During the Coronavirus quarantine summer 2020, many Honors in Art projects were still postponed from the spring. Yet, I wanted to stay creative and stop my MSNBC obsession with getting the latest updates on politics and the virus. I knew now was the time to make art.
Here's how I got my artistic self front-and-center.
Don't Settle if You're Not Creatively Fulfilled.
I was making small embroidery patches, but I needed something more to exert my energy and get into "flow" mode. I needed A PROJECT. Something I could get my hands around and my mind focussed on.
Cooped up inside with only so much to do creatively, my mother said, "Why don't you paint our mailbox?"
It's rare that my mother lets me paint her "stuff". I quickly recognized that this was my window. I seized the opportunity. "Really, I can?"
It was just a mailbox and yes, I could have painted on paper or bought canvas, but I'm much more of a 3-D person. I like objects and creating work that I can circle around 360 degrees.
Use What You Have. Get What You Need.
I raided my art supply closet for paints and brushes. Needless to say, acrylic craft paint doesn't last long, and mine were all dried up. So, I ordered cheap acrylic craft paints from Michael's, where everyone and their brother was getting their art supplies during the pandemic. A lot of items were out of stock, but I didn't need much, and I made due with what was available. I also didn't want to spend a lot of money.
When stores began to open with limited in-person shopping hours, I later found out that Blick makes much better craft paint than DecoArt or FolkArt. It's a tad more expensive, but worth its weight in pigment alone.)
I used paper plates as palettes, cheap craft brushes that I quickly realized were not doing me any favors, and a bucket of water to avoid going inside to constantly refresh it.
As I painted with my broken-wheeled roller cart reliably tipping over beside me in the hot sun, I decided I could afford to upgrade my brushes and buy some decent gold paint. It was worth it to get the quality and effect I wanted. And, spending some of my stimulus money on better supplies made my commitment to making art stronger since I was investing in my projects.
Find Your Blank Canvas.
Once the mailbox was finished, the question was, "What can I paint next?"
My mom brought me over to the driveway and said, "Why don't you paint this birdhouse?" My eyes lit up. Another blank canvas to paint and keep my creative momentum going.
As I finished the birdhouse and asked if I could paint another one, I soon had the sneaking suspicion that my mom had a plan. She was providing opportunities for me to unleash my artistic self in a yard full of blank canvasses: birdhouses, urns, benches, fountains, posts, and trellises. I had so many new canvasses to look forward to. Each one was ready to be animated with bright colors and bold patterns.
Savor the Contentment.
Finally, I had something to look forward to every day using my own intrinsic motivation. At a time when nothing was in our collective control, I could have complete control of my artistic process and the freedom to do so. I was quickly able to see the fruits of my labor all around the front and backyard and meet a very basic artistic need; to say "I made that." I felt the kind of contentment and satisfaction that I desperately craved.
In addition to the emotional satisfaction I was experience, making set-up more conducive to my creative process was key to increasing the joy I felt from actually making the work. I learned not to let the little stuff frustrate me when it can easily be fixed.
I started working in the garage to stay out of the heat, scrounged up my old art cart that actually rolled, and used my rolling-wood-platform-thing from undergraduate school to move objects around more easily so I could work on all sides of a piece.
As I went from object to object, I expanded my palette of colors. Cardinal Red and Deep Yellow were game-changers. Seeing the words "in-stock" next to the white and black acrylic paint online was also a highlight.
When you have limited resources, you can see the possibilities and really appreciate them.
Get Feedback + Recognition from Others.
As I worked, it was heartening to see so many neighbors walking outside stop by to say hello and admire my work. It made what I was doing more meaningful. I successfully "shipped" my creative work out into the world and posted my progress on social media. A big shout out to Montana ceramicist George McCauley who regularly commented on my work and offered encouragement and motivation.
By the end of the summer, I had hand-painted over 60 objects. You can see some of them in the album below. Passersby enjoyed spotting my growing collection of artwork. My mother gave impromptu tours to neighbors, maintaining proper social distance, pointing out each and every item as if she was hosting a scavenger hunt. Even the census lady got a tour.
My mother was also an excellent artist's agent. She prompted everyone to buy my work, noting that I took commissions. She mentally logged what everyone thought was there favorite piece to give me ongoing feedback - something every artist treasures. I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend the summer and revitalize my artistic self.
Seek Out What's Next!
An object in motion stays in motion. An artist making creative work must keep doing it to avoid inertia and self-doubt. Don't stop; find your next blank canvas.