Where would you begin to describe the journey of the last year? Covid and lockdown have affected our lives in a myriad of personal ways. Like an onion, layers within layers, levels we may not have known existed before are now being questioned and tested.
As a creator, this period of time has led me to deeply explore my psyche, and what I have discovered, is that I have a longing to connect with and help people creatively. Personally. As an art tutor. As an author. Indeed, whatever cap I’m wearing, the internal sentiment and aspiration is the same.
I can only say this upon reflection, because the level of commitment I have needed to achieve any of the things I’ve done has been exceptional – passionate and exhausting. Amongst the disorientation of lockdown, home schooling, a lack of income, living in a very small space (on a boat), with no local support or chance to escape, has been tough.
As a child, drawing was my safe place. I didn’t understand why until I was older of course. It wasn’t until I reached my 40s that the pieces began to fit, to show me a picture so far that I could understand.
In 2020 I was diagnosed with PTSD, but for the last 4 years I had started making intensely personal art. My father dying of cancer had a profound effect on what I was doing creatively. My work gave me a vehicle, something I couldn’t do with words, so much stigma remains around dealing with mental health issues. When do we really have those conversations?
My work became divisive, too uncomfortable for some.
These days I know out of every 10 people I meet, I may be lucky to connect with 1 or 2. But that for me is enough.
To find our tribe, people that ‘get us’ for whatever reason, is more important now than ever, the substance behind the ‘likes’.
But still, dealing with subjects such as grief, vulnerability, illness & trauma is a risky business.
I have had 3 successful editorial illustrations published in the last 18 months. This has helped boost my confidence to stay true to myself, and not to risk my integrity. Inclusivity, energy healing and my daughter were included in the subject matter.
I am also an adult art tutor, and of course my physical classes have started and stopped fairly frequently. Towards the last lockdown I had participants arriving at sessions distressed and sharing how they were struggling. So, I set to work designing ‘wellbeing art sessions’.
I also went headlong into training and studying what ‘wellbeing’ actually means, and the scientific research behind it, so I could deliver classes with some reliable knowledge.
For example, according to All-Party Parliamentary Group report on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report 2017 (the arts for health and wellbeing)
- The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived.
- The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long- term conditions, loneliness and mental health.
- The arts can help save money in the health service and social care.
I am planning to take these sessions to the workplace, to help people with their wellbeing when we finally leave lockdown. Online take up has sadly been weak, but I do not take this personally. We cannot deny there is something essential missing when we zoom, especially with something so visual and unifying physically. I know this work will benefit in person when the chance arrives again and know other creative teachers that have not mirrored take up from their physical classes.
I’ve also just qualified as a drawing and talking practitioner. The same catalyst applies, the service is mainly for therapeutic intervention for children, but the armed services and the NHS recognise and use this practice.
Last June I published ‘my wellbeing art journal’ on Amazon / Etsy. This was a true labour of love. Journaling has proven health benefits, and through serendipity I realised the art I had been producing was just perfect as illustrations in a journal. That coupled with some soothing or inspiring words, I hoped would aid anyone who needed a space to express themselves, just like I did all those years ago and to this day.
So, I feel very much, out of the flames of COVID, has come true beauty and meaning. Real labours of love that have required blood, sweat and tears (and an overdraft). But this has given me real direction, meaning and purpose.
It will be some time before any orientation can be made about the lasting effects Covid has had on all those different layers, including mental health.
But I do hope, that in my own small way, I have helped others.
All words and images copyright Lindsay Tempest 2021.