Today the National Gallery of Ireland is urging us to “Go Big and Stay Home”, to pick up a pencil or paintbrush and express ourselves, anyway, anyhow, for National Drawing Day 2020. I’m tempted to think of the Carrie Bradshaw line, “When Big colours he rarely stays inside the lines,” which, though out of context, probably applies to most of our skills – dormant since mid-teens when art was considered a non-academic subject and thus jettisoned when studying for Junior Cert or GCSE.
Yet the fact is lockdown has not only provided endless time to spy on other people’s lives via Instagram and Zoom, but also for many to show off some nascent art skills. For both voyeur and the viewed, it’s a win win, perhaps heralding a new Arts and Crafts era, one which has been encouraged by television channels and endorsed by fashion brands and museums.
And there is simply no excuse not to have a go. You can’t escape an art programme urging us to embrace our inner artist. That’s the aim of Turner-prize winner Grayson Perry’s new Art Club on Channel 4, while BBC4’s Life Drawing Live is inundated with viewers sending in their versions of the weekly nude (be honest, who hasn’t had a decko?). Sky Arts, meanwhile, is re-running its Landscape and Portrait Artist Of The Year series, and the soothing Bob Ross breaks down the mystery of his idiosyncratic techniques in The Joy of Painting on BBC Four. The Jamie Oliver of arty programmes is undoubtedly Kirstie Allsopp who advises us to Keep Crafting and Carry On (Channel 4), often enlisting her family for help. Also making it all look so easy is fashion illustrator Donald Robertson, who shows the secrets of his flamboyant techniques on Instagram (@drawbertson) with the aid of masking tape, large canvases and pop art felt tips, often helped by his adorable twins.
Never slow to miss an airbrushing opportunity, celebrities have been quick to show off their skills, many already established artists. Sylvester Stallone is known for his abstract pieces, Lucy Liu’s artistic pseudonym is Yu Ling, Johnny Depp, when not in talks with his legal team, is a proficient portrait artist, Bob Dylan is a freewheelin’ impressionistic artist and Anthony Hopkins perhaps took method acting to the extreme. He played Picasso and his works are clearly influenced by the latter, with a side helping of Hannibal Lecter. Pierce Brosnan and Bono are others – the latter participating in the recent Incognito art lotto in aid of Jack & Jill Foundation.
You can’t escape an art programme urging us to embrace our inner artist.
During lockdown, Reese Witherspoon thanked her mother for bringing her art supplies. On her Instagram, she is pictured at the kitchen table studying a small bunch of flowers and recreating them in watercolours. Sharon Stone proudly showed off a peony painting “her small step at learning something” and Demi Moore was “super happy” sharing an informal image of the family paint night (their communal quarantine set up fascinates me). Supermodel Gigi Hadid, told Vanity Fair, “I love doing art and so a lot of the time I’ll be cooking and painting at the same time, and friends will be painting … I just like laughing with my friends and doing simple stuff, because everything else is so hectic.” I’m not sure I’d recommend making dinner and painting concurrently, but art and baking have combined in “focaccia art” – now apparently a thing, thanks to a professional baker called Teri Culletto from Martha’s Vineyard. She came up with the idea during a baking class in February, decorating some bread with a heart design made from vegetables for Valentine’s Day and since then she has been renowned for her “Van Dough” works; www.vineyardbaker.com.
If dressing up and posing is more appealing, then another recent trend – that of recreating a work of art with objects and people in your own home, has proved a niche pastime for the more cerebral – a relief from endless memes and TikTok dances. Institutions such as the Getty museum in California, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, have endorsed these life imitating art scenarios, which began with the Instagram account @tussenkunstenquarantine (which translates as “between art and quarantine”). Do have a look at this or @covidclassics “four roommates who love art and are indefinitely quarantined.” They are sure to raise a smile and have you looking around your own home to see what you could conjure up for a masterpiece from history.
But back to colouring in. While we may not be wearing our heels at the moment, you can download ten of Manolo Blahnik’s original shoe sketches and colour them as you wish. It’s an interesting way to learn more about the iconic styles – such as the Lyonnia sandals inspired by Blahnik’s favourite pink garden roses – and shed light on the brand’s nonprofit partner, the Mental Health Foundation, which offers tips to manage pandemic anxiety. Likewise Jimmy Choo has a weekly sketch activation in which Creative Director Sandra Choi invites people to draw their fantasy shoe designs. The winners will be announced on June 8, and five finalists will see their designs brought to life in a capsule collection. The first sketch, entitled Optimism, takes inspiration from the trees in Sandra’s garden during isolation with the tagline “let’s blossom again soon”. McQueen Creators is another weekly series conceived to “inspire and initiate creative conversation.” It began with sketching the final show-stopping “Rose” dress from the AW2019 show. Closer to home, designer Helen Cody has taken up drawing again and produced a number of beautiful works inspired by friends and fashion (and a recent GLOSS cover) which she has shared on social media and sold in aid of ARC Cancer Support.
All told, if in the 1980s, Colour Me Beautiful was the palette approach to our wardrobes, in 2020, Colour Me Happy is our lockdown mantra for mental wellbeing.
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