Living with Covid-19 VI

The Face-mask (unfinished stufy)
Late April

Of course spending all the hours of every day at home because of the Covid-19 lockdown should enables an artist / a creator to put his hands on all sorts of projects. Like the recent political discussion relating to virus testing - capacity vs actual tests undertaken - I and the other artists and writers I know have been learning how many hours of the available capacity we can work before the quality falters irretrievably. Finite projects turn out to be ideal - updating the images on this website or clearing up my printmaking blocks and plates. Other projects are so large as to be unfinishable in a week / month and therefore harder to allocate urgency to.

I have several of those on the go - editing a completed novel, completing an unfinished novel, curating photographs and writing up an old academic work wth a view to finding an audience. On top of that are some writing projects - shorter pieces in collaboration with other London writers. The photographs progress steadily - most days I can give the portfolio an hour or two and I travel through my experience of Chernobyl, the Vaca Bruto dance of Guinea Bissau and monks practising in Bhutan, flipping my attention as I often do between countries, working them in parallel, so that I, and my internet followers, do not see dozens of photos from the same location all at once. As travel has ended for the foreseeable period, the backlog of photos to sort is diminishing and if the situation carries on for several more months, I may actually have completed it. That would not mean that I would be finished with the portfolio - there are stock libraires interested in photos and I could supplement my income by submitting images to them; there are photobook projects long pending, and there are old photos to digitise...

But the writing front is what occupies most of my time in April: I had planned to work on the unfinished novel first and starrted rereading it from the beginning to ensure that I was still familiar with the scenes and balance. I took copious notes but do not want to edit too much of the book when some of the scenes may either not survive if their purpose can better be achieved by scenes I have still to write or characters may be written out of the novel entirely ... However, in parallel, I worked with London writers on short stories, and in several different projects. Two things they all had in commmon were deadlines and short word counts. My enthusiasm grew as I wrote and in one project, where I had promised to deliver one story, I submitted three. In others my stories were fuller, more complex and longer - sometimes a lot longer - than I had intially envisaged. And I am satisified that at least half of them will - when finally edited - will in some form see a broader audience. Can I now move on to the novel again or will I stay with short fiction? The weeks will tell

As one of my early tasks, when I was sorting through a corner where I had deposited some unsorted, uncatalogued artwork, I found this painting: A year or so back I was working on the idea of doing a series of paintings of people through dirty or misted glass, inspired by photos I took of daily commuters in South America. By coincidence I came across photos of subway travellers in Japan and the first image I used was this one. It is not finished because my studio time ended before I could add the final layers - which would have concealed much of the face-masked portrait. I put the study to one side. Given the current Covid-19 situation, perhaps I will finish it...

The Face-mask (unfinished stufy)