I think art during lockdown means very different things to individuals. But one thing I think all the pieces created during lockdown have in common is that they acted as a respite from the anxiety-riddled groundhog day that lockdown became. At least, for me they did.
The monotony of lockdown allowed me to turn to art in a way I wouldn’t have done before. Lockdown provided us all with such a tremendous amount of extra time, and particularly for me as a first-year student whose exams had been cancelled, I found myself struggling to find a purpose.
My relationship with art began as a way for my entire family to keep entertained. We decided to hold our very own version of Sky Arts’s programme ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’. My brother sat for my parents and me. It was a small competition that gave us something to do during the day.
It was really therapeutic and actually quite enjoyable to come together as a family and have an hour of creativity. Art in this way not only brought my family together but allowed us as an entire household to take some creative meditation.
Art as a meditative form of expression allowed our family to push pause on everything else and let ourselves devote an hour to mindful expression. As lockdown progressed, so did my own personal relationship with art. I began to keep myself occupied during the day by painting in watercolour celebrities or characters I knew my friends adored. In this way not only was I giving myself something to do, but I was keeping myself connected to the friends I had not physically seen since January.
These self-indulgent commissions I tasked myself with for my friends allowed me to provide physical evidence that I was being productive whilst also showing that I was thinking of them.
Art became a way for me to retain a sense of community even though we were all isolated from one another. For me, art became a fundamental symbol of hope that I would be reunited with my friends soon.
So, I kept producing water colour paintings featuring the likes of Mr Darcy to Mulan in order to both keep myself busy and creatively fulfilled whilst hopefully providing my friends with something to bring them joy during this anxiety riddled time. Like I mentioned before, my paintings allowed for me to provide the much needed physical proof to my parents that I wasn’t just in bed watching Netflix. I began sketching and painting things I knew they loved which I could gift to them as presents for holidays such as Father’s Day which happened to fall in lockdown. Yet again, it allowed me to be productive but in a personal way that showed I was thinking of those I loved the most whilst I created.
Increasingly, I am beginning to just paint what I feel like painting. I most recently have finished a watercolour of Frida Kahlo and have started a series of smaller paintings of tarot cards with the intention of displaying them in my room at my new flat.
This pandemic and how it has influenced all forms of art will inevitably become significant in itself. A time where people turned to creativity in order to find some harmony in this time.
Yet, I think what is more powerful is the way art works as a form of therapy, which encourages mindfulness as a reprieve from life. This is what I think is the most hopeful thing. The feeling of accomplishment once you have finished a painting or finally knitted that scarf sparks much needed feelings of joy in this dark time. Creativity became a solace during the pandemic no matter the quality of the work, the abundance of time and availability we as a people could devote to art and craft projects is hopeful in itself.
Ultimately, art began as a distraction but ended up as a way for me to keep hope, bring a little bit of joy and stay connected and in touch. Showing my friends I had not completely turned into a hermit and that I did still in fact think of them. Art became not only meditative but my own way to show my loved ones I couldn’t wait to be reunited with them.
Beyond my own personal expression of creativity it allowed me to physically hold onto the communities we all needed during the loneliness of lockdown, to stay united and hopeful.