Becky Blair, who was to be AOH May 2020 brochure cover artist, tells us about life in lockdown

Hi Becky, last weekend would have seen the start of the AOH festival, for which you were to be the May 2020 brochure cover artist. As plans have now been inevitably delayed for a few months, due to the coronavirus, we wondered if you would like to tell us a bit about what you are doing during lockdown?

I am so excited about being this year’s AOH cover artist and since the start of January I have been putting a lot of energy into preparing my work and my house to be part of the AOH festival. So the lock down definitely came as a bit of a shock and has initiated a dramatic change in gear! Due to my health situation with Lupus I am identified as vulnerable so I am 90% of the time in my home and can’t use my studio at the Phoenix for now. Luckily with all the preparation for Artist Open Houses, our house is looking very lovely. I have created a makeshift studio in our back bedroom that feels like a secret cave of creativity. At the very start of lock down I decided to run a fun Instagram competition to win a mini artwork every weekday which I have called the Postcard Project. It’s a very simple idea, every morning I post a small watercolour painting and ask for people to suggest a title. I choose a winner the following day and pop it in the post. I find the routine of this keeps me going and I love connecting with people online and then also through good old snail mail! People are really enjoying receiving their little paintings in the post.

Do you feel it has changed the way you work?

Yes! Definitely! The Postcard Project has led me into my current series of larger works on paper that I have called ‘Love In The Time Of Social Distancing’. It’s challenging keeping my creative practise going at home as there are so many distractions. But I also think there is an interesting flow from the home environment time into my work. Motifs, marks and symbols are evolving as I paint in my garden and in my house. A hand motif has been borne out of my tree motif, and this feels like a gift from Juno, a symbol of social distancing that I can use to play and explore visually this dreamlike time. Lines between work and home are blurred and we are living an alternate reality we never knew could exist. I think this echoes in the work I am making and hopefully this resonates with what so many of us globally are experiencing.

Do you think being a creative person has been helpful in any way during this period of imposed isolation?

Yes and no! Ha! We certainly have a lot of art and craft materials to play with! But I usually get lots of time alone and I am not getting any!  My husband is working from home and my daughter can’t go to school. But I love being around them and we are finding ways to all have head space. I think it’s challenging for everyone, but I am very grateful to be able to paint through this lock down. I find the creative head space a real retreat from stress and worry. I love the freedom and joy that I experience when painting, it’s a very comforting place for me.

Are there any positive things that you feel this experience has taught you?

Having your habits and routines turned upside down is hard. But I like to focus on the positives, nature is getting a break and most of us have had life slowed down and simplified which I think could be really beneficial going forward. My friends and family are a huge part of my life, and missing them has really revealed how connected we all are and how lucky I am to live in a city like Brighton where there are so many creative, open minded and interesting people.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

I am really looking forward to the summer months and hopefully the chance to get back into my studio. It’s very exciting to consider where this new body of work will take me when I get to paint on the larger canvases. I imagine that I will have a completely new body of work for the AOH in October, and we will open our house finally for the first time! In the mean time I will be taking part in the Artist Online Houses this weekend, and also check out my Postcard Project on my Instagram page @beckyblairartist . This will run till the end of May, you could win a mini artwork- a momento from this extraordinary time!