Painting my way through a pandemic

Pandemonium, digital painting by Alison C. Dibble

I’m not the only one who has been getting stalled out…

…when trying to make art during the Covid19 pandemic. Many of my friends also find their productivity down. It’s like, “what’s the point?”, when the world seems to have spun right off its axis.

I participated recently in two isolation art challenges organized in midcoast Maine by Cynthia Winings of Blue Hill, with a new word prompt each day toward which we could focus, or not. We were to spend at least 20 minutes a day on the challenge, and post on iMessenger with title, medium, and dimensions. The posts went up with hope and good cheer, and then mostly went without affirmation from others in our small group. This was on purpose. It was about accountability, not about a popularity contest, and it wasn’t about selling anything. For me, the intent was not to create for an audience but to explore.

For the first month, I took the opportunity to push myself regarding media. Usually I paint in oils and watercolors (not both on the same painting). As I set about to tidy up my art supplies cabinet, I employed the color pencils, the oil pastels, markers, collage (using candy wrappers) and other oddments. I tried my hand at an app called Procreate (for drawing and painting) in the ipad and made digital drawings. I modified my original photos. I made my own ink out of some berries in my front yard (inkberry Ilex glabra). I carved a wood block and printed from it. I cast about from one medium to another, swinging widely from one day to the next.

For the second month, I stuck with mostly oil paints and watercolors, and concentrated on design. Altogether I made 65 works of art in about that many days. Some days, my art of the day was all I could think about (for more about motivation, see Is painting a selfish activity?), but on other days, making art was a last-ditch attempt when I was well past the day’s energy peak. As you might imagine, some efforts were more successful than others. To sum it up, my approach was that because I was making art, that was enough.

Today I arranged all these works of various sizes and media and took a picture from above. I wondered if there is a single expression that would come out of this . . . (so far, no). The doing was therapeutic and disengaged the focus on self that comes about from spending the entire day with two cats (one is social, the other not) for company.

I would do this again. Making art every day is a personal exploration in a time when the view into the future is not clear. The exercise reinforced my ongoing realization that all I have is one day at a time. The past is gone, and the future cannot be fully imagined yet. I better keep painting.

Alison C. Dibble | July 1, 2020

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