created and non.
The question is how does one shake off the gloom to find even a shred of inspiration in these dark times?…if you are an artist you know how hard it is to create in the throws of depression and anxiety…where do you go to find a fresh thought when your locked away feeling afraid during the grey days of late winter in the midst of a pandemic? those same grey days became the very real metaphor for my soul at this point.
The world has a long history of diving into art and literature when times get tough, this is very true dating back a long ways to both world wars and throughout all history ….I think humans go searching for answers and insight in this way wether consciously aware or not, the answers for deep personal questions in tough times varies from person to person, but I think we all naturally look for comfort and consolation wherever we can find it? But its a bit of insight that I want to encourage you to discover in this way that might lead to some inspiration. In my studies I have found much through examining the lives of great artists of the past, what did they do in difficult times? How did they weather life’s storms and still carry on with any meaningful artistic output?
You see, on a good day you can look quickly at a great art book filled with wonderful masterpieces and find inspiration in a moments notice, a little further reading and investigation will show you that ALL the great artists that we love, know and admire today knew hard times, wether it was war, famine, illness and disease, it is an absolute that if we live long enough we will endure similar hardships in life as well.
One of the things I have found comforting and inspiring over time is learning how many artists were able to work through difficult times and in some cases create some of their most iconic works during very dark periods, for example Monet and the death of his wife Camille or Edvard Munch while dealing with great difficulties, his creative output culminated in “The Scream” and arguably defined his whole career, out of those times came some incredible works of art revered as masterpieces today.
In our present time I would encourage you to revisit the personal history of some of your favorite artists, align yourself with them and their circumstances, take the time to really understand that they also knew great fear and uncertainty by times, look closely at how they painted through incredible difficulty, imagine living in those times, in those moments, think about the reality of it, some of those life situations were incredibly dire yet those artists pushed themselves to create in the darkest times of their lives and in my opinion made good out of what were very troubling times. What they accomplished for themselves and indeed for us in this way is truly remarkable and definitely un regrettable, they surely made good on their time.
I promise if you take a closer look at what they did, how they lived and how they dealt with grief, loss, fear and despair you will find for yourself new courage and inspiration to create in times of difficulty, these aren’t just stories and anecdotes, these were real human lives lived. Sometimes taking the time to understand that life’s troubles are not at all unique to you can help calm the mind, looking at great art created in times of difficulty throughout history lends insight and inspiration to our own situations.
Right now, I’m still living in the uncertainty, the pandemic is still in there, the news filled with strife and fear but I am in the studio making good on my days, my art books are out turned to the pages and images reminding me my experience as an artist, as a human today, is not unique, many of my artistic hero’s lived out similar days, I feel quite strongly it is now my job to work these days by painting through them the same way they did, I’m not sure that there would be any imminent masterpieces forthcoming, but down the road I want to look back and feel good about how I lived this time making the best that I could through creative expression in a challenging period in history, its my sincere hope and wish that you will be able to look, discover and do the same.
Peace to you all and happy painting.
Visit Daniel’s website at www.danielporter.net.