COVID-19 Outbreak: Coping With Isolation

Episode 117 · March 21st, 2020 · 53 mins 35 secs

About this Episode

When the news media first mentioned the coronavirus spreading through China, few of us in the rest of the world realized the huge impact it would have. A few months later we face quarantines and severe economic consequences and many of us are facing isolation, boredom, and anxiety, as well as financial stress. In this episode we address how the current measures implemented to contain COVID-19 have affected our lives as artists, as well as ideas for coping in this time of uncertainty and change.

Currently Rebecca is in quarantine in New Mexico, fortunately without symptoms. She did have to cut her time in Ireland short and return to the United States before the suspension of international travel. This meant canceling a workshop, an important source of income, and spending the next two weeks confined to her home. Like many other artists, she has also canceled other upcoming workshops and travel.

The pandemic now affects every aspect of our lives as artists, from the postponed or canceled events and galleries on the economic brink, to the need to shelter in place, possibly apart from our studios, and the loss of personal contact with other artists. It can be hard to focus on our work when we are feeling anxious and distracted by the constant flow of bad news, and worries about ourselves and our loved ones.

There is much about the current situation that is unknown and beyond our control. But concentrating on what we can control, including our attitudes is the key to staying mentally healthy. Even though many things now seem hopeless and frightening, there are also positive aspects to the situation on which to focus. Acting in generous ways, thinking of how to help others, and realizing we're all in this together can all help with remaining on track. For many of us, a spiritual component is critical to maintaining the right attitude to survive and thrive in the midst of a catastrophe. Technology is a help in many aspects of what we're now dealing with, and spirituality is no exception. Whatever your spiritual philosophy, there is an app that will send you daily devotionals, meditations, or affirmations. Spend some time every morning reading these rather than the latest COVID-19 news. This will set the tone for the rest of the day. The news is important, but it can wait a few minutes.

As artists we are very fortunate to have the commitment to our work to help us in this time of isolation. Some of us are lucky enough to have ongoing access to our studios, but if not it may help to remember times when you created in less than ideal circumstances, as most of us did starting out. We can value the chance to catch up on projects, do some online learning, or delve into some idea that has been on the back burner. For many of us, our time in the studio is now our own, without the need to prepare for upcoming exhibits or meet other outside demands., and there is a certain freedom to that. We may also be able to catch up on projects that have fallen by the wayside. because we don’t find them very fulfilling, like bookkeeping or cleaning; clearing out a backlog of such chores is a good feeling.

Besides more time in the studio, many of us also have more time with our families. Try to establish a routine to help you make the most of this time, including as much time as possible to your art. Adjusting to working in your studio while caring for school aged children who are now at home will be difficult, but there are many educational resources online to help. Your kids may also enjoy making some art with you, and learning about what you do.

Financial difficulty will hit many of us and create a great deal of anxiety. One suggestion is to develop a new income stream related to your art practice now, such as an online course, a mentoring program, or instructional video series. An art course aimed at children might be especially appropriate at this time. Think about what your specialized niche might be and have confidence that most artists have an insatiable thirst for learning and improving. While it will take weeks or longer to develop something worth charging for, starting now is a smart move. Even the isolation imposed by COVID-19 ends soon, we'll be feeling the economic strain for some time.

We are all currently faced with enormous changes and challenges, and it's all happening fast. Some people will sit at home, hypnotized by the television, waiting for this all to be over. But others will use this time to improve their work, improvise with what they do have, and address neglected aspects of their lives.

To quote the late Toni Morrison:
"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We do language. (or in this case, art…) That is how civilizations heal."

Here are some great learning resources for you...

Access to your library online:

MIT's open courseware platform:

Skillshare has a banner ad at the top of the screen for two months of premium for free:

Here is a list of free resources put together by Forbes:

For more Messy Studio:

For more from Rebecca Crowell:

The Messy Studio Podcast is a CORE Publication MGMT production.