How to stay Sane and Creative with Kids in lockdown (with The Artist's Way)
When Julia Cameron wrote The Artist's Way, an essential tome for everyone seeking to re-engage with their creative side, she no doubt did not imagine a lockdown in a global pandemic. She also didn't picture a frazzled artist mother surrounded by lego, crumbs and chaos in a small flat in South Devon surrounded by two tiger-onesie wearing children. To me, however, this feels like the perfect time to follow a 12 week course on introspection and creative exploration, indeed with so many limits on our space and socialising we have to be even more creative! As a mother of two, who has interpreted 'home schooling' as experiments with baking, clay, oil paints, puppets and animation amidst studious Minecraft independent play sessions, I have found The Artist's Way the perfect excuse to carve out time for me and my creativity.
Morning pages, mindful moments and coffee - The basic premise of the book centres around 'morning pages', writing 3 pages of whatever is on your mind or even just a free flow verbal deluge (eg. .... I can hear seagulls and one just pooed on a car, what shall I make for lunch, rice pudding?) and remarkably, for someone who even struggles with taking daily vitamins - I have succeeded in writing these every morning on my glorious sunny balcony for over 6 weeks (and yes, the camera almost fell off my selfie stick onto the ground 2 floors below when taking the picture above where I am trying to look ironically 'cool'.) I have never been that enthused by mindfulness or meditation but these pages have become my mindful morning moment (and a good strong coffee always helps). Every single morning (or almost lunchtime) I sit for 15 minutes and write, while soaking up nature and coffee and trying to stay decent in my dressing gown. I am fortunate that my children are 5 and 9, and are more than happy to ease into the day with a little Minecraft and they have strict instructions that this is essential 'Mummy time'. Once I close the balcony door I can almost imagine I'm alone (almost). Carving out peaceful moments of escapism every day when we are so intensely together during lockdown feels essential, even if that is a bath or a locked toilet door for a rather long visit/book reading session.
Date yourself - The second main suggestion in the book is a weekly artist date, to explore and play in a creative way that you may not normally. This could be a walk making time-lapse videos of snails in the rain (check!), making sushi blindfolded (not yet) or drawing an existential chalk hop-scotch on the pavement (if anyone does one, please show me!) and for me, being limited at home (my children rarely want to venture out, see *Minecraft) I have had to be especially imaginative with my resources.
In recent months I have stepped away from textiles and felted art (a story for another day) and begun to explore photography. In lockdown we become painfully aware of our isolation and the lack of closeness to other bodies and so I have been compelled to explore my own body as subject matter.
I began my navel photography project Navel Daze at the start of this year however lockdown has encouraged me to look beyond my navel.
I'm also finding this inward exploration combining art, my body and self in a domestic environment a wonderful way to maintain intimacy and connection while alone. At art college, a wise tutor suggested that the more limited we have to be, the more creative the result.
A book on the life of one pigeon in Trafalgar Square versus on pigeon behaviour in London, would be more challenging, require a different approach and would result in a more intimate and revealing idea of life as a pigeon in London. And so it is, I am the bird somewhat trapped in my colourful cage and of course, it is also possible to involve children in your artist dates!
Don't forget to play and forget the audience! Julia Cameron emphasises the value of play, and so lockdown with children is the perfect catalyst forcing us to play and collaborate with some of the most creative, free thinking people in the world. Being truly creative to me, means letting go and experimenting, perhaps creating something 'silly' and without fear of judgement or criticism. Over the past 6 weeks, I have experimented with stand-up comedy and with my children we devised a comedy puppet show The Puppitz somewhat fittingly using puppets made by my Hungarian grandmother, who was herself a professional artist in Budapest Montvai Rozália. We have also worked on lego animations together, composing soundtracks, script writing and played with plasticine, painting and sewing. In the early days of lockdown I felt an intense urge to still reach out and 'perform' on social media as if my enforced hibernation would mean I'd be forgotten, and I felt compelled to maintain my online artist identity. As time has passed I'm truly rediscovering the value of process over product, of play over perfection, thanks in a large part to the Artist's Way and the current circumstances. Indeed I cannot create much professional work and since my forthcoming exhibition has been cancelled I am almost forced to rediscover the joy of making mistakes and having fun with art. I am making art and sketching and not immediately (or ever) sharing these online, and it feels gloriously liberating.
And finally - we can learn from the best teachers! One of the fundamentals in art for me is the phrase "look again" and through children's eyes we are encouraged to do this. If we allow an element of play to enter our work, and to even consider collaborating with our diminutive co-horts we might see our art travel in new directions. My 9 year old spontaneously created these montages (the first has my artist grandmother's doll above, and the second is my sculpture with my 5 year old's shoe) and seeing these from an adult analytical perspective I feel we could attach so much meaning and see them as 'art', if we choose. The first really feels like an alternative holy Jesus alternative shrine, perhaps a comment on commercialisation or the media, and the second truly is a tribute to how we can try to remain serene amidst the absurdities of parenting, and yet it's through embracing those absurdities that we might actually end up being the most creative.