Have You Become A Master Of More Trades During Lockdown?

I’ve Donned My Carpenter’s Hat & Had Some Fun!

Van Gogh's Chair, 1888 by Van Gogh
Van Gogh’s Chair, 1888 by Van Gogh

Over the last year, many of us have been at a loss as to what to do with our time, forcing us to think of new ways to be productive and make us more self-sufficient, as we’ve not been able to socialize as much. Although I am an artist from an academic background, I am also very practical and can turn my hand to most trades, from plumbing to decorating to carpentry and welding. I find this work very satisfying and although much slower than the professional, the end results are usually of a pretty good professional standard.

It is, funnily enough, very common for artists to become masters of many trades, perhaps because they are constantly searching of ways to make money. Van Gogh is a great example of this, he failed at multiple jobs before becoming a successful artist, picking up experience in teaching, mining and even time as a pastor.

Another more contemporary artist with a similar mindset is Richard Serra, celebrated sculptor. He teamed up with fellow NYC art buddies in the 1960s and founded his moving company ‘Low-Rate Movers’ – Serra said “It was a good job because none of us would work more than two or three days a week, so we had the remaining days to do our own work,”. You can certainly see where Serra’s sculptural inspiration came from after knowing he was surrounded by heavy furniture for half of the week.

Richard Serra Cycle, 2011 Gagosian Gallery
Richard Serra Cycle, 2011 Gagosian Gallery

Artists may find that by experiencing other trades and trying their hand at things other than their craft, their practice is more informed and in-touch with what’s going on in the world. Barbara Kruger who we know for socially relevant and provoking conceptual art, also had a successful writing and graphic design career. She wrote articles for Artforum, reviews for music, film and television and worked for many years at Condé Nast where she became head designer. Barbara also taught at Berkeley University in 1967 and perhaps all these elements of her career supported her practice as a Conceptual Artist.

We Don’t Need Another Hero] – Barbara Kruger – 1986
We Don’t Need Another Hero] – Barbara Kruger – 1986

I think that over lockdown, many individuals with limited artistic experience prior to the pandemic will have started painting now that they have more time on their hands. Perhaps these lockdown artists will emerge and become highly successful due to picking up a new trade. I definitely believe that being interested in multiple aspects of creative trades helps me in my practice.

Not to sound too much like a Sainsbury’s advert but why not try something new, you might love it and even find that doing so could improve your work in other fields. I’ve just had a week off painting to build myself a bathroom cabinet out of teak floorboards. As I haven’t done any cabinet making for about 30 years, I’m pretty pleased with the result,  I’ll link the video below – just might inspire you!

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