“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.Viktor Frankl
Taking a look back over the past year I can now appreciate it has been quite surreal. Looking back reveals an unfolding of time and emotions one never could have imagined; a period of my life that has been both pleasant and painful, but not for the reasons I would have anticipated, had I the benefit of hindsight.
LOCKDOWN 1 gifted me the opportunity for peace and solitude. Time for both introspection and endeavour, within an environment that was both familiar and unknown in equal measure.
My home had never just been my own, it was a place for family and friends to gather. A place where my children grew up and I developed and ran my Linen business. But for this briefest of times in the big picture, it cared and nurtured just me and I emerged refreshed and ready to take the next steps into my future. Invigorated and excited by the potential of being a full-time working artist.
LOCKDOWN 2 saw a completely different experience emerge. With family returning and a friend who lives alone becoming part of our bubble, normal service resumed; without thinking I fell back into my old patterns and habits of putting family first and providing meals and attention. This is fine for weekends and holiday time, but quite a different thing when everyone is at home all of the time!
I now realise this time made me really consider the whole concept of the weekend and its purpose. I now appreciate the value in taking time to decompress; to undertake mindless activity in order to rest and reset. Tasks such as ironing or sitting and listening for no other reason than you love and care for the people who are talking. I have recently bought Jay Shetty’s book, Think like a Monk, and I am finding much in the book resonates with my thoughts and feelings around this time and the notion of “the weekend” and its purpose.
I was also shocked during this time to realise how much stuff I had accumulated over the years of running a business and being a part-time artist. Luckily my daughter helped me with the clearing, tidying and sorting required to get on top of all of this.
LOCKDOWN 3 has been a time when the peace and solitude of lockdown 1 seem like a completely different lifetime; something that happened to someone I know – but not me – quite surreal. Which has made me truly appreciate the small things; the unexpected moments; the unknown and different…
No longer will I take anything for granted. I will seek to embrace the small moments and notice what I notice. I will listen and seek out quiet places and moments, so I can truly appreciate the bigger things when they happen.
My art has benefitted enormously from all of these experiences – from the unexpected learning and growth.
I am now in the final moments of closing down my Linen business. I have sold various pieces of kit and have been selling the last batches of linen. I still need to clear more of the business records and files before I can let go, give it less attention and importance, but i am nearly there. It is no longer pivotal for me, it is becoming a very happy set of memories & experiences.
I hope this will finally be completed by the summer and I look forward to the release; however, it is both liberating and unsettling, I didn’t realise how much it was part of me. I’m still a bit stuck in habitual rituals – sorting and recycling fabric scraps for re-use, maybe for painting on – not wasting!
I have also taken the opportunity during the lockdowns to pursue several art projects, some of which I have discussed in previous blogs. The most recent project has seen me explore shadows, which emerged during a period of reflection in summer 2020. I started posting photos on Instagram of chance encounters with shadows, created by both sun and artificial light. These were taken mostly indoors but also noticed outside, often while walking.
This project has really helped me appreciate the many gifts I am surrounded by; seeing and noticing familiar objects as if for the first time. I’m still ‘stopped in my tracks’ by shadows! Although my photos have inspired several paintings, I realise a lot of them are actual finished artworks in themselves, so I am planning to make a book of my Instagram posts eventually.
To support my aspirations of further developing my art career I have also undertaken the PURE Foundation Programme, which considers Mindset, Making, Management and Money. Completing the Mindset Module was really helpful. I found it uncomfortable investigating ‘The Story of my Life’ however it was useful as in the end the importance of my artwork became cemented in my mind. I am almost at the end of the Making Module, this was significant as it got me back into my studio. I started making drawings, then paintings, of the bevelled shadows I’d been capturing on my phone, using different genres. I referred to my vast collection of art books as well as researching on the internet. Under the skills part, I am loving knitting a scarf! I repurposed an unfinished project which I’d started about 9 years ago.
During Lockdown 3 I have continued to meet with a group of artists on a Wednesday on zoom, organised by Rowena McWilliams of Smallhythe Studio. We have been exploring our current work, our methods, processes and any workshops we have been on. We also agree on a topic to work towards for the following week.
When I was sorting a lot of previous studies in my studio, rather than chuck them I realised they had more to give so I’ve been repurposing many of them. This has become one of our weekly topics as well as leading into me joining #the100day project on Instagram.
These meetings have helped me maintain focus, keep practising, provided helpful critique, sharing and caring. After lockdown ends we may even have an exhibition, who knows…
As I highlighted earlier, I have also achieved a massive amount of clearing, tidying and sorting out of business paperwork and past artwork over the last few months. I’m now planning to catalogue more of my paintings on Artwork Archive.
I really hope to receive my vaccination soon. This will afford me some liberty when we are allowed to move around freely again? I look forward very much to seeing our grandsons in real life and visiting my elderly mother is high on my list – also friends and maybe an Art Gallery or two! It is my 70th Birthday in March so I am looking forward to celebrating this on Zoom with a virtual tea party, followed by a real-life version in due course I hope.
Reflecting on the last few months, I am extremely grateful for the freedom and opportunity I have had to be in my studio without the need to actually ‘do’ any particular duty, and all the shopping and meals cooked by everyone in our bubble. From now on I will always consider both the good & bad – better and worse – of every situation and I will value the realisation that I can just be me. There is no need to rush about searching. I can take responsibility for me, stop doubting and faffing about. Bring worrying to an end and live my own life – not others.
I am at home exactly where I’m meant to be. My word for 2021 therefore is GRATITUDE.
Follow @franwhiteartist on Instagram