vegetable garden

Well, you don’t need 2020 Vision to see what a strange year this is turning out to be! All the best laid plans were last seen heading off into the distance, wearing face masks.

As an artist, it has affected me in 2 ways. I just cannot seem to bring myself to sit and paint, and yet I am full of hope and creativity, in other directions.

Covid has been a wake-up call. We can commit to events, count on income from steady gallery sales, plan art workshops, and attract online sales, only to find someone across the world eats a sick bat (or was it a pangolin?) and it is all wiped out in the stroke of a legislative lock-down pen.

Art is, by nature, a solitary and introspective undertaking, so not much has changed in that regard. But making art is just a tiny part of what makes one an artist. There is then the question of getting that art out into the wider world, and all the admin and logistics that go along with that. Since it was considered by the powers-that-be to be a non-essential item, one’s art remains in lock-down too. With the impact this has had on income, thoughts have had to turn to other ways of surviving in a pandemic altered world. So, for now, my creativity is being channeled into food production. And trust me, it has had to be a lot more creative than just plonking some seeds in the ground.

I almost feel a tug back to the country roots I embraced 3 decades ago, when living on a smallholding, running a pottery studio from our garage, and growing vegetables so we could supplement a very meagre income. We had a cow, Daisy, who I milked twice a day, and I made all our butter from the thick clotted Jersey cream she produced. We had a family living on the smallholding, to help with all the fence-building, planting, animal care etc.
This is an older, less physically able version of me now, and we live in the Karoo, in the era of a brutal drought. We also have no access to helping hands, under lock-down, so all the hard, physical labour is being handled by these 2 old bods. We are falling into bed aching and exhausted, but immensely satisfied to be doing something that feels so useful and productive each day.

We live at the foot of a mountain and are surrounded by hungry wildlife. So, we have had to cart rocks to create raised beds with contour banks. We have collected donkey/horse manure from the nearby sanctuary, to feed the sandy soil, and have had to work out all sorts of ways to save water, so that every available drop can be used to germinate seeds, and keep seedlings alive. Now that the plants are just promising to get to the stage of proving food soon, we are having an ongoing battle of wits with a porcupine called Houdini. We cart rocks and twist wire daily, to strengthen our fence around the property, but each night Houdini chuckles to itself at our efforts and helps itself to another few mouthfuls of almost ready veggies.

As all this hard labour requires a fair amount of recovery time on the couch, and I am doing a lot of admin catch-up work on my laptop. I have shifted back to my first love, photography, for now. So, the art has adapted to the circumstances, and is still happening. I’ll talk about the theme of the new work in the next blog post.