Creativity and new directions in post-lockdown times

Teresa Flavin with Free Little Library community book exchange she painted in 2021

With the Free Little Library in 2021.

It might seem a little bit early to review my life at the beginning of December, but we’re coming up to the turn of this unusual year, a time for gratitude and reflection. Being extra tuned into the health and wellbeing of people close to me is something I’ve become used to, even as we balance renewed caution with some semblance of normality. Because many friends and family live far away, 2020-21 has been very challenging and I am incredibly grateful that everyone in my wider circle has navigated these times safely. I am also very happy to have rediscovered my own creativity and wellbeing after so much uncertainty.

If you’re wondering whether I baked amazing sourdough bread or learned a new language during our long lockdown from January to April – well, no, I did not. It was enough to exercise daily, be with close ones and keep our spirits up during that long winter. If you read this post from last year, you’ll recall that I managed to write the first draft of a middle grade novel. And if you read this one, you’ll see that it needed a lot of work! That revision work was interrupted last winter, in a pleasant way, by a new nonfiction children’s book commission. I loved doing the research for the project and tackling a new writing challenge over winter and spring. It’s art related and you will hear much more before its publication next May.

Positive change and gratitude

In January I threw my creative hat into the ring to work on a very cool local community project called the Free Little Library and ended up doing a lot of painting in a garage during the icy spring. You can read all about that project here. And the outdoor work/play continued. In June I set myself a little daily challenge to paint in our garden. It was overwhelmed with a crazy number of wildflowers that were taller than I am. I absolutely loved working outdoors in a mixed media sketchbook with freedom and joy. You can see a selection here. The project generated more than 100 miniature compositions that I began to develop into a collection of larger paintings. (If you are interested in hearing about my new painting collections before anyone else does, please sign up for my newsletter.)

Sketchbook by Teresa Flavin in a forest

Into the wild woods.

And what about revising that middle grade novel? Well, I inched back into that with the help of my sketchbook. In July I headed into our local woods and began painting. The novel is set in some magical woods so what better way back into that world than to immerse myself in my own real life woodland? On the second day I managed to get absolutely drenched in thunderstorms but it gave me some unforgettable firsthand experience for the novel!

September brought an unexpected and wonderful passion project. Several artists on Instagram, including Este Macleod, set a monthlong creative challenge called Coloricombo to make images using fifteen delicious pairs of colours. Participants had two days to create a response to such evocative prompts as “carrot and coffee”, “mint and pink salt” and “kohl and cantaloupe”. I fell in love with this challenge, especially after the first few days when I landed on the idea to paint Victorian fashionistas inspired by the Sanderson Collection of fashion ephemera at Leeds Central Library. By the end of September I had a collection of 12 colourfully turned out ladies in Coloricombo palettes. The response to them was so positive, I decided to offer a selection of them as prints for sale. Not only that, but several friends suggested that I create prints from some of my garden sketchbook pages. With the help of several great artist friends, I began to put together small collections of original art and art prints for sale. It feels important to share my work with others in this way, to find new homes for the pictures I’ve made in this most unusual time.

One of my Coloricombo ladies.

Late September and October brought the return (at long last!) of travel to see family and friends in Scotland and New England. Seeing everyone with my own eyes after so long was more wonderful than I can express. Upon my return, I got to work on building an online shop for my art and prints collections. It’s been a big learning curve but with the support of many friends and advisers, my little shop came to life. You can visit it here!

Autumn also brought the new academic year and I returned to being a Visiting Lecturer working with students from Illustration and Creative Writing at Leeds Arts University. It’s been fantastic to engage with talented young people and their projects again!

As I write this, the sky is dark with clouds but the chilly air is lovely. The days will soon start to lengthen again and I can’t wait to be back outside with my paints and sketchbook. I feel immense gratitude for nature, for my eyes that can see and my hands that can write and paint. This year has not only taught me to cherish health, creativity and wellbeing but to live life as fully as I can even if that life is made smaller by outside forces.

Wishing you and all your loved ones good health, good spirits and a safe journey into the next adventure!