Your opportunity to put your creativity to the test is a daily undertaking these days thanks to unprecedented social and economic change – and a global health threat. London-based Street Artist and fine artist Phlegm says that he has been finding his balance while staying inside with his pregnant partner and two-year-old son – or at least trying to.
Balancing internal worries and turmoil with quotidian home responsibilities and family care, he says that finding a creative way to process his thoughts and feelings has been imperative in this period of self-isolation. The first step he realized is one that many of us have been learning – the value of implementing a routine.
“I tried to take time out to do an hour of work a day but every time I tried to engrave or do the very detailed work I realised my hands were shaking too much,” he says. “So instead I thought maybe I can just paint and draw something small and loose that’s kind of cathartic. I can use it to process my thoughts like meditating.”
Luckily for fans of his darkly whimsical illustrations, Phlegm’s agile pace and his knack for spot-on allegory have kept up with the quickly changing news these last few weeks, addressing everything from fears of isolation to the comedy of social distancing and irrational hoarding — and the appreciation we all feel for those in the medical profession who are caring for our neighbors, friends, family, and each other.
“We isolated fairly early because we saw things escalated pretty fast and with knowing little about how this could affect pregnancy we started about a week before the official lock-down in London,” he says in-between his sketching. “I think the first week I was entirely in fight or flight mode. Securing online weekly deliveries, clearing out the garden to make it toddler-friendly and just grafting every waking hour. By the second-week official lockdown was being talked about and people were just queuing for miles to get a year’s supply of toilet roll,” he says with only a little exaggeration.
Using his social media postings as daily communication with the greater world, one by one his monochromatic machinations of whimsy and everyday dilemmas assure you that your strange little thoughts and dramatic fears are, at the very least, normal.
“Maybe because it’s less isolating to feel the same feelings as a group and realise you’re not alone trapped in a personal hell. It now feels like a diary which is a bizarre mixture of banality and terror,” he says.
“I try to keep the work honest and working every day helps. Emotions and actual events are so fast-moving its best to just work day-to-day. Sometimes it’s the very ordinary things that can carry a lot of emotional weight. The only thing I’m trying to be aware of is that people are upset and vulnerable so I tend to sketch out two or three a day and then choose one to ink up. This way I can try and balance the humour with the fear.”
He says that he’ll continue this daily diary for the foreseeable future, giving you a peek into his state of being. His new practice is a genuine “live blogging” with illustrations that describe many powerful and banal aspects of our daily living that is turning long-term – a reflection of the inside life as well as the outside life.
“I want to be realistic and honest, which at times has to include some very dark days but I don’t want to fuel fears and negatively influence people. I think humour is always helpful in times like these, to laugh and cry at the same time. I think also something that happens in huge emotional events like this is that our thoughts become so overwhelmed it’s impossible to express or sort through any of it.”
“I think art can sometimes just give you a place to put it all.”