A year ago in my interview here on MilSpoFan, I talked about my philosophy of “bloom where you’re planted”, meaning make the most of your location, stage of life or circumstances. This past year has put that philosophy to the test in more ways than one! But even with all the uncertainty, disappointments and changes of this past year, I feel like I’ve been able to bloom. I learned an important lesson about applying something I’ve always known as an artist to my everyday life. In reflecting on this past year, I find hope in these lessons and I pray you do too.
I had a lot of plans for 2020. I had my university semesters mapped out to graduate. The kids were in school all day which meant I could plow through my work during those hours in a quiet house alone. My husband was set to retire from the Air Force. He would hop on to an airline job as a pilot and be done with his training around the time I graduated. We could move wherever we needed to, I would find a job and a good school for our kids, and life would be great. We had fun plans too. I was planning a once-in-a-lifetime study abroad trip to Europe to tour museums and architecture. I was positive I would come back more inspired in my artwork than ever! We had plays, recitals, birthday parties, family visits, and vacations in our plans as well.
So many plans…
I’ve taken enough college-level art and design courses to know that I should always start a project with a plan. The creative process is really important to making your best work. I start with an idea, do some research, and look for inspiration. I make thumbnail sketches, then move on to more detailed and precise sketches. Next, I might pick a color palette and materials and then move on to really making the piece. During each step, I make edits and revisions that ultimately improve the finished piece of artwork. I’ve never been afraid to make big changes or even completely start over sometimes. When something isn’t working, it is always better to scrap the plan and try something else rather than keep working with junk. A painting can easily get muddy if you try to keep adding and mixing colors. A digital piece can get confusing with too many layers. I’ve always known its ok to change the plan for an art piece because it can lead to something better. The finished project almost never looks exactly like that first sketch but its ok!
Little did I know, that this particular practice in my artwork was preparing me for life in 2020.
When COVID started wreaking havoc on the world last March, our daily lives changed, just like almost everyone. My kids’ schools closed and they had no school work to keep their brains busy. My husband got thrown into crisis management at the base and was gone all the time, often overnight. My university classes shifted from in-person to online, which somehow created more work for me. Obviously these difficulties were minuscule in comparison to healthcare and essential workers, not to mention those affected personally by COVID. But they were changes for us, nonetheless.
As always, I tried to make the best of our circumstances for our family during the lockdown. We had lots of quality time playing games, watching movies, going on nature walks, and learning life skills to keep us busy. To get my school work done, I had to tune out the world (and sometimes my family!) either with headphones, white noise, or a locked door. We Zoomed and FaceTimed friends and family for some social interaction. We celebrated birthdays and our anniversary at home with special meals rather than dates or parties. We did our best and we made it through.
As we adjusted to the new normal of a global pandemic, we made changes to daily life. The kids and I have been doing school virtually since August, which has its ups and downs. I’m super grateful for the extra time with them, the hug breaks throughout the day, and the absence of rushing around. And I definitely don’t miss that carpool line! But it can be tough to be creative in my art and focused on schoolwork when I don’t have any time to myself. Now, we all sit and do our work together during the week. I no longer have quiet, uninterrupted hours to work on things so there is a lot of stopping and starting on projects. I’ve gone from three classes per semester to just two, partly because the university completely canceled a class I needed but also because that’s all I can handle with the kids being home. I’m doing more work on weekends and at night. I’m getting it done but it’s even slower than before.
The inspiring Europe trip never happened but I’ve still been finding inspiration in my every day life. I feel like my work over the past year can be seen as a reflection of the emotional roller coaster we’ve all been on. Some pieces are expressing deep emotions, some are escapes to where I wish I could be, some were reactions to current events and some pieces were just for a little happiness and joy. My plans for inspiration from historical art and architecture changed but I’m still happy with all the things I created.
2020 looked nothing like I thought it would. Graduation and retirement have been pushed further into the future. The plans changed but that cleared the way for us to be closer than ever as a family. It gave me so much more time with my girls who are growing up so fast. It gave them time together as sisters to really become each others’ best friend. It made me realize that I can do more as a mom and wife than I ever thought. It gave me less creative work to do so I could make really meaningful work and give it my all. It slowed us all down, which turned out to be really great. I’ve always been ok with abandoning the plan and changing my artwork throughout the process to get the best piece I can. And after the unprecedented year we’ve all experienced, I think I’m ok with that in life too.