Saturday, March 14, 2020

How Coronavirus is Affecting Artists

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I had been dreading it all week. I knew the toilet paper would be long gone (thankfully, my Amazon shipment came a week ago, before the panic started). But I wasn't prepared to walk in and find that there were no eggs, no dairy products, no meat, no peanut butter (sorry, Everett... your P&J's will have to wait), no sweet potatoes, no bread, and barely any bottled water. The cold and flu aisle was stripped bare, as was the diaper aisle and most of the canned goods. I found most of what I needed, but as I stood in the checkout line, which wrapped all the way around to the back of the store, I felt like telling all the hard-working employees, "Thank you for your service." They had to do something they weren't necessarily trained or obligated to do, which was to manage all the customers' fears and concerns while continuing to be positive and friendly.

I am watching with sadness as people practice "social distancing", whether it be at the grocery store, work, or the gym. Many people are simply opting to stay home and practice living as hermits. Hermit life is usually fine by me... as an artist, you learn to be comfortable with spending long hours by yourself. But in times like these, you realize just how much we as humans need to be social. We are not meant to be alone, and this COVID-19 is a threat not just to our physical health but to our mental wellness and our societal need for companionship.

Here in Colorado, all major (and minor) events -- from concerts and basketball games, to small church gatherings and parties... have been cancelled. Worldwide and especially in big cities, museums are closed. Exhibition openings cancelled. Conferences, workshops, gatherings of any kind... cancelled or postponed until who knows when.

My favorite event of the year, the Portrait Society of America conference (which I referenced in my last post), was also postponed until August. It was a necessary call in light of everything that's been going on, but I know that I for one am very disappointed, and I can't even imagine what a difficult and heartbreaking decision it was for the event's organizers, who put so much heart and soul and hard work into planning this event every single year.

All of my art events are in the spring. It's an important time of year for many of us artists, as we paint for deadlines in January/February, then display and sell our work at various exhibitions and events around the country in April and May.  This is a huge investment for artists, because not only are we focusing months of our time and energy into these paintings, but we are also spending a lot of money on expensive, high quality frames to display our work in the best possible light. We love to paint, but we also love nothing more than to see our work purchased by collectors and carried off to new homes where our creative offspring will be treasured.

A newly framed 35x16" painting
that will *hopefully* be heading to the California Art Club
gold medal exhibition at the end of April

For these events to all be suddenly shut down is catastrophic for artists. I learned yesterday that the Colorado ballet cancelled all of their events, and the dancers--people born and trained to PERFORM - are devastated.  They already have to work incredibly hard for the little income they earn as artists, and now they are out of work for the next couple of months.

What I'm trying to say is... as this situation escalates, we must all do our part to keep the world turning. Yes, it's important to be aware of the virus as a very real threat, but we must also be aware of those who are going to suffer as a result of this global shutdown.

What can be done? As an artist, I'll continue hiring models, purchasing frames from my small business frame builders, and supporting the art materials manufacturers.  And we can still be viewing and buying art online. Perhaps we can provide more options to ensure the collector is 100% satisfied with their purchase. We know it's a risk to buy original art online, but if a collector gets a 2-week "trial" period to see if the piece of art works in their home, or they can return it free of charge -- that might be a good incentive to collect more art without fear of disappointment.

Finally, I will continue to make instructional videos. I've been making about one a month for the art streaming platform, MadeforArtists.net. This month I produced a video showing how I problem solve while painting a self portrait from a mirror, and in April, I will have a brand new portrait demonstration available. So if you are hoping to learn more about oil painting, now might be the perfect time!


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If you must stay at home, enrich your life with art. Now more than ever, we need this in our lives. Stay healthy and safe, but surround yourself with beauty, every chance you get. 
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