New Year’s Eve, 2020.
How will I look back on this year, I wonder?
It started in the spirit of hope, with a move to a new studio; “A fresh start” and all that. I was looking forward to working in a studio complex where artists actually used their studios, and said hello to their neighbours. Fast forward a few months, and we were all wearing face masks, awkwardly trying to keep our distance from each other.
Just days after I’d got myself set up in my new studio, with paints and easel where I wanted them, lockdown happened. Studios were closed down, and normal life ground to a halt. No longer welcome in the marina, where I had been living on my boat, I had to take refuge in my girlfriend’s flat in London. No paints, no canvases. Just some pencils and a pad of Strathmore toned paper.
Memory is a funny thing. I look back fondly to those lockdown months, where each day I would set myself a drawing challenge. In my fading memory, I imagine that I enjoyed searching my friend’s flat for suitable subjects. The truth was that I was desperately missing my studio.
But there is something special that happens when you spend long enough drawing a subject. After a time, it’s almost as if a veil has been lifted, and you start to see another level of detail in the subject, that somehow evaded you before. So, reluctant as I was, I am now thankful that I had the opportunity to spend those long hours drawing a raggedy teddy bear, kitchen utensils and all my empty wine bottles.
The past year has been a disaster for my art practice. Exhibitions have been cancelled – no sooner have I delivered my paintings to a gallery, another lockdown happens, and I’m asked to collect them before the show even opens. My commissioned work has been even more badly affected. Despite a healthy number of enquiries, potential clients are understandably nervous about posing for hours in a small studio, during these times of social distancing, and have delayed their commissions until next year.
A big thank you to the wonderful people who commissioned the above portrait for their friend. It felt so good to be drawing an actual real person, and not that raggedy teddy bear again.