Collage of Katya Galperina, Kayela Larsen, taarika John, Shreshi and Elisabetta Campagni
Creative slumps and spurts of inspiration, artists are looking inward as the world around them closes due to COVID-19.

Mental Health

Artists Reflect on Staying Creative and Finding Inspiration in COVID-19 Lockdown

Spending more time alone has given some the opportunity to reflect and introspect.

For artists, deriving inspiration is key to tap into their best work. But, when you’re indoors all day, where do you turn to for inspiration? While some are experiencing a slump in productivity due to self-isolation and an increase in housework, others finally have the chance to enjoy some quiet time and work through their bucket lists. We spoke to five artists who reflected on how the COVID-19 lockdown has impacted their work and the unique ways they’re keeping their creative spark alive.

Editor’s note: Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

 Elisabetta Campagni, 26, Bologna

Image of Elisabetta Campagni with her art

Elisabetta Campagni is using this time away from her studies to focus on her passion for graphic drawing. Photos courtesy: Elisabetta Campagni

We have been in lockdown since the beginning of March but it has affected my creativity in a good way, since my work and studies have stopped. This has given me the chance to dedicate myself more to graphic drawing, [as it] is a passion that requires a lot of time. Now, I have found time to think and to experience silence. I didn’t spend too much time indoors, since I had the chance to stay in my countryside field and that helped a lot.

Sometimes I feel less creative and when this happens, I usually decide to dedicate myself to other things. Books, stories, essays, academic papers — these things are saving my thought process and are [helping me] generate new ideas and thoughts. I’m also gardening.

The pandemic gave me uncertainty and there were many moments when I felt depressed for my future [because] the cultural and artistic sectors are getting heavily affected. But art was something that took me away from it.

Katya Galperina, 27, Washington D.C.

Image of Katya Gaperina with her artwork of a mermaid on the moon

The lockdown has given Galperina the time to do more things that bring her joy. Photos courtesy: Katya Galperina

Honestly, I was surprised to find out that I was way more productive and creative during the last two months in lockdown. Maybe it is because, finally, I had some time only for myself [to read, watch movies and bake]. And that has made me feel happier, which has definitely had a positive effect on my creativity. I actually think I am more productive now. I have no excuses not to do things.

Creative blocks happen. It happened to me once…I just didn’t know what to do, what to draw, what to create. I had that nasty feeling of stagnation. I tried to listen to myself, something that I wasn’t really doing before. I started doing things that I always wanted to do and try. It made me happy…and you finally find that energy, that fire that brings your creativity up.

Shreshi, 28,  Gurgaon 

Image of Shreshi with her artwork of a woman on a balcony

Shreshi’s latest artwork “Intezaar/The Wait” is inspired by the current condition. Photos courtesy: Shreshi

I’ve been in this lockdown since March 24th now. Being indoors hasn’t been that difficult as that’s the usual way of life for me but I do miss the option of hopping to a bar or a cafe to work from. The most difficult part is being away from my studio [in New York City] as I was on a trip to India when the lockdown happened.

[It has] affected my productivity but I’m creating whatever, whenever I can. I try to stay kind towards myself on the days that I can’t. I turn to books, movies, windows, and the balcony for inspiration. A chai in the balcony never fails! My recent work “Intezaar/ The Wait” is inspired by this period in our lives. 

Taking breaks to read or watch something interesting always uplifts my mood. I have also noticed that looking at the work of artists that inspire me gets me excited about creating something of my own. I read something interesting somewhere: There are two phases in the life of creators — time when we create and the time when we observe, feel, and prepare to create. If you are able to create, great! If you are not, take comfort in the thought that this phase is preparing you for your future creations!

Kayela Larsen, 33, Utah

Image of Kayela Larsen with an illustration of her family

For mom of five Kayela Larsen, having her whole family at home has impacted her productivity but she finds humour in the situation. Photos courtesy: Kayela Larsen

We’ve been in lockdown for 65 days. But, spending more time indoors has actually been really great. Creativity seems to thrive in boredom and with everything else cut out of our normally busy lives, it’s freed up a lot of time to just explore and try some new things. For example, last week my kids and I spent half a day making a stop motion video and entered it into a family talent contest. We didn’t win and all my kids ended up in tears and angry at me for wasting their time and getting their hopes up but, I thought it was a great bonding experience.

Having all five of my kids home for the entire day has definitely slowed [my productivity] down a bit. There are a lot more messes to clean and fights to break up. But luckily the laundry has decreased significantly since we’ve all been wearing the same pajamas for the last two weeks.

For inspiration, I’m turning to dirty dishes, piles of laundry and kids that have an unprecedented ability to tune me out whenever I mention the previous two. I’m also channeling my energy into cooking! Actually, that’s not entirely true. I meant to say eating. Finding humour in tragedy is my specialty [so I have] absolutely found inspiration from the pandemic. 

Also read: We Asked People What Their Self-Isolation Routine Looks Like

Taarika John, 27, Brooklyn 

Image of Taarika John with her artwork

There is plenty of pressure, especially from social media, to be productive, said Taarika John. Photos courtesy: Taarika John

There’s been some great COVID-19 inspired art coming out of this quarantine but I am yet to find any inspiration from the pandemic itself. Lately, I’ve found myself more reflective of my personal experience living in long-term [self-isolation] and have been working on a few things derived from that. Initially, the chaos of adjusting to life and work at home kept me distracted. But I’ve definitely been in a creative slump the last few months. There’s so much external pressure, especially on social media, to be using this time to be super productive and I often find myself feeling guilty for not being able to do so. Some days are worse than others and to be honest, it is incredibly frustrating. Lately, I have been trying to be kinder to myself and accept that it is natural to feel this way in uncertain times. I’ve also been journaling more and going to therapy regularly, which helps.

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Artists Reflect on Staying Creative and Finding Inspiration in COVID-19 Lockdown