The Artist's Guide to Staying Creative at Home

Four artists share their tips for finding inspiration in isolation.

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The current lockdown measures in place across the world have had a huge impact on the art world. Whether it’s by closing galleries such as the Tate indefinitely or postponing exhibitions, the art industry has had to adapt quickly to social distancing measures as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Those changes have also affected individual artists, many of whom are unable to access their studio spaces or are deprived of inspiration while isolating at home.

We caught up with four different artists to discuss how quarantine has impacted their practice, where they are looking for inspiration, and their top tips for staying creative in these trying times.


Joy Yamusangie, visual artist

How has your practice changed due to social distancing?

I usually work at my studio during the week as painting is my main practice. As I’m social distancing, I’m away from my studio, materials and resources. So my practice has been stripped back to basics and working with what I have at home: a couple pens, some blunt coloring pencils and a sketchbook.

What have you been working on?

I’m taking more of a laid back approach and not pressuring myself to create anything. Instead, I’ve just been drawing while I FaceTime loved ones, scribbling, drawing lots of faces. There’s no direction or outcome in mind, but it’s something that breaks up the day and eases my mind.

Where have you been looking for inspiration?

I’ve been exploring some of the film archives on BFI Player. A lot of them are free to watch and have given me some creative inspiration and points of research.

“Just sit by your window, take in the light, listen to a great playlist and scribble, draw and write.”

What resources have you found particularly helpful?

My friends who are artists have been really helpful and just sharing links over WhatsApp which I’m really grateful for. One of the resources I’ve found most helpful is this list composed by Amelia Ideh of relief funds and opportunities available [to artists affected by the coronavirus crisis].

What would be your top tips for keeping creative during this time?

There’s a lot of COVID-19 open calls and pressure to respond to the crisis instantly and it can feel intense, so don’t worry about creating something at all. Just sit by your window (or in your garden if you have one), take in the light, listen to a great playlist and scribble, draw and write.

Russell Maurice (a.k.a. Gasius)

How has your practice changed due to social distancing?

With my day to day, to be honest, it hasn’t really affected me. I’m still busy! But it has affected Gasius because we can’t make it and loads of stores are having trouble. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all pans out.

What have you been working on?

I just had a show at SO1 in Tokyo, so I was concentrating heavily on producing that for a few months, now I’m just catching up on everything that got left behind. I’m also launching a mini collection with Demarcolab, so I’ve been working on promo stuff for this, including a mix.

Where have you been looking for inspiration?

I have a book problem, so usually when in need of inspiration, I’ll look at books and zines. Top of the pops at the moment are Nazi Knife zines by Jonas Delaborde and Hendrik Hegray, also Leon Sadler and SAEIO zines are the most looked at I think.

What resources have you found particularly helpful?

The Castle Gasius library.

What would be your top tips for keeping creative during this time?

Meditate.

Thomas J Price, sculptor

How has your practice changed due to social distancing?

I’ve always embraced new technology in terms of production and communication so initially I didn’t think much would change, particularly as I normally spend a lot of time working by myself in my studio, only visiting the foundry and other workshops at certain points throughout the making process.

However, I didn’t realize how emotionally and mentally challenging social distancing would be. I have to put a lot more energy into keeping track of timelines and all the various projects I have going on. I’m very lucky to have the support of a very inspiring team. Also, I now realize that I’m only good at being alone around other people!

What have you been working on?

I’ve been managing several exciting sculpture projects that are coming up in London and North America. But I can’t say much about them until they are officially announced, apart from that they will be installed out in public and will likely take on even more significance post social distancing, as we are made increasingly aware of how we all form part of a delicately balanced interpersonal system.

I’ve also been continuing to develop bodies of works at home, in an improvised studio, including “Shattered Times,” a print series that explores the world around us by documenting details of the cracks, defects and ruptures in windows and other surfaces, revealing the beauty and hope within these physical markers.

“In a time when everyone is feeling more vulnerable it can be empowering to take on the ideas that you have been putting off.”

Where have you been looking for inspiration?

I’ve always looked to bridge the gap between the internal emotional, kinaesthetic experiences we have and the perception of the imagined reality of “the other.” This involves a lot of observation of people going about their day-to-day lives, as well as visiting museums to research the history of (institutional) representation. Now that the museums are closed and people are masked-up and keeping their distance I’ve had the opportunity to focus more on the environmental or inanimate elements that can communicate so much meaning.

The “Shattered Times” series, for example, has seen me documenting parts of the different routes I take during my allowed one hour of daily outdoor exercise. I’m very happy to say that it’s also provided some extra motivation for my mum to get fresh air as I’ve recruited her expert eye for the series and she sends me pictures and locations of interesting visuals.

What resources have you found particularly helpful?

It’s been very impressive how so many museums, galleries and cultural organizations have managed to create, or expand, an on-line presence in a reasonably short amount of time. The BFI has a fantastic online archive, MUBI keeps me from descending into perpetual Netflix binge-watching.

Galleries like Hauser & Wirth are now presenting fully online shows, galleries like Carlos/Ishikawa are providing online in-conversations and I’m now a paid up member of gal-dem magazine that puts out great articles that keep me engaged with varied and valuable viewpoints. I think the British Museum online service is fantastic, and also David Zwirner Gallery is providing a digital platform for smaller galleries, which is brilliant too.

What would be your top tips for keeping creative during this time?

The main one is, remember to show kindness and compassion to yourself during what is a very challenging time. We have all perhaps been induced into predominantly valuing things that prove our “success” to others, which can create internal pressures to constantly be producing work and ideas that we can then post to social media, for example. This has always been an unrealistic representation and in times like this it can be unhealthy as we naturally experience increased stresses on our mental health.

Finally, stay positive and embrace the uncertainty. In a time when almost everyone is feeling more vulnerable than usual it can be empowering to look for and then take on the ideas that you might have been putting off. Now is a great time to explore the mediums, techniques, or subject matter that you always wanted to, but “never quite had the time for.” And also because, let’s face it, no temporary frustration in the “studio” is going to seem that bad compared to what’s happening out in the world right now.

Alexander James, mixed-medium artist

How has your practice changed due to social distancing?

At the beginning of isolation, I was just processing everything going on in the outside world, and then I slowly started sketching ideas of my own to give my own representation of what was happening. I realized I had to adapt to a slightly new mind set and schedule due to studio visits, meetings or exhibitions being cancelled or postponed, and in turn, I was thinking about additional ways to showcase my work online. This includes a new collaborative project with Jon Conway, a creative and friend, where we created a video in response to COVID-19. Our video will be exhibiting online on April 17 via the website of Roman Road Gallery.

In terms of my painting process, it hasn’t changed much, but mentally it has, and I’ve adjusted to finding new spaces to work at home painting with big canvases.

What have you been working on?

My latest body of work I’ve focused on is called “Lonely Gestures,” which I started working on before the pandemic. When COVID-19 escalated, the project became even more relevant to our current climate. Elements of the research, prior to COVID-19, were an exploration of our day-to-day possessions we might usually take for granted. Since isolating, I’ve been testing myself a little bit. It’s enhancing my writing skills.

“Creativity ebbs and flows, it’ll come back soon enough.”

Where have you been looking for inspiration?

I’ve been inspired by everyone’s reactions of COVID-19, seeing how incredible people are helping to support each other during this pandemic. In particular, seeing how all the NHS and frontline workers are helping to fight the virus across the UK. It has driven and inspired me to help raise money for all the work they are doing. We released an edition of 60 prints last week, all of which sold out, and a portion of the profits was donated to providing the NHS with PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), as there is a national shortage putting doctors, nurses and others at higher risk.

What resources have you found particularly helpful?

My laptop has been extremely helpful. It’s allowed me to stay heavily connected with close friends and work. I’ve been working mostly with what’s around me at home, so either painting, writing or drawing. I’ve been using small post-it notes throughout the days of my ideas, which are quick and easy to pin on the wall. I’ve started reading a new book and I’m trying to improve my stitching or I’m waking up late and having slow starts to the day

What would be your top tips for keeping creative during this time?

To begin with, switch off by listening to Al Green’s album Let’s Stay Together. My next tip would be to set targets or aims – give yourself realistic targets for that day or week. Try and stick to them as much as possible, as it will give you a sense of achievement. Try and learn something new, whether it’s Adobe Photoshop, a new course online or even a new language. Try and keep yourself busy but if you’re not feeling creative, it’s important not to beat yourself up about it. Creativity ebbs and flows, and it’ll come back soon enough.

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