Life and Creativity in Pandemic Times

May 16th, 2020
Life and Creativity in Pandemic Times

It’s the end of the world as we knew it. Are you feeling fine?

The year 2020 began, as most of us aim to, on high hopes. Personally, I was about to celebrate two years of a stable day job, continuing illustration work on the side, and finally looking forward to purchase some land to work and rest my bones on. We had just returned from a family trip to Spain which, in hindsight, proved to be timely since now we don’t know when —or if ever— we will accomplish something similar again. All in all, life was going along as it usually goes. Until last mid-March.

At first, the news of the coronavirus disease stricking the city of Wuhan weren’t much a concern for us because, well, China is physically and culturally half a world away, right? But we forgot diseases today take airplanes for a ride. And some weeks after, all hell broke loose for real.

While my country has, at the time of this writing, thankfully reported very few deaths compared to the rest of neighboring countries, the rest of effects have been equally devastating across the economy, with no inmediate end in sight. Right at my workplace —which deals a lot with travel and tourism, of all things—, at least about half of jobs were slashed and those of us remaining are doing so on work and pay cuts. Experts already warn of a Great-Great-Great Depression coming at us like a tidal wave, leaving the former one of the 1930s in the dust. Our grandparents or parents can’t say they have ever experienced this before. And of course, there’s the fact that unveiling a safe treatment or vaccine against the virus is, at the very least, a full year or so away. How are you supposed to keep on high spirits with all of this going on?

Have things really, really changed?

For many people around the world, that’s a resounding yes, and brutally so. Millions of people suddenly unemployed is never a pretty sight. But as far as my own life experience is concerned, not much. We illustrators used to do remote work from our home studios / offices long before this suddenly became the New Normal for everybody else. Most Illustrators are freelancers and therefore not committed to working at an external office, and the Cabin Fever syndrome many are now suffering is something almost unheard of among creative folks. We have typically been introvert, homebody types for most of our lives and have found in creativity a big asset that keeps our sanity at bay. This, plus having solid financial reserves due to years of disciplined investing and savings, have proved being a valuable asset for not losing my head completely and I think most artist folks would agree.

The emotional rollercoaster is still there

For all of the joys keeping ourselves busy can provide us in these trying times, there are always moments when you just lose your drive, your enthusiasm, and writhe into sadness and despair. One day I can rip through work with the unbridled power of a million suns, and the next I may not have the slightest desire to even touch a pencil. Us humans have always been social creatures that respond to being together, to share feelings together, and to touch and hug each other while at it — precisely everything we cannot do now under actual circumstances, not even with our extended families.

The thought of putting masks on my characters is depressing. All what were considered normal arguments and settings for a comic or illustrated story now sound like something from a strange world millions of years away. No one knows when or how this pandemic will end, even if historical records give us a 2-3 year window in average. Maybe I should consider working with antromorphized animal characters? (after all, no one complains about animals not carrying masks, and some just look cute with one.) Anyway, how do you pick yourself up and find inspiration to work and create new things on these strange times of forced isolation? This is something I would really like to hear about.

Life after the storm

I personally prefer not to go overhead thinking about all the wild future projections people are making “when all of this is over”. All I can say is — whatever the outcome ends up being, I sincerely hope it doesn’t involve carrying a mask and social distancing everywhere. For all of my longtime housebound self, I’m already missing seeing my friends in real life. And I surely miss going places. Traveling, even if just to another town or place, brings us a much-needed spark of joy and enthusiasm for creativity that is becoming hard to get while trapped inside our homes. But until next time —quoting talk show host Trevor Noah, a favorite recent discovery— stay safe out there, wash your hands, and remember: as long as you are living and breathing in full and smelling and tasting things, there’s hope.