I Miss Wearing my Glitter DM’s (2020)
So, once it was clear that the threat was real and we all very quickly realised that this pandemic was here to stay for some considerable time it was time to take action. What should we do? People were working from home, not working from home, just staying at home, furloughed, teaching their children at home, not going out, going out for essentials, going out for exercise, shielding, isolating and washing their hands!
We should face it by making art of course, so #WrittleArtDailyDraw was born. I was and still am of course, working from home. The staff and students at Writtle University College have very quickly had to learn a new way of doing things without diminishing quality or experience ,so in addition to the lectures, seminars and tutorials that were happening remotely, I wanted to think of something that would keep the studio experience alive.
I first started it on our course Facebook page before it was suggested to me that opening it up to the public would be a much better idea. The idea is loosely based on the drawing sessions we have on our university course on a Monday morning, short tasks that mean we can stop and be creative for a few minutes each day. The challenge would be set, and participants can translate the rules to suit them, using their own choice of medium and surface and we would rather participation happened than have the rules be a barrier to anyone wanting to take part.
The first challenge on the 25 March was to draw food, a meal or snack you are eating, food seemed to be on everyone’s mind, the shops were running out of some items and it was quite a worry for some. Some were stockpiling out of sheer worry about feeding their families, others were condemning those stockpilers for being selfish. The situation was creating a community spirit for some and bringing out the worst in others-a small minority in my experience though, I just found that people were kinder, more caring and more considerate. Food became a source of comfort, something that remained consistent -it was a shared experience in normal times, so it was a good place to start.
The first challenge when we moved to Writtle Art, which later became challenge number 1, was to draw footwear. It had occurred to me that I hadn’t worn any for the past week or so as I was staying and working at home and while fully dressed (I just can’t work in my pyjamas), was only wearing slippers. These challenges were going to be about the commonality we all had right now, and I guessed I wasn’t the only one missing my shoes (a position I never thought I would be in)!
From then on there was a variety of challenges, something worth going to the shops for, something you have achieved Something that belongs indoors drawn on an outdoor surface, step outside, take 20 steps, what do you see? something purple, be inspired by a British garden bird and draw a banana to name a few.
I rarely missed a day, perhaps one or two when I had student presentations or an early meeting which distracted me away from thoughts of drawing and I also had help from Writtle Alumni and skills tutor Sonya who steps in often to set something brilliant such as illustrate your daily walk as a treasure map which was set as a whole weekend challenge. It is interesting to see how others are reacting to the challenges while facing the same restrictions and sets of rules as everyone else and it was good to see people’s responses. Not everyone is posting them to Facebook, it turned out that Instagram was a good place to post so we made the hashtag #WrittleArtDailyDraw and also asked that participants used @writtleart when posting their drawings. It also turns out that some are taking part but not sharing, which is also great as it means the challenges are inclusive for those not comfortable with using social media as a place to share creations.
I myself have found them challenging, I have had no time to consider how I would respond each day (you would think I would think what I want to draw first) before posting the task, as I just haven’t had that luxury of time to consider it, so I am seeing the challenges in the same way as everyone else. I love it, it is becoming part of my daily routine, like cleaning door handles and walking around the garden to make sure I hit my step target.
I plan to continue with the challenges as a way to engage the public with the Art and the Environment degree at Writtle University College. Participants can post their drawings where they like, email them to me or simply keep them to themselves… perhaps we can eventually have more input from students, staff, industry and alumni on a regular basis. As well as posting my responses to each challenge on the post itself, I have documented them on my Flickr page page and they are slowly becoming not just art for the pandemic, but for a new and interesting future.
Do You Fancy A Coffee? (2020)