At the beginning of lockdown I signed up to a free online course which led me to find out about a popular challenge that 1000's of people take part in each year, a 100 day project. (You can explore the # on Instagram, peoples projects are so eclectic) I vowed to complete a page of my sketchbook every day. With no particular focus, it was mainly as a distraction to the chaos we were all facing. I liked the idea of producing 100 pieces of work by the end of the project, if I got that far! There were some limitations, I knew it had to be confined to what I could make at my kitchen table and in between caring for my 3 year old and 5 month old daughters.
I started small making quick collages, inspired by a free artist course I had found on Instagram. Eventually the work progressed and in this time I made a variety of sketches, paintings, collages and mixed media pieces. Working with acrylics, watercolour, paper, magazines, oil pastel, chalks, charcoal and ink.
I found snippets of time in between breastfeeding, cooking meals, cleaning, and our daily activities. If the baby was napping the 3 year old was given her own sketchbook and we created work together (and of course sometimes cbeebies did just the trick.) We didn't have a clear kitchen table for months, stacked with paper, art materials and brushes, we were eating all of our meals off of our coffee table for those months.
I hadn't painted much since I took A level art, in the past 10 years my work has had more of a conceptual feel with a focus on sculpture, ceramics and collaborative projects but obviously this wasn't going to be possible during lockdown and with two small children in tow. The university course I studied in 2009 was called Fine Art (Contemporary Practices) which was all about conceptual, video, performance or installed work - painting wasn't really seen as very cool! So it was great to rediscover my passion for working with paint, exploring abstract markmaking, colour and thinking about making from a place of intuition, my take and impression of the world.
I finished 100 days of sketchbook on 15th July, I think my family were really glad to have the house back to normal, I'm pretty sure my partner was counting down the days until we saw the table again. But just taking on something small each day has led to several sketchbooks full of new work, connections to other artists through the Instagram community at at time when we weren't able to see friends and family, and a whole new direction for my art practice. The project has been something to focus on and a lifeline, I think it may have saved my sanity!
And other things have some of this new work; Through this project I've exhibited as part of the 'Can I Use your Window' project in Bristol, which filled shop windows with artworks by local artists to cheer up people on thier daily walks. I got accepted to have my work represented on an online gallery for early career artists, called New Blood Art, have become a member of Spilt Milk Gallery, which showcases the work of Artist mothers. I also collaborated with a local scientist who shared images with me over email relating to his weather mapping research on the mountainous South Georgia Island, and just recently began to submit different pieces made in that time to several exhibitions.
I'm so proud to have completed the project, I never expected I could do the full 100 days! It was something to focus on and keep my mind creative and positive at a difficult time. And now I have an abundance of ideas, new work and the many great connections I've made just through instagram. It's given me a new found confidence in my practice and has removed my fear of sharing work and more of myself online. I've learnt that even if I have limited time or energy, if I can just do something small ever day, it leads to something much bigger in the long run.