mark this time (COVID-19)

Two artists from the UK, who host one of my favorite podcasts, called Art Juice, decided to create a project called “Mark This Time” as a way to dedicate the creations and thoughts and experiences due to the global COVID-19 shutdown. They asked that people share their responses through Instagram and Facebook – which I think is just really cool.

We are experiencing an unprecedented situation. One that calls for artists to step up. We need positive messages. We need reportage. We need insights. We need community. We need to mark this time. The media mark this time with dramatic exaggeration. The politicians mark this time with obfuscation  — it falls on artists to mark this time by bearing witness, by being present, by documenting,  by connecting, by offering perspective – most of all by sharing our experience and letting it shine a light on the experiences of others. It falls to us to truly mark this time.” from Louise Fletcher Art.

I thought I should jot a few words down since we are in the midst of a historic event.

When things started to get bad in March, ie. governments started proclaiming things be shut down, I knew it would get worse before it got better. I didn’t run right out and buy a mask. I wasn’t panicked, but I figured everyone was going to get “sick” or at least be asymptomatic. I am no doctor, but it was pretty obvious that this flu-like virus wasn’t going to just disappear.

I had already given my two weeks at my old employer and was in the midst of training my replacement when the government starting tightening the restrictions.

I held out that my new employer had been so eager that they would make it work – whether that meant working remotely or part-time (or a combination of the two). They first pushed my start date by a week, but by that date, they had informed me that they were rescinding their offer. I worked until March 27th and that was that.

Fortunately, almost my entire family has been self-isolating so I can visit my parents and siblings. Plus, now that my sister lives with me, I am not alone at home all day. I have made three grocery trips in total. I found cloth masks for sale on my second trip and finally wore it when I stopped to grab some eggs the other day. Everyone else was also wearing masks.

I have paused my “Baby Steps.” The only thing left on my debt snowball is about $480 on my car, but because I am paid ahead, I don’t owe a payment until 2021. I am not making any money, but I am also not spending it. With no debt but my mortgage, my bills are low.

Even though I am not worried about money currently, I am worried about my job outlook. This is my fourth week of unemployment. I have had one in-person interview (which is still in progress) and one phone interview. I have applied to five jobs. I would love to be hopeful that once things go back to semi-normal that the company will offer the position to me again. However, I am not sure what that means for my job search currently.

Otherwise, I have been relaxing and taking this time to catch up on chores, read books, cook, and paint. I read Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, watched Russian Doll and Tiger King on Netflix, and knit several scarves. My art hasn’t been the main focus even though I wish it was. Sometimes, I am so nervous to paint. I get anxious that it won’t turn out as I want it to. I am proud of what I have been doing though. I should remember that.

Charlie is quite happy with the situation, as you would imagine. Every morning, as I drink coffee and watch some TV, he gets out of bed and comes to me for a good fifteen-minute rub fest.

something’s gotta give

Health and Weight Loss

I sometimes open my drafts to see what I had started writing in the past but never finished, and I almost always find something that I still have feelings about. Reading words I wrote seven years ago usually makes me laugh. So you can imagine that reading my blog makes me laugh a lot.

I picked this one titled, “Something’s Gotta Give” that I started when I was in college. I decided to stick with the original title, but I have so much to add to it. Below is what I had started writing:

Yesterday I was looking at swimsuits online, and I suddenly felt very sad that I didn’t have any reason to buy a new bathing suit this summer. I had planned on doing so as part of my new found usage of the fitness center. Long story, short, that hasn’t happened. The two modest suits I have work well enough for the swimming I do, but last night, it felt a little depressing that I had no one to try impress with a nice bathing suit. I’m like a middle-aged woman, hiding in my one piece. Immediately after I thought that, I regretted it. “Who cares?” I reasoned. “This is how I’ve been most of my life.” Really though, why would I have to impress anyone with a new bathing suit? I’m still sort of torn. In all honesty, my twenties have been boring thus far. Not that I feel entitled to a thrilling adventure full of laughter and love, I just want a little excitement. Maybe, a reason to buy a new suit for no reason.

These words, in particular, summarize how I’ve always felt about being a “thick girl.” I may have a mom-bod, but… I also kind of don’t give a shit. My weight has been up and down since puberty – weight gain with stress, weight loss with added exercise and nutrition.

Last April, I hit my heaviest weight after several months at my first desk job. I felt shitty, tired, bloated, etc. I started really trying again in July 2019, and struggled for a few months to find something that works.

Turns out, what works is to not quit and to keep trying new things. I have lost twenty pounds since August of 2019. I started seeing more results in the autumn. Honestly, autumn is more like my “New Year” than January 1. First, I added a walk at lunch when the weather cooled down. Then, I started counting calories. Then, I switched to keto for about 2-3 months. Whenever my weight loss stalled, I added another healthy behavior – things like an additional walk, fasting, strength training, or counting protein.

I set small goals and try to think about things in the long term. The plateaus were always tough. I tend to hold onto a number for 1-2 months before seeing a drop again. I feel so much better though, and even though I am not yet at my college weight, I am lighter than I was when I started my desk job. I also have confidence that I will keep seeing numbers I haven’t seen in years. It’s exciting for me. Maybe I will buy a swimsuit for no reason.

studio time during the shutdown

I have been re-working old pieces for the past few months. When I say that, I mean in the three times I sat down to paint since the beginning of the year 2020, I have been working on the colors and perspectives of three of my old pieces.

The first piece, above, was one that I didn’t like. Even when I “finished” it the first time, it wasn’t really completed. I usually feel that way though. It always seems like I could keep working something forever. In reality, I work on it until I am bored. The Staredown still doesn’t seem finished though. I think it needs to be blended together in some way. I may need to recolor the body or add some goldenrod. I’m not sure.

I have also been playing with watercolors as a means to study color mixing. I love watercolors, but I am really bad at them to be honest. I enjoyed this session (below) of playing around with the color wheel to achieve moodiness and cohesiveness in a palette.

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I'll just be over here practicing my color mixing.

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The other two pieces I am re-working are still in progress. Both are portraits of my sisters. They needed something more to make them come alive. I have been trying to remember that photographs only need to influence and motivate a piece; they don’t need to be duplicated in the piece. In effect, I have been attempting to be more ethereal and fantastical with the colors and backgrounds. I want my work to reflect my interpretation of the moment that was captured by the photograph.

I am really proud of the progress I made on the one below.