During this lockdown everyone has been forced to adapt their practices to be able to work from home. During a time of such uncertainty, it is especially hard to be a creative and it is hard to stay inspired. Finding a job as a music photographer, for example, is virtually impossible right now as none of these events are going forward. Agencies have and are closing, there are barely any job openings in illustration. After applying to over 70 jobs and internships, my job prospects seemed a little bleak. A few employers responded but most of them wanted me to work for free and one of them simply stopped responding, despite repeated follow-up. Perhaps they were struggling like many businesses now, or they just found someone else, especially with so much demand for so few jobs during this difficult time.
During the lockdown, a new normal emerged for me, as perhaps it did for the vast majority of us. Working remotely became a norm. There was no speaking to / interacting with people face to face. Texts, Skype calls, FaceTime, and Zoom came closest to human contact. Daily routine was lost and I had no functioning sleep/wake cycle. Days seem to merge into one another. Lunch was at night and breakfast was a mid afternoon snack. It was probably not surprising then that, like many others and most of my creative peers, I ended up with a creative block. At the beginning of the first lockdown. I was overwhelmed by all the quarantine inspired creative content I was seeing on social media. I felt pressure to create work about quarantine but couldn’t because of this block.
GQ interviewed some creatives in lockdown, and among them was Installation artist Rashid Johnson. They asked him if his work right now is ‘about the crisis’. He said “My work is always about a crisis- maybe not the crisis, but the crisis of the human condition.” This resonated with me and made me think about the purpose of my art. I realised that I should not be making work expecting a perfect end result, but just making to enjoy the process. Working this way made me think differently, removed my inhibitions and has allowed me to overcome my creative block albeit it took a good part of 6 months to do so. I have learnt that the best way to get out of an art block is just to have fun on some paper or whatever.
Right now, we can only really share our work digitally. So, during the first lockdown I decided to finally finish what I had been procrastinating for some time now, finishing my website. It was definitely a long and challenging process as I’m not a web designer, but it was fruitful. Once I’d finished this, It was much easier to get the ball rolling on other things, like setting up an Instagram account for my art. I tried to find ways to increase engagement by using the ‘reels’ feature to create process videos of my work. This however, came with its own set of challenges. Setting up my phone to film was much harder that I had thought. After all, I was not mounting my camera on a simple tripod - I was wanting to set it up to capture my creative process and it needed to be at a certain height and a certain angle, and with the right kind of lighting and avoiding shadows, and so on and so forth. Thus, after a lot of trial and error I found the perfect makeshift setup (figure 1). You will be surprised at the many uses of cardboard boxes and books that have not been read in a long time and have sat gathering dust on the book case. I also had to work out how to screen print and lino print at home.
After spending some time applying to job vacancies and working on my website and social media presence, I found an opportunity on Linkedin. A charity called Parkinson’s Concierge was looking to work with an artist who could help with their work. I offered my services and after sharing with them my portfolio and a few zoom calls, I was in business! Since then, I have been working with them to create a poster to raise awareness about the symptoms of Parkinson’s. While I have enjoyed working on this project and learning more about Parkinson’s in the process, adhering to deadlines and making many changes as per the client’s requirements was challenging. My final outcome is figure 2. Although the design process for this project is over, I am still working with the charity to monetise this project so that it could be utilised as posters in a variety of public places, such as community centres, schools, shops etc.
Alongside this project, I have been working with a charity for OCD, Orchard. After looking at animations I have already made, they decided they liked my style and wanted me to create an animation to explain OCD. Figure 3 is my storyboard for this project thus far.
During this time I think I have changed as an artist, as I have realised it is possible to collaborate remotely- I don’t need to be in a meeting with a client in person. I even tried my luck applying for a WFH job vacancy for an illustrator in Australia. I thought, since they don’t need me to come in physically, what’s the harm in trying? As it turned out, they did need the person to come in every so often, so the opportunity didn’t materialise. But, I think its a good example of how you could be a creative without being in a studio. I did manage to get some pointers from the Jimmy himself over at JimmyPatchIllustration and he gave me some feedback on my recent work.
I think once the pandemic is over, working will never be the same again- it will be a collaboration of remote and in person working. So I need to ask myself, what will I change in my practice? I think the key is engaging your audience. I need to continue to work on my social media presence, as well as expanding my shop. I will be working on the ‘Not Just A Shop’ Brief during DPS, and I hope this would help towards that.
I have changed as an artist and have learnt at least one way to overcome an artist block- create free of expectation. For me, that is the most important thing.
Other than that, que sera sera.