Dearest fellow Earthlings,
How are you doing?
It's ok, I already know. What a cluster-truck of a year this has been, huh? Sheesh, it's been something.
So, how do you start a studio blog post about the first 6 months of 2020? The whole world knows it's been one for the history books! Here in Australia the year started with catastrophic bushfires, the likes of which we have never seen before on this continent, and dare I say it, anywhere in the world. 18 million hectares of land was incinerated along with around a billion animals and over 30 human lives. Summer skies were filled with smoke and a deep, pervading sense of loss.
After several months the fires eased and a new threat appeared on the horizon. At first it seemed far away, unable to reach us, and then we watched as it crept its way around the world to our island, and we retreated into the isolation and safety of our own homes. Yes, coronavirus, Covid 19, the dreaded virus monster, spread its tentacles around our precious orb and life changed in a way most of us could not have anticipated. Now we are in the midst of a global pandemic and we have had to adapt and it is strange for all of us, but life, as it always does, goes ever onward.
In addition to this we have watched global leaders driven by ego and power, seen economies crash into recession, and unemployment rise in many nations. Most recently we have witnessed the worst of humanity in the form of racist abuse and murder and the whole world has had to confront the ugly truth of an all-pervasive systemic racism. Finally, our earth's climate continues to warm and we continue to move too slowly in our efforts to change it.
So, to suggest that we are in uncertain times seems redundant. And yet, here we are, as uncertain as we ever were about the future, but somehow seemingly more acutely aware of that fact. And what do we do in uncertain times? Well, usually we reach for what we know, we search for the familiar and we turn towards comfort, towards the things that make us feel safe, loved and held. For me, that has meant turning to my paints and crafty bits and bobs. I have spent much of the first half of this year tinkering in my studio and I have been reminded, once again, what a salve creativity can be for a world weary soul.
I have painted more this year than I have in the previous two years combined and it has been really wonderful to immerse myself back into a regular practice. I find myself painting one or two days a week and then leaving the paints for other projects or the garden. This way of working has been better for me than trying to paint every day. I find long, intensive sessions much more productive than shorter ones and I find the days in-between painting refresh me. I am not a singularly-focussed maker and having several projects on the go that I can move between works best for me these days. So I have been working on my basket weavings when I'm tired of painting or drawing and I have learnt how to eco dye with plants from my garden too. I am making things out of textiles and thread and it feels lovely in this winter weather.
In regards to my illustrations, I continue to be inspired by the sea but I find myself looking for inspiration on the land too. I recently completed an alphabet chart of Australian Animals and now I am working on a gardening critters journal where I am documenting all of the creepy crawlies I discover in my garden. I have plans to start painting plants and want to create some gardening charts in the second half of this year - fun and whimsical posters of culinary herbs and maybe a seasonal seed planting chart too. Oh I have so many ideas, I really do!
In the midst of chaos my privilege affords me the ability to find comfort in the practice that brings me most joy - my art - and I am every grateful for that. The importance of art to my life has been highlighted beyond compare during these past 6 months. I just can't imagine life without my watercolours. With every passing day of practice I am refining my 'style' and more and more my creatures speak to me whilst I paint. I finally am starting to feel as though I am becoming good at my craft, whatever that means? Imposter syndrome is fading away and I feel comfortable naming myself an illustrator, because that is what I do. It's taken 5 years of work to get here (since deciding to give it a good crack), but 5 years seems about right really - that's a university degree or an apprenticeship I suppose! To be doing the thing I have always loved, admired and wanted so desperately to do is beyond compare and I hope I can do this for many, many years to come. Come rain or shine, pandemic or disaster, I hope always to be able to paint, because therein lies my comfort, my language and my love.