The First 3 COVID Curveballs in My Art Life


I can still remember the exact moment, in the 4th year of my BFA degree, where the lightbulb went off and my brain went hey, maybe I can do this art thing!

.At this point, even though I knew I wanted to be an artist, my desire had been taken so casually and poked fun of so much growing up that I had pretty much decided that failure was inevitable and I should just not try. I could use my degree to find something somewhat art-related, like an admin in an art gallery or something, and not worry about it from there. When I was in one of my last classes of my degree, though, my professor told us the story of all the trials and tribulations he went through and how rewarding his life has been because of it. And then I thought, well shit... I know this is going to be really hard, but why not at least try, and be able to say that I tried my best?

When I decided to take this leap and give it my all, instead of my maybe-one-day, I knew there was going to be curveballs. That being said, I've recently been experiencing some unexpected COVID-19 related curveballs with my decision (making them much curvier than originally anticipated). This is the first three I’ve really had to fight with, and what I’ve learned from each of them.

No in-person grad show.

For example, one really big blow that COVID dealt me was the abrupt cancellation of my in-person final BFA grad show. I was expecting this to be an important head-start, as my art was supposed to be in front of at least a couple hundred people, and give me a great opportunity to chat with whoever was there about my work. All the work you made during your degree was essentially a build up to this, your first “big show”. As the day drew closer, however, and it started to dawn on me that this crucial opportunity might not end up getting to happen, I felt really, really cheated. Combined with the panic I was starting to feel about COVID, I really felt like I was starting my adult life on the wrong foot, and it knocked the wind out of my sails. However, since then I’ve learned that online tools are awesome for artists, and that all things considered, still being able to have a grad show online meant more people likely saw the show than the amount that would have if it was in-person only.

Your favourite way to make art? Yeah, stop doing that actually.

Due to the pandemic, I also lost my ability to practice printmaking, as I was using a public studio in the university to do so. To suddenly lose my favourite form of doing my favourite thing was so incredibly jarring, and at first I had no idea how I was going to continue as an artist. However, this sudden limitation forced me to take my process in a completely different direction, and I started painting, for the first time in years, outside on my balcony. Looking back, although I still love printmaking and plan to return to it as soon as I'm able to, bringing my art to a much more personal place has, in turn, forced it grow in ways I would never imagined, and ways that I'm very proud of.

I don’t need a million Instagram followers, but an account might come in handy.

The pandemic also gave me a bit of a kick in the butt to take Instagram more seriously. I had a very dead art Instagram account in April, and I wasn't sure I was ever going to really need to use it; I wanted to focus on gallery exhibitions and figured I would just apply until someone liked my art enough to show it off. However, as COVID began to unfold, there was a lot of speculation in the art community that artists would need to focus their efforts on sharing their practice online. This is what made me realize that, well, more audience potential definitely exists online, and that having a social media platform can open doors to opportunities you would have never thought possible had it not been for the internet.

Recently, I've found the COVID stress to be a lot on my productivity, but I'm doing my best to not be too hard on myself. I think above all, this pandemic has taught me lessons in patience, resilience, and flexibility, and I'm sure it still has a lot more to teach me as it continues to unravel.

Thanks for checking in this week,