As we enter deeper into the great and darkly unknown and unknowable, it can be hard to plan forward, reorient and even feel creatively inspired at times. We’re in a funny place culturally both in that this private micro struggles we have in our isolated bubbles is macro-shared by all, all over. I’ve been struggling to know what to write this month as everything seems up in the air like we’ve just witnessed a new Big Bang and now we’re waiting to see what this new universe looks like.
In many ways on paper, this pandemic and its locking down is a time of tremendous and unprecedentedly profound creative opportunity. I think every working creative I know has an event in their early life that anchored and isolated them in some way that allowed them to discover their art selves. Long illnesses, broken legs in summer, tonsillitises (you’re right, I don’t know the plural form of tonsillitis), for me it was simply Houston, Texas. There’s some moment that suspended the lives we thought we were living, forced us inward and leaving us with the aftermath of finding some inner playground we had been distracted or discouraged from delighting in fully. There’s some place in an outwardly forced silence that can be a cocoon for a new self butterflying out to unexpected places, but this time around we’re all in it all at once.
I’ve witnessed the cycle a bit in my own kids watching how they first saw this lockdown and school closures as a kind of festival of surprise snow-days… then turning into boredom, depression, ands then out of nowhere… a spark of new invigoration and weird madcap projects. Building guitars from scratch or giant stick structures in the woods, or clay heads, action figure kaiju-battle dioramas lying about in new places int he house every day, and selfie-diaries. Things done to make the dog look foolish. You know what I mean. Simply put we’re going a little insane and in that I confess a Slim-Pickins-riding-an-A-Bomb-downward sort of excitement for what comes next out of everyone. There’s gonna be something, and it’s going to be different and in the end that’s our life’s blood.
A year or so of this semi-shuttering will change us in many ways and our way of making a living as artists… The landscape where artists made their living through in person convention sales is likely done and finished in the way it was before. It may come back, but it will do so at best, I suspect, very very slowly and over years of time as we timidly return to the idea of large and crowded social events. Some areas like publishing are sort of built for this as the medium they run is perfectly suited for stuck at home life, though it’s brick and mortar experiences will no doubt change immensely. We can’t predict so much the next whatever but we can watch wait and pay attention. There’s little;e doubt we’re still at the precipice of a great leap of the old world cliff and into some new place we don’t see yet. It makes sense to be nervous and frankly;y as one who hasn’t really had a decent and full night’s sleep in a week, I get it. Believe me.
But this cocoon time for most of us is going to produce some excellent new directions and I can’t wait to see it all. Work is the key and most important ingredient in art, full stop. Technique is fine, whatever the hell talent is is good too, but the tortoise that wins the race is the work you put into it. Use this time, however you choose towards that, and this terrible crazy global plague could be good for the artist part of you. Something has to, right? So why not this?
But it occurs to me that my own booked up backlog schedule that has me burning hard in the studio these last months and will for the next few at least is pushing against something unexpected right now. Like being stuck inside with a broken leg in July while you can hear your friends running around with the slip-n-slide out under the bright summer sun. Whether it’s artists like Scotty making terrific live Instagram broadcasts of their paintings, the cropping up of personal sketchbook blogs and online conventions and interviews which I seem to be doing almost weekly now for some reason), there’s an exciting explosion of art finding its way to the widening cracks of the old way. I’m deeply heartened by the work I see being done, and the reaching out amongst creatives to share that work in a way that seems like a necessity now rather than an indulgence. Social media has become suddenly the vine we cling to as we swing through the jungle. I see so many artists building and launching digital platforms for sharing and talking about their work, from stuck at home film people making beautiful daily sketchbooks, making music and discovering the elastic nature of our daily whatever day it is nowness. So I don’t have much in the way of my usual bombastic wordy encouragements except to say that the key light through this weird tunnel is once again, art. Go make some, and build your new way… find some new tune to dance to, or tackle that offside project you were always too busy to take on. Right now as much as we struggle financially, it’s also not about the money too, and in that there’s a chance for you to play hooky and discover something new in your work and art. Get out there and cause some trouble and be sure to let me know where I can find when you’re done. It helps me get through, these smoke signals across the canyons between us.
In the meantime, share your friend’s art, support each other, help whenever and wherever you can. If you can buy art buy it, if you can fundraise for something, do it. It’s a weird world out there, go make it weirder.