Creative Escapism

Last week, I packed up my "temporary" studio and over the course of a few days, moved everything over to our home. We left that home for over 18 months and I'm excited to return.

I've taken the opportunity of an almost empty space, to redesign my studio, which is in the spare bedroom. I'll have a painting wall and some built-in storage shelves in the closet and less furniture overall. 

It's been difficult making art during the pandemic, I felt stuck for a few weeks. But now, since I'm without my art supplies, I've returned to digital painting and got back into the groove!

Inspired by an past painting challenge on Instagram, I found a photo I had taken from a studio we lived in one summer and decided to paint it.

This painting is of a small sink in the corner of a tiny studio that my husband and I rented in Strasbourg, France.

The sink served as both the bathroom sink and the kitchen sink, as evidenced by the items on the shelf above it!

As I was painting, I simultaneously remembered the challenge of living in that little space and a longing for it.

We moved in to that studio after abruptly leaving a sublet where it had become impossible to sleep due to neighbors who became very active (to put it nicely) after midnight. Maybe they were vampires.

The tiny studio had floor to ceiling windows and was on the corner of a busy road but it was a relief after what we'd experienced. The room was old and solid and we slept soundly.

It was by far the smallest place I've ever lived in and we were really happy there. It required extreme simplification but I think that's one of the reasons we enjoyed it. (Of course we only lived there for a month so I may have felt differently if we stayed longer!)

It's like why simplifying the art process can be so rewarding and in a way, freeing. There is less to think about with only one pot to cook with or a few colors on the palette.

After the first sink painting, I started thinking about all the other places I've lived and scanning through my photos. The next place that came to mind was in Florence, Italy.

At the end of 16 hour bus ride from Strasbourg, we made the 15 minute walk from the bus station, hauling way too much luggage, and arrived at the 5th floor walk-up we rented in the historic center of Florence.

It was the hottest month of the year and those stairs nearly gave me an asthma attack every day, but it had a great view!

We were bicycle tour guides that month and every morning before we left the studio, we gave a hard look around to make sure we had everything before descending the 5 flights. The checklist included water bottles, sunblock and most importantly...mosquito repellent.

For the third painting, I went back to Strasbourg to the first place we lived.

We were going to sublet a beautiful one bedroom just outside the city center but it wouldn't be ready when we arrived so we rented this bizarro cluttered studio from a friendly but odd guy named Martin for a couple weeks.

His girlfriend lived in the studio when he wasn't renting it out and she loved all things bubble gum pink and Hello Kitty. It was an unsettling couple of weeks.

Side bar...I didn't know French well so it took about a month for me to realize I had been washing my hair with body wash - which is pretty stupid considering shampoo in French is literally "shampooing".

Since this pandemic has not only limited our ability to travel or even leave home but also weighs heavy on the mind, focusing my attention on past memories and sharing some of my anecdotes has been a bit of an escape.

I've noticed many other artists (on Instagram) creating art through "virtual travel" - using old photos, source photos or Google Earth to provide inspiration.

With the stress of our present situation, I don't think there is anything wrong with a little escapism and reminiscing about better times.

That's also why I think it's important for artists to continue creating. Think of how truly dark and depressing our days would be without all of the art, books, television, podcasts, etc.

How are you maintaining sanity right now? Have you been able to create or are you feeling stuck?

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