How art can help allay uncertainty

If uncertainty were something tangible, then the last week in North American politics would have produced enough of the stuff to last generations.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

The US elections saw many around the world refreshing the web, and/or tuning into rolling news where incremental change prolonged the agony of not knowing who would become the next president. This state of affairs became a running joke online – did you see the Zootopia sloth memes? – but it's not like 2020 has been a year running empty on uncertainty.

Not knowing what's around the corner can, of course, inspire great art. That said, those in the creative industry may not have the luxury to produce an artistic statement for the ages when bills necessitate you to find client work or a long-term contract as soon as possible. Working on such projects may be more difficult if anxiety is an issue.

Reaching out to the creative community, Creative Boom has collected five great tips to keep you going in the face of uncertainty. There is no guaranteed solution, of course, so choose as many (or as little) of these nuggets of advice from artists as you see fit. We all have different circumstances and ways of approaching artistic practice, and in the end, only you can decide what's best for yourself.

Remember the importance of what you do

As the Creative Designer for the Brigham Research Institute at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, USA, Alexandra Gallant has seen first-hand how important science communication is during a time of pandemic, supporting researchers through design and visual communication tools in several different ways.

"It has been quite a year, to say the least!" she tells Creative Boom. "Just this fall, I've designed infographics, created scientific illustrations, consulted on a digital health app, built three laboratory websites, creative directed an entirely virtual event for 3,000 people, mentored at a hackathon, designed digital infrastructure for a virtual scientific poster session, filmed a simulated bronchoscopy in an operating room and given multiple talks on graphic medicine (the intersection of comics and medicine) and design for scientists."

During this busy period, Alexandra has found it helpful to hold on "to the clarity and purpose of the work she's doing."

"Seeing how creative the medical community has been in sharing information, resources, finding solutions to problems that seemed impossible, I get to see that... scientists are exceptionally creative. Science gets us exploring and discovering and learning. Creativity does the exact same thing."

Victorian brooch with hand-painted illustration by Niki Groom

Victorian brooch with hand-painted illustration by Niki Groom

Change up your style

To keep your mind off things, why not explore your creative style? Puerto Rican illustrator Iris Cintron has been "figuring out my design style for things like branding, but also keeping things new and fresh with my illustrations."

Likewise, furniture designer Johnny Tyson reveals they've been "pushing my work further and taking more risks more often. Feels like the times are a-changing so I've got to change too!"

You can also try out new things in your life, as London illustrator Wendy Wong is doing. "Actually, having non-personal work to do is great for motivation. But my main method is not being too hard on myself by letting myself have fun with my work I'm doing."

"I've also been doing other little creative activities like gaming (I count that as creative!) and recently I've been dabbling with punch needle crafts."

Keep it personal

As illustrator George Goodwin says, maybe now is the time to "stop pushing so hard for client work." Maybe, as he's doing, you can concentrate on your personal business and brand. "I pretty much go into mental 'Xmas shop prep' at this point. Markets are all cancelled, but I'm gonna spend the time producing some new work and products for my online store."

Just as helpful as focusing on your business could be focusing on your practice itself. Lots of creatives like fashion illustrator Niki Groom have told us that personal projects are "keeping (them) sane."

"In the first lockdown, I started collecting jewellery on eBay as I missed vintage shops. It turned into a lovely project that was really different for me. I created illustrations that went inside the brooches & boxes. It kept me busy and focused."

Katy Streeter's The Great Indoors

Katy Streeter's The Great Indoors

Let art be cathartic and escapist

Buckling down on personal work can be a great way to forge forward. It can also be an effective method for exploring your feelings.

Rising editorial star Jason Lyon is making "personal work magical and escapist in nature. But," he adds, "I think they are also a reaction to current events, as well as my personal feelings and struggles. There is a recurring sense of uncertainty, mystery, and longing for something that seems unobtainable."

Illustrator Katy Streeter meanwhile has made 'The Great Indoors', a project about recreating outdoor activities in the comfort of your own home. "I always find a catharsis in humour and finding the fun in uncertain situations," she tells us.

Catharsis can also come from escapism. Cardiff illustrator Colin Kersley has been keeping busy with "6.5 million personal project ideas, born from fun or random thoughts that give me a bit of a giggle."

"It's definitely my way of trying to raise a smile or brighten other people's day – even if it's just for a second," he writes.

Artist MURUGIAH has also been using his art as escapism, "discovering a newer style of making art that involves producing bright, colourful surreal works that are completely improvised as I'm making them. It really helps with taking one's mind off of these current uncertain times."

Work by Cardiff illustrator Colin Kersley

Work by Cardiff illustrator Colin Kersley

Organise your mind

Another way to get your mind off things? Declutter all the things inside it, as motion graphics designer Hashmukh Kerai recommends.

"My biggest 'level up' during all the madness was writing down all my ideas, thoughts and goals for projects I want to do," he says. "This helped me lay things out and take a step back and not overthink things in uncertain times. The worst thing is not to give yourself mental space right now."

Agreed, Hashmukh. Sheffield artist and mural maverick Geo Law chimes in with how he's doing this with through mental and physical exercises.

"Never thought I'd be this guy, but meditation, mindfulness and exercise helped me during the first lockdown," he reveals. "Calm the mind so you can look at things with a clear lens, then find inspiration and creative energy without the panic mode kicking in. Some of my best stuff came out of this."

"It was something I was considering for a while, but the lockdown was the best motivator to look into it more and practice, especially on the meditation side, through a combination of YouTube videos and asking friends who practice various methods."

"I've been dedicating 40 minutes a day of trying and practising. Exercise is great, but the mind also needs some tender loving care too."


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