In hard times, many of us have various coping mechanisms. Engaging in art and creativity is widely regarded as a positive means of processing stress and anxiety, and for me this is no different. Having spent over a month entirely by myself during the second Covid-19 lockdown, I often turned to art as a way not only of passing the time, but of developing my creative skills and expressing my emotions and frustration at the difficult situation.
As someone with relatively little artistic skill, I’ve never found much enjoyment in drawing, painting or collage. Yet, having no external pressure during isolation, I found myself far less resistant to the idea. Without anyone judging my work, for the first time I felt that what mattered was the process, and not the end result. I never thought I’d share my art with anyone else. Evidently, though, the liberating experience of using art as a coping mechanism during lockdown has proved far more than just that – it has completely shifted my perspective on the aim of art. It is not merely about what you produce, but also how and why. It doesn’t matter if it fits societal standards of what is deemed ‘good art’, it only matters that you enjoy the practice.
As a natural starting point, I tested my hand at abstract painting. Often, I would put on music and paint what I felt reflected the theme or mood of the song; at other times, I’d listen to my own thoughts and paint what I was feeling. Albeit simplistic, the abstract paintings I first made remind me of those quiet, highly cathartic moments.
Later, wanting a little more structure, I took to mindless adult colouring exercises. I often did these whilst listening to podcasts or watching movies, as a way of keeping my mind focused.I also found a lot of pleasure in creating mood boards. Whilst I’m no stranger to a Pinterest board, there is something about the physical act of flicking through magazines and cutting images that really requires an eye for detail. The thought process and act of positioning the images is satisfying, creatively engaging and aesthetically pleasing. My favourite collage has even ended up on my bedroom wall.
My main project, though, was to get comfortable with life drawing. Having always found this mode of drawing to be highly perfectionistic and pressurized, I sought out the Body Love Sketch Club online.
A great alternative to the professional-style art classes we might typically associate with life drawing, the class allows people to come together irrespective of artistic background to just draw for the sake of it. For me, the combined focus on body positivity and the use of art as a medium to process thoughts and feelings was a winner. I’d recommend the class to everyone, as I now have a newfound love for life drawing – this time, less focused on perfect proportions and accuracy, I engaged more with the experience of looking, drawing and feeling. Just how art can, and should, be.
I won’t deny that it can be difficult to find time to commit to creativity. With the busy lives we lead, it can feel unproductive to spend hours dedicated to nothing but creative exploration. I’d like to offer an alternative perspective. Our time, which could be spent working or studying, can be much more useful when dedicated to a veritable meditative pause from work. Rather than being a waste of time, it will inevitably give your mind the time to ‘switch off.’ You’ll feel more relaxed, happier, and calmer and, I dare say, you’ll spend your ‘on’ time better, and your ‘off’ time too.