Containment vs. expansion – it’s all about differences

Since lockdown containment vs. expansion have been on my mind. I have been working from a small room at home instead of a large studio in an old mill.  I talked about some of the changes I was making as a result of lockdown in my last blog: Taking Stock and Forging New Approaches.   Of course, when our world changes, to be smaller, more contained and restricted, you would expect the things we create to somehow reflect that change….maybe.  This blog talks about what I have found in my work and how I see it progressing.

Containment vs. expansion:  Opposites attract

When lockdown started, I was a couple of weeks into a 3 month online art programme called CVP (The Creative Visionary Programme delivered by Nicholas Wilton and his team).  Its a well known programme amongst artists globally and is delivered annually.  It’s a big investment but is excellent on many levels: it’s about process, techniques, individuality and developing our own voices.  It’s about the importance of differences in our art and our lives. 

When a small back room became my studio, it seemed that this programme, designed to broaden my horizons, was destined to be done using sketchbooks!   I found myself questioning whether I should even be doing it….during a global pandemic?   But I realised that there is never a good or bad time.  Things could still be expansive and broadening, despite the containment in a literal sense. This was my time and I decided to stick with it.  And what of the change to sketchbooks-why shouldn’t I still use panels, and paint and all manner of mixed media?  Why change everything?  Especially as the programme is all about the value of differences, in our art and our lives. 

So I have been progressing through the programme, using paint and panels but also using a journal/sketchbook for exploration.  The two go hand-in-hand.  It’s helping me to start to integrate my drawing and sketchbook work, with my painting work, to start to evolve a process that is informed by, and realised through writing, drawing and painting. It is also teaching me patience, to realise that this is not something that happens overnight.  Much like all the learnings from the course.  They take time.  It’s not possible to get everything all at once and certainly not to integrate it into my own individual work!  Being kind, gentle and patient with myself are key (and a revelation in themselves!).

landscape inspiration Containment vs expansion

Despite physical containment, the  programme is pushing me to explore my inspirations including walking, nature, countryside, moorland and landscape, in my own head.  To think about the shapes and lines and patterns…The materiality; to broaden my horizons…   These are the things that inspire me and provide fuel for my series of work.  Local walks (I am fortunate to live close to hills and moorland) also give me a perspective of expansive nature.  An experience beyond the 4 walls.   I wonder if these contrasts are pushing me to evaluate and understand even more, the value of these places. 

Containment vs. expansion: Opposites nurture us

I have 3 different sketchbooks on the go, during lockdown (excluding the journal I am using for CVP).  One of them is indeed restricted in its content.  That is, it is what I am calling my lockdown sketchbook.  It’s about my world during lockdown.  From drawings capturing my everyday stories to my writing about my daily life during lockdown.  I haven’t got so far with it yet.  I wanted to do it to mark this time and reflect on the circumstance.  As a reportage illustrator, this seemed essential!

containment vs expansion everyday stories sketchbook.

The other two sketchbooks are quite different.  One is a daily collage in a very small square travel journal.  It keeps things simple and impactful and enables a more intuitive approach.  The images  are more abstract and certainly allow a more expansive and unrestricted feel-Certainly not one of containment.  In my mind, they are about places and nature but they appear as loose and exploratory musings .  

collage sketchbook

The third sketchbook is a small concertina.  The nature of sketchbooks keeps things contained to a point, and the size helps us to feel safe and ’tucked in’.  But the content of them doesn’t have to be.  Mine is a walk along the Coastal Path in Pembrokeshire, taking in the fabulous autumn planting, in all its glory.  The output maybe contained, but the feelings as I create are those of expansive never-ending, cliffs, sea and hedgerow.   A world without end.   I may well start other concertinas.  I may record walks, experiences, places and their materiality.  

mixed media concertina sketchbook

The sketchbooks are feeding me creatively, allowing me to think more expansively whilst enabling  a feeling of  protection and security.  For that, I am very grateful.   

How is lockdown feeding your creative mind?  How are things changing for you?  

Stay safe and well everyone xx