After a full month in lockdown and totally dependent on my computer to keep me connected to the world, I'm feeling a sort of strange fogginess that is a mixture of not knowing what day it is most days and scheduling myself too much as a teacher.
I used to teach in person, in the ever popular Victoria & Albert Museum in their wonderful Cast Courts. It's been over two months since I travelled to London to run my Friday evening events and it feels so strange.
I moved right before the lockdown and have been staying with my boyfriend at his new place which he just moved into also right before lockdown so his flat is in a state of unpacked boxes and bags with no way to update his new place. Because I've been staying with him, I'm not where I normally live and have limited clothes and art supplies. I miss so many of my belongings and can't wait to be reunited with the rest of my clothes and my bed with all the comfy pillows and all my wonderful art supplies.
Teaching online as an art teacher is brainwashing and though I love teaching my students, I wish for the days when I'll be able to work with them in the same room so I can see their work instead of trying to discern their faint marks via a video screen.
Zoom exhausts me. Just being online exhausts me and yet I can't escape as my life is zoom.
I need to go to a dentist to have a root canal redone and I'm really aware of the waiting and waiting causing potentially irreversible damage to an already damaged tooth so I take painkillers and distract myself.
How is this crisis happening in my lifetime? I'm still baffled by this and each morning it feels shocking to remember on waking that life isn't normal anymore and that it's probably the same shared thoughts of thousands of others around the world.
There's talk that next week the UK government will start the process of bringing us out of lockdown and I still can't imagine how this will go or how our lives will still be impacted by these events. I've enjoyed staying with my boyfriend and look forward to actually properly moving in with him but hopefully after he's had a chance to make his new flat a home with all the improvements he's talked about. Until then, I hope I can get a few months of time in my attic making art projects, listening to audiobooks and maintaining my online teaching and hopefully returning to teaching in person too.
It's been a strange time in lockdown and it's taught me a lot about who I am, what I need in life and those I want by my side. Very different values than what I had before lockdown, that's for sure.
One thing I love about lockdown are the long walks in the countryside that we've been doing and the strange routine that's kept myself and my boyfriend in place each day. It's going to be difficult when I return to my attic.
Artistically, I'm currently fixated on making a forest in a terrarium so I can have my very own personal forest to draw from. I think this is a feeling of not being able to grow things during lockdown. I'm also in the process of building a paper fairy house miniature which is an attempt to use only materials everyone has in their homes.
Otherwise, in my studio practice, I'm untethered and all my former creative projects are on hold so I feel disconnected and unfocused. I should be keeping up with social media and posting to keep my followers interested, but I feel like a boat caught on a windless sea........
February has flown by and I'm tired as it seems that I have too much to do in one week and for an unemployed freelance artist, it feels odd as compared to earlier decades when I was employed full time, I think I actually had more time even though my time was someone else's......I'm not making sense.
Being this Franceska.....age forty-four (how did I get to this age so fast?) - I run art events on Fridays and some weekends and they're full on to the point that after two hours of teaching, I feel wiped out for 24 hours afterwards!
During the week - Mondays to Thursdays, I split my time between admin for my events, admin for my artist career, admin trying to find a part time job and occasionally I create something in 2d or 3d and post it on instagram.....in the meantime, I'm about to move again (with my landlady and her other lodger) to another part of St. Albans (by mid March) and then if all goes well a few months later, I'll be moving again to live with my boyfriend which is quite exciting but feels like a long way off. So everything is in semi chaos.....the attic I rent at our current place is old and falling apart and since moving in last August, I've not really unpacked.....so I live on top of myself and constantly can't find anything which is driving me crazy.
In an effort to get rid of the constant chaos, I've been working for the past few weeks to live a more minimalistic way so I've been organising everything I own, getting rid of lots of unused things and rethinking how I structure my home art studio in my bedroom and how I'd like to live vs how I have been living.
I've not posted any artwork on Instagram for ages simply because I've not had time to make anything and I long to draw, paint and sculpt but once I'm moved in a few weeks and able to unpack, then hopefully I'll be able to catch up with myself.
So I've been trying to get a Monday & Tuesday part time job and have been approaching the local temp agencies here in St. Albans with various levels of frustration.....I went into a temp agency in person and was told that I couldn't speak to someone in person and that I had to email first to get an appointment.....so I went outside onto the pavement and emailed them through their front window to ask for an appointment......this has happened twice now with two completely different temp agencies and has resulted in no work but lots of stupid unnecessary emails back and forth asking what location I wanted and trying to arrange for appointments. If this is how they conduct themselves, I don't feel very confident of finding work with these agencies.....so the search goes on.
I saw an advertisement for a part time position at the Museum of St. Albans a few weeks ago and immediately got online and downloaded and printed off their job application and filled it in, scanned it back in and emailed it to the contact details provided......and waited and waited and waited.....and then was advised by the Jobcentre to physically visit them in person to show them how eager I was and to find out how the application was going. I visited the museum in the old Town Hall.....and was told to visit the Civic Centre instead as apparently they deal with applications.....so I went to the Civic Centre and was told to go to the museum.....so I went to the Roman museum instead, thinking that maybe they were the best museum to talk to.....and was told to go to the Civic Centre.....so I reached out to the Facebook group for "All Things St. Albans" to find out where I could check on my application and the museum responded and told me to email them......so I did.....and they said that they could only see one record of my application being emailed and no other communication from me .......so I told them that my attempts to reach them had been in person not online and they responded that they would respond to my application in a few months if they thought I'd be a good fit for the job........JOB SEARCHING IS STUPID!!!!
So I'm going to focus on my events in London and see if I can just add more events rather than trying to find a part time job during the week which is more work, less money and not dependable at all.
As a side note: I'm back to creative writing again and have been slowly writing a series of children's books and working on my own illustrations to them......I'm taking it slow as it's been over twenty years since I last published anything and want to enjoy the process for the journey that it is, rather than the product.
Everything I do feels like a crazy scheme to make money and survive.....I feel like it's a fairground ride that's gone wrong and I want to get off. I want to be financially comfortable and have a full day off to just lie around reading magazines and eating sliced fruit with not a worry in the world....but that sounds like nonsense compared to everything I've got to accomplish and the idea of taking time off sounds utterly impossible.
To make things that much more exciting, I've had to find a dentist because a tooth that was previously given a root canal over a decade ago by a crap dentist, has developed an infection deep down in my jaw because apparently a bit of root was never removed all those years ago. As I'm on Universal Credit, I'm an NHS patient and the only option to me is to have the tooth pulled....but because I don't want to have to just resort to pulling teeth, I've decided to sign on as a private patient in a futile effort to save the afflicted tooth so I've been scheduled to enjoy a root canal redoing session next Tuesday afternoon which terrifies me but has to be done......and will cost me between £770 to £970 over a period of months.....which I'll have to pay using my meager earnings from my events which are not dependable and make me wish I could have a successful job search and find a part time job that could let me sign off from the Jobcentre once and for all.....I've been dirt poor and on benefits and struggling like this for six years.
If one more person says....."have you tried this....." or "it'll get better soon...", I'll murder them!
Another side note: I've been trying to create non sugar recipes and have this evening made a rather successful cashew, pistachio, cacao and date spread that is a little fruity but very similar to a chocolate spread so I'm focussing on small victories like this one!
To battle my Fibromyalgia, which I neglect often as life gets in the way, I've used a voucher for a (nearly) free Swedish massage so I'm hopeful the therapist can unknot my spine and limbs over the weekend!
I hope that my next blog entry in a months time, details how wonderful it is to have signed off from the Jobcentre and to be earning more than enough money to cover all my living expenses and begin to save as well as that would be something to look forward to and make this crazy fairground ride worth the unexpected dives and lurches.
Been a bit of a challenge trying to work out a routine so that I can accomplish all my duties for my freelance practice while also taking time to be in studio and find something worth writing about for my blog.
My practice revolves around my meetup groups, London Art Museum Creatives, London Art & Culture Group and Art Peace Activists which are primarily weekend adventures as I need several days to manage the admin for these groups as well as the general admin of being an artist and this doesn't even touch on just being in studio and making art! But with my schedule up and running for February, I feel a bit more organised and ready to try to manage the artist side of my life and this blog!
While all this admin stuff has been going on, I've kept myself creative and though I don't currently have any active commissions at the moment, I've given myself projects to accomplish and to keep my skills up to date. One such project is an accordion sketchbook in which I'm creating a narrative all about a tree because I love patterns and trees! I'm not sure yet what will happen on the other side of these pages but for now my tree is "unfolding" to reveal more and more secrets in its branches.
My studio is also my bedroom and on one side of the room is a line of suitcases and containers with my art supplies because this is a temporary living situation which I'm really struggling with at the moment as I'm not used to living in such disorder for so long. This frustration is having an impact on my creative process. Though it would make sense for anyone else to go to a coffee shop to draw, it doesn't work well for me as I have all my supplies here in this room and often what I want to work with, would be too messy or smelly for a coffee shop so I feel like I've had my wings clipped and only fantasise that hopefully one day, I'll have simple freedoms again and be able to paint or sculpt without being so restricted.
I've got an idea for another miniature imaginative abode.......so I've been collecting oyster shells and unusual cardboard containers! More to follow on this idea later.....
Procrastinating doing admin earlier, found me sharpening and organising all of my pencils in my roll up which was rather satisfying!
Well, I've done all my admin for several days as well as this blog post, so I'm now going to repair some miniature dragon eggs which you can view later on my Instagram: @Mirmarnia & @Toothpickmuse
Stay tuned for next months post and thank you for taking an interest in my studio practice!
As always, if you simply love what I do and wish to support my practice then feel free to check out my shop on Inktale to purchase my artwork on products: inktale.com/franceska-mccullough
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. Here I will share my studio practice in all it's forms.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.