In the distance

It’s been eight weeks since the lockdown.

I’ve filled most of it through teaching online, cooking, gardening, reading, watching (Netflix and animation shorts, anyone?) and learning online (currently, I’m taking Patricio Betteo’s course on Digital Painting in Photoshop on Domestika), and not to mention copious sessions of video chats, texts and audio calls with loved ones. Hearing the soothing voice of the familiar is reassuring, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I yearn so much to be able to be near them again.

I watched animation director and game designer’s Florian Grolig’s In the Distance very early on when the lockdown began, and found many parallels between his depiction of war and of the current situation with the virus at large. With a static, zoomed out frame throughout, we see how a character (and his pet rooster) navigate the uncertainties that loom closer. With an ending that was open for interpretation, I found the short to be an apt metaphor for the times that we now find ourselves in.

Also, if you’re a fan of animated shorts, Pictoplasma has announced that they’re running the annual Pictoplasma conference entirely online this year from 18-19 September 2020, completely free (although donations are most welcome!) I’ve been to the conference twice, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite conferences ever; and I’m sure this year will be no different.

How are you?

It’s the third week of enforced movement restriction in my country, and I’m sitting at home alone, working on my laptop. From the outside in, things may look the same, because it’s a routine that I go through everyday. But it isn’t, not anymore.

It’s like watching a horror movie slowly unraveling itself in real time. Thousands are getting sick, and it’s spreading like wildfire. Country and borders are on lockdowns (or movement restrictions, like mine), with extensive travel restrictions in place. Hospitals and health care professionals are working in overdrive to combat the first global pandemic of its kind.

What my everyday lunch looks like: minestrone soup, bread and cheese

If you’re scared or anxious, you’re not alone. I am too.

I remember this time last month, when the situation wasn’t as worrying yet; when it hadn’t yet tipped into a situation where alarm bells would be rung. People still went on their lives as usual, with the exception of increased hand washing/sanitising, interspersed with news of how pharmacies were running low on stock of face masks and hand sanitisers (and toilet paper). And now? I have no words to describe how surreal it all is.

The uncertainty of what’s happening, or what going to happen is unsettling. I’m physically separated from a loved one, because we both want to do the right, responsible thing. Sucking it up doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t suck – it still does, but it’s important to us that we do the things we can. And so here we are.

I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, but I know so many others aren’t. Businesses are experiencing a slow trickle, and some have come to a grinding halt. Everyone’s scared because we don’t know what the future will look like when the world finds its way back to a new normal. Plus, right now with social distancing being our best bet to flatten the curve, it can get a little lonely. Aside from working, here’s a list of things I’ve done so far that’s helped me feel a little less hopeless:

  1. Spending time with my dog, Jojo. Fur-aphy is real and a thing.
  2. Cooking. I’ve been cooking in batches, eating light, and oh, making lots of chocolate granola
  3. Gardening. I’m very lucky to have a garden; it’s where I tend to my edible plants. (So I can eat them later, ha!)
  4. Pinterest. Looking at pretty things makes me feel that things are normal… at least for a few minutes, even if I know it’s not, and won’t be for a while.
  5. Exercising. The gym is closed, and with it comes experimenting with new workouts using only my bodyweight (I miss lifting weights).
  6. Texting, calls and video calls with loved ones. Reaching out and talking to people, family and friends helps me feel connected in a time where being physically disconnected is painful and real.

But enough about me.

What about you?

How have you been? How have you been coping? How is it where you are, and what’s your form of self-care? Share stories, updates, and your ups and downs with me, and feel free to vent if you’d like. I’m all ears (and I read every comment and email).

Your digital pen-pal,

Amy

How to create anything (even if you don’t know where to begin)

The struggle to constantly create new things, is very real.

Do you ever find that you’re so much more inspired when you get out of your normal daily routine? I do. When I went to that conference in Berlin last year, my neurons were firing around in my brain like it was the fourth of July. I was inspired. I want to do more. I want to be better.

It’s all very subjective of course, how listening, talking and interacting with other people can have an impact on us. For me personally, it’s validating to talk to and discuss about an artist’s personal projects, and to see how it all comes together in their work. That’s what drives me. Learning about instructional design and how I can make learning better for my students – both online and offline – compels me to push myself out of my comfort zone.

Stepping out

When people struggle to write or draw, but never do, it’s because they don’t have enough input. They might not have read or seen anything new that day. Or they may not talked to anyone or seen the way others do things. They didn’t encounter people or situations that would help them form and connect ideas into something new. They might not have someone to discuss their ideas with, or to play around with.

So what happens then? Your brain and mind remains in a constant dormant state. There’s no doubt that it’s alive and well, doing all the things a brain is supposed to do; but it’s just going through the motions – until you can inject something new in it a little (whether by accident or on purpose). So how do you spur it into action? Or at the very least, make it tingle with excitement – even if just a little?

Sparking… things.

We don’t live in a vacuum.

We respond to things, to stimuli. Whether it’s touch, news, emotions, etc – all of it is stimuli. When you’re used to the things that you encounter daily, it becomes a part of your life, and your brain accepts it as a normal state of being. Imagine if every stimuli that you encounter daily is a novelty instead – you’d be exhausted from being in a state of peak awareness! And so our brain adapts to the everyday, and becomes comfortable. It expects routine, because routine is good.

There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, of course. But in order for us to break out of our shell, to think out of the box, or, in my case – to finally get off my arse and get over my internal fears – one has to spark a reaction. Because I would be willing to wager with you, is that you’re not reacting to anything right now. If you’ve been stuck in some kind of creative limbo/rut, where you can’t think of anything or are frustrated with whatever you’re doing, and yet you’re not sure why; it’s because you’ve become a little too comfortable. At least your brain is.

So how do you spark something? Anything?

Get out of your usual routine. Read things that has nothing to do with what you’re used to, but something that you’d like to try. Go to a conference. Go for a class. Dance (especially if you’ve never done it before). Talk to a friend, a mentor, or just a stranger. Disagree with things, or agree with something. There’s no right way or wrong way of doing it. All you need to do is to shake things up a little.

It explains why we often come away from a conference with hope and a renewed fervour for tackling that assignment that you’ve spent weeks procrastinating. You’ll find that you’re also a lot more focused after attending a short class; where you learn new skills and new ways of seeing. Your brain is abuzz with ideas and excitement, because you’ve just given it a jolt of new spark.

What’s the one thing you can do today? Doing things like what I mentioned above, can be a bit difficult. Meeting people, talking to them and engaging with them can be even harder – especially if you’re not used to it. The easiest and fastest route, is to bury yourself in other people’s words. Read a book, flip through the newspaper, or even find articles online. Find one topic that you’re interested in. What if you’re not sure that it interests you? Here’s how to tell: you’ll have a strong reaction to it – whether you agree or disagree with what’s being presented. You’ll find that you’re spurred on by what you love and hate. And if you don’t feel anything (if it it’s more of a meh than a yay!), move on and find another topic. Come back and let me know – did you find one? What is it?

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If you’re also ready to challenge yourself, then you might want to consider joining the Portfolio with Personality online workshop that I’ll be teaching from 30th March 2020 for 5 weeks. Registration opens on March 2nd, and is limited to a maximum of 16 students, so that I can dedicate my time and attention to each individual student. You’ll benefit from a structured curriculum that will challenge and stretch you creatively from the inside out! I’ll be there to guide you at every step of the way, to find and express what you want to say, as well as how you can say it through your personal project, so that you can stay true to yourself as an artist.

You can read more about the class by clicking this link (where you can sign up to be notified when registration begins), and I hope to see you there!

[Illustration by Rebecca Green, source]
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