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adapting In the past weeks, my son Ross Ticknor and I have addressed issues related to our struggles as artists in the time of COVID-19 on our podcast, The Messy Studio. We've talked about feeling blocked, responding to changing times circumstances, and staying focused. We also did a very popular interview with art marketing expert Dave Geada in which I unwittingly played the role of the Old Fogey who does not quite believe that art can be sold online. (Dave walked all over that quaint idea.) Our hope for all of these recent episodes is that they provide some support and uplifting ideas for other artists. We record and edit our episodes in advance, and a few days ago while reviewing our current episode, A Call for Change, before publishing, I had a strange experience. As I listened to the recording of my own calm, assured voice, in the actual moment I was struggling with an emotional meltdown. The day before, my usually reliable composure had snapped. I'd heard one too many reports of bad news, tragic deaths, and an unknown future. Looking back, that moment of contrasting responses seems to embody much of daily life in these disturbing times. On the one hand, we make an effort to continue as best we can with life in its new guise. Sometimes we manage to maintain an upbeat, confident voice, while other times we feel fearful and sad. From day to day, we try to balance our understanding of the tragedy with a need to stay on track with who we were--and are--as much as possible. For me, daily walks in the natural beauty near our New Mexico home make me very grateful, but I worry about people who are far more confined.
near my house in New Mexico
I've been working as usual in my studio, but I notice some differences. One is that I have less stamina for my more developed, layered work; I can only maintain a good focus for a couple of hours or less. Yet working even for a little while is satisfying and soothing, a refuge from all the other upheaval.
from the Arroyo series, 16"x12" oil/cold wax on panel
Another change is that I often work quickly and directly on paper, using a variety of mixed media. Almost every day I do something which is finished in minutes, rather than hours.
I think both of these changes are rooted in the emotional vulnerability that accompanies making art, especially now. Raw feelings make it harder to focus, to have the energy for decisions and self-critique. Those emotions are better suited to the kind of quick, direct work I've been doing. But both directions seem important right now--being able to enter the more solid, ongoing core of my ideas, as well as working more spontaneously. In everything I'm doing now, there is a freedom from concern with exhibiitng and sales. Art business is more or less on hold. I believe a lot of artists are experiencing this and using the lack of expectations to loosen up and try new things.
approx. 8x10" pigment stick, powdered pigment and cold wax on paper
There is no one, right way for us to respond, of course. Some artists I know are taking a conscious break from their work, others are struggling with the frustration of feeling blocked in spite of having the desire and a place suitable for studio use, while others are maintaining a basically unchanged, steady practice. Art reflects our personalities, background, and circumstances--and although we share many of the same COVID-19 related restrictions, our individual situations vary hugely. Surely this is a time to be flexible and accept any path that helps you find refuge and satisfaction in your work, or maybe to channel your creativity in other directions until "normal life" someday returns.
¶ 7:29 PM