The lockdown has impacted on artists and their practice in so many ways and while many have looked towards digital strategies, David Theobald LG a digital artist, picked up a pencil.
For many years, my artistic practice has consisted primarily of digital animation and moving image. At the start of ‘lockdown’ I did not really think that my working day would change. My studio is in the loft at the top of my house and the materials and tools that I use are entirely digital and online. Further, in terms of subject matter, Covid-19 represented the kind of intersection of nature and technology that lay at the heart of much of my work. I reasoned that all the pieces seemed to be in place to make the best use of this period of enforced confinement to be creative. I set to work immediately and started developing an idea that explored the origins of the pandemic. Working with computers and software is engrossing, but complicated and usually extremely time consuming and I estimated that, with application, I might be able to create the new work by the end of lockdown.
However, within a couple of days I stopped. Something had changed. It was something about the confinement, the desire to be physically located closer to the other members of my household and a wish to be outside. However, it was also about a sudden desire for a workflow that had a simplicity and directness and that would generate a result much more quickly.
So I picked up a pencil. To me, this was a seismic shift as I’d been working digitally for about fifteen years and had not tried drawing anything since my foundation year at art school. What I was particularly interested in was the problem of how to collapse what I saw around me into two dimensions on a piece of paper. In that sense, my pencil had taken the place of the 3-D rendering software that I normally used to execute this task.
From the outset I set myself some parameters. As I decided to only draw from life I was limited to subjects that were directly accessible – that meant house interiors, back garden landscapes, self-portraits looking in a mirror and still life arrangements. In terms of media I had access to pencils, coloured crayons, chalk and charcoal and oil pastels. I quickly got into a routine where, every other day I would set up a portable table and sketch for three or four hours, completing a drawing in a single session.
As a set of drawings , I think they are only of interest when viewed in context as a personal record of a specific place and a psychological reaction to such a strange time. But maybe that is enough.
As lockdown has eased, I’ve been able to venture outside to the river and park, but the constant urge to draw has started to dissipate and the frequency of my trips has declined. I am not sure where all this leaves my artistic practice. I may end up looking back on this period as just a one-off exercise in ‘mindfulness’ and a diary of a strange time. However, I have not had the urge to go back ‘in the loft’ so perhaps this might even lead to a more permanent change in my practice. Time will tell.
David Theobald LG, Jun 2020