Confinement & cul-de-sacs…


”A time of gifts’ © Mari French 2020

I’ve never left my blog unwritten for such a long time before. It’s good to be back. In the past few months of the Covid crisis, I just haven’t been able to summon up the will or the words to write about my art. As for the art itself, like many artists in these strange times, I’ve been floundering around a little lost for a while. With 3 exhibitions cancelled/moved online, Open Studios also cancelled, galleries closed etc, it’s hardly surprising I suppose. It’s not that I haven’t been painting, and I’ve made myself go to the studio to do something a few times a week at least, it’s just that each spurt of creative activity – sketching, collage, painting – has seemed to fizzle out after a short time. Cul-de-sacs I’ve started to call them.

However, each little cul-de-sac has produced some interesting results, so perhaps they hold some promise for a future way forward; like one of those narrow hidden footpaths you can often use for access to the area beyond the cul-de-sac, the one cars can’t take.


Ploughed fields & tree belt, near Anmer. Sketchbook. © Mari French 2020

With anything more than a long walk forbidden here in the UK, in the last few months, coastal visits weren’t an option (I live 20 minutes drive from the beautiful North Norfolk coastline, where the reedbeds and saltmarshes are a great source of inspiration), I’ve been out sketching the local fields and farmland – something I haven’t really done since moving to Norfolk 10 years ago.

I loved the way the early spring sunshine caught the ploughed fields, exaggerating the russet and ochres of the sand and chalk soil. And the hares were out in force chasing each other in large groups. I haven’t taken these any further though, hopefully at some future point…


Ploughed field, Anmer Road, with flint. © Mari French 2020

Meanwhile, at the airbase, outside my studio, is a large cherry tree which was covered in deep pink blossom back in March. It was only when a glorious deep pink started to appear in a series of small experimental works on paper, that I realised how the blossom had entered my subconscious. These works look great on some lovely small white cradled wooden panels I’ve bought. I really enjoyed these but as I said, it wasn’t long before I started to flounder. I keep going back to them, so they’re going to get picked up again at some point.

Later in spring, mostly confined to my garden (I know, I’m lucky compared to many) and with almost a month of warm sunshine, my glorious tulips, ‘La belle époque’, just had to be sketched. Then in the studio, I set about abstracting them, in both mixed media and collage, which I enjoyed, before (yes you guessed it) I once again hit a cul-de-sac. Still, I’m excited by the potential of these small works so who knows.

Below is the mixed media collage I produced as part of this abstract tulip work  (all the papers using in it were created by myself, including the calligraphy). Which reminds me I haven’t posted the experimental collage I was developing back in February before the virus hit, so I’ll add them to the next post (it won’t take as long as this one post did I promise!).


‘Palimpsest’, mixed media collage © Mari French 2020

7 thoughts on “Confinement & cul-de-sacs…

  1. Despite your “cul de sac”, you have made some nice work, so don’t be disheartened. From the online discussions with my artist, writer, and musician friends, the “cul de sac” syndrome you mention is affecting many of us. Many of us are not allowed access to our usual places of work, and so quite a few of us have spent some of the lockdown creating alternative places at home. In my case, I’ve focussed more on writing for the next anthology of poems by The Corby Collective, and experimenting with my music gear. Most of my attempts at visual art have become stuck on a circular one way system! Because The Rooftop Arts Centre is about to hold an online exhibition, deadline next weekend, I’ve challenged myself to paint a couple of 60 x 60 canvasses(one arriving today, the second on Tuesday!) with whatever I have to hand… wish me luck!

    • Thanks so much for your kind support and for sharing your own experience Martin. You’re right about artists turning to alternative forms of creative outlet, like music, writing, etc. It all feeds back into the subconscious resource that we draw on for our art, I feel. Good luck with the online show and the large canvases! I’m tackling a 72 x 36 inch one right now – a commission, which isn’t to be too abstract and is of a place I’ve never been, from a photo which I never usually do. A challenge to say the least! If it wasn’t for a dear relative I wouldn’t have taken it on, but I’m convinced we learn even from the work we don’t like/want to do. Best wishes, Mari.

    • That’s pretty annoying Stephen, and puzzling too. I’m sorry about that. I’ll look into it, see if I can work out what’s going on. I looked at your website and I like your work by the way. Best wishes.

    • I’ve just added your web address to the ‘trusted sites’ in my blog settings. It might be worth having another go. Let me know how you get on. If it doesn’t work I’ll try something else.

  2. I am absolutely with you with regard to loss of inspiration at this time. I had a solo exhibition delayed and two mixed ones cancelled. I haven’t painted anything meaningful since March. I see to be more creative in other more DIY ways… perhaps it’s just boondoggling, but easier when you don’t have to use your head so much. I have written a couple of things and created a short video with my music and photos… So the creative side definitely wants out! Keep on sketching, you’ll get there… I must say I really liked your purple/pink ones. Interesting. Good luck.

    • Thanks for your comment and observations Stephen. I think you’re right about allowing the creative side to emerge in other areas if that’s what works, a few artist friends have mentioned pouring their energies into music, gardening etc instead/as well. It’s important not to beat ourselves up about struggling with work just now, but that’s easier said than done, and it helps immensely to realise other artists are going through just the same thing. Thanks for the encouragement!

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