‘What have we achieved in 2020?’ I asked (out loud). To be fair, I wasn’t specific, I didn’t mention art…..
came the reply.
I wasn’t in the least bit offended!! To have achieved something, one thing, in these most challenging of times, and improve upon it with practice, tweaking ingredients, keeping on going, seems to me to be a triumph?! (I don’t usually buy bananas. Now I have a fruit/veg box delivered to reduce shopping. So there are always bananas, some get too ripe and banana bread saves them being wasted). When you have been in some sort of lockdown, for most of the year (I live in Greater Manchester, UK), your perspective changes……
I can’t imagine a year ago that this sort of comment about my achievements, or indeed my response, would have been similar!! But in that one comment about banana bread, it got me thinking. Not about banana bread, but about the similarities to life and specifically to our art!
Because in reality, its about the small things, not the big things……Small things mount up to big things-small improvements amount to skill development. One sale leads to another sale. The small details and wonders of life are what makes it unique, magical, fascinating and real, and perhaps, what we make art about. Of course we can all have big dreams, but it’s unlikely they will come to fruition without lots of small interventions and steps along the way. Without disappointment, frustration, the feeling of giving up. And I guess this year, more than any other, has taught us about those feelings, and about being thankful for the small pleasures…..and about adapting, and,… well, making banana bread.
And I find the same with art. This year has been a year of exploring and starting-small steps. So what have I achieved in 2020? I have started a whole new body of work related to the landscapes that surround me. This start point for the work has taken the form of drawing and mark making out and about and attempting to ‘Notice what I notice’. I’ve been recording marks (shapes, lines, patterns and textures) and making numerous small drawings on repeated visits. I’ve even started writing about it. Appreciating the experiences but without rushing to get results too fast. The time for finished paintings will come, but not yet.
Then back in the studio I’ve not always had the right ingredients! sometimes the wrong paints (colours or brands!), but by keeping going and trying and experimenting, and adjusting, there is a development, however small. And the mistakes always teach you more than the things that work! Learning has been about the materials and tools, and importantly, knowledge about myself and what I enjoy; what is ‘me’-my artist fingerprint. There have been lots of battles. The feelings of not getting anywhere can be overwhelming. But that’s the time when we just need to keep going and keep turning up.
Another important step this year has been starting to record my art making processes through videos (You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here). It’s a steep learning curve. Filming my work and processes, means that I have to think about it more, scrutinise it. Narrate the story. Sometimes I wonder if that is a good thing? But I am finding that it helps the process and the learning. It enables an ongoing dialogue with others and myself.
And that leads me finally to another great thing about the banana bread analogy. I made time for making banana bread. Despite what I feel is the relentless keeping up with social media and digital pressures. It reminds me about the need to breath. At the beginning of the year I talked about my phrase for the year: Time to Breath. I wrote a studio chat about it here. But what have I achieved in 2020 in that context?
I knew that for me, taking that time was going to be a very tall order. At the time of writing, most of us had no idea what was about to unfold in 2020. And for some, I am sure that the pace of life has perhaps slowed this year. For others, me included, I am feeling the need to redress the balance. I need to take stock and make more quality time that doesn’t involve ‘keeping up’ with anything. The banana bread is a start, but more breathing space is needed!! This Christmas time I am going to take some time to reflect. Time to consider how I will redress the balance and make plans for 2021. How about you?
So wherever you are this Christmas, I wish you Peace, the magic of the small things, time for reflection and perhaps even a slice of banana bread….