Tue, 28 Jul 2020
IF lockdown has taught us one thing it’s how quickly life can change, says Tadley artist KATY STEVENS...
Before the world was turned upside down with this unimaginable pandemic, I was just enjoying the space of my
new shared studio and the freedom of no longer being a shopkeeper.
Having closed the retail part of Doodles towards the end of 2019 – with hindsight, a very fortunate move on my part – this also meant losing the generous studio space that I had inhabited and got used to over the last 11 years.
Having tried unsuccessfully to find new corners to work from in my ‘on the small side’ home, it was a real feeling of relief to be able to spread my wings again in my new studio and have all my art materials around me in full view and, better still, leave everything in situ when I’d finished for the day knowing it would be waiting for me when I returned to continue.
This was, however, a shortlived moment of celebration as not more than a few weeks later, Government guidelines clamped down on us all and staying home was the way forward. This also meant that the weekly Art Club that I teach had to come to a halt as the facilities were closed up and locked away indefinitely.
Finding myself and my art being squeezed back into the house certainly interrupted my creativity for a while. With three adults working from home and the house frustratingly not getting any bigger, space really did become the issue.
So, like so many of us sun-starved Brits, I made the most of the gloriously warm weather that seemed to be gifted to us and spent many hours tending my little garden (always a passion of mine, but seldom have I had the opportunity to indulge so much of my time to it) and taking my faithful spaniel Dylan on the most wonderful countryside walks for hours and hours. There has been something magical about nature this year and I know I’m not the only person to have noticed it. The sky has been clearer, the birds have sung louder. I have noticed more bees, butterflies and kites at every turn and somehow nature’s precious qualities have been the saviour for me of the last few months.
I also decided that the only thing that the garden needed (and maybe me) was chickens. So now, a beautiful hen house sits
majestically among the cherry trees and honeysuckle and two marauding hens have moved in, systematically destroying most of the plants that grew so beautifully in my carefully-tended garden. My oasis of herbs and flowers have been either eaten, torn down or ripped up and tossed aside to create a chicken’s paradise of mud and carnage. A lesson has been learned and I can’t take the vision of destruction any longer… this weekend, fences have been erected and the chickens themselves are now contained in their own personal, but generous lockdown. On the plus side, their eggs are tasting distinctly herby.
Chicken in a basket
Shortly before lockdown, I had begun working on a series of new ‘Bee’ paintings. A little different from my usual highly-coloured works, I focused on a more muted palette and I have ended up with a lovely collection of six small-scale pieces that have a lovely contemporary feel.
Humming Bees & Humble Bumble
Over the last few weeks, as guidelines have eased and the world has begun to open up again, I have moved back in to my studio with a renewed motivation and energy for creating something new. I am excited to be working on an amazing 3D installation of a moon-gazing hare and, when finished, he will be a unique painted sculpture along the lines of the ‘Wild in Art’ sculptures that have adorned our towns and cities over the last few years. I can’t help but be inspired by nature and the beauty that it holds, and I’m also inspired by the mythology of the hare that exists in British history and folklore. I am, of course, making the most of the space once again, and so, needless to say, he is a giant at almost six feet tall. I just love him.
I have also now the good news that Art Club has resumed once again. Our weekly sessions have been really missed by the enthusiastic artists that enjoy the informal get-togethers and the inspiration that everyone feels when painting within a group is a wonderful therapy in itself. We started again on Saturday and can take a small number of new faces if anyone is keen to enjoy a morning of real wellbeing that art can bring (you can contact me via doodlesonline.co.uk).
'Beyond the Birdcage' Jane Austen Arts Trail, Basingstoke_
Now that the world has started to turn again, my biggest hope is that we will all retain this renewed appreciation for our planet and the beauty of nature around us. Nature has the power to connect us to a much slower timescale. It gives current concerns a new perspective that we would be wise to hold on to in ‘the new normal’.