Isolation a period of creativity – Jo Reitze

The period of enforced isolation has been good for me. After the initial shock of the potential severity of the COVID19 crisis and the realization that my planned exhibition, ‘Celebrating Life in Gouache, Oil and Pen’ at The Victorian Artists Society would not go ahead in July, I accepted that this would be the opportunity for me to get my life sorted.

Occurring just a fortnight after the conclusion of my first exhibition of 2020, ‘Celebrating Life in Small works’ that had coincided with my 70th birthday, there was much to do. Tasks included cleaning and tidying. Most rewardingly I found hiding places for over twenty of my big paintings and many smaller works that had been cluttering up our small home for too long. With the postponement of my big exhibition such paintings would now need to be stored for another year. I also made great progress culling clothes, shredding documents, painting frames, recycling or discarding others, gardening and even baking.

Fortunately, there has also been much time to paint and draw with fewer interruptions than usual. Initially I completed two gouache paintings in our pretty back garden. The glorious autumnal weather was perfect for painting ‘en plein air’. I also finished a small pair of lacecap hydrangeas that I had started in situ but had been foiled by the excessive summer heat. Fortunately, with photographs of them at their best I could complete in isolation. I also painted five gouache miniatures of impatiens and succulents and a succulent drawing for MSWPS time capsule.

I mostly work directly from the subject but when the weather deteriorated, I decided to paint a pair of large square gouache paintings of The Conservatory Melbourne inspired by my series of iPad photograph. I intend to hang these in my exhibition with the large oil diptych I did last year of a similar subject. As I do not have a studio, I wrapped my office/spare bedroom in ground sheets and painted in the warmth. After these, I decided to draw. Fine liners enabled me to work inside cleanly without messing up the place. I have painted the windswept trees at Ocean Grove on location for many years. Last year I discovered that I could successfully draw them from my iPad. This enabled working at night when I find discerning colours difficult. My first effort in 2019 received a prize at Ocean Grove Rotary Art Show. Since I have done several more in diverse sizes including a pair sold at my exhibition and another accepted for The Whitehorse Collection. Now I have completed three more including a large one. I then changed subject matter to draw another aspect of the conservatory. All works filled frames that I have upcycled.

After hardly leaving home for more than ten weeks and Roger not at all, we escaped our safe bubble for Ocean Grove and sea air. There I painted a small 9×5 inch impression of my favourite trees on location. Before returning to Melbourne, I drove to the beach to investigate the changes to the waterfront. Dusk was approaching. The sky had lovely touches of pink. I had planned to paint a gouache 2 x 3ft of this spot, on location, to fill a huge frame and mount that I had been given. The dramatic sky in this photograph gave me the impetus to paint this at home from my iPad. I worked outside and stood at the easel to paint, something I have not done for many decades. Prior to isolation I have probably done fewer than ten paintings from photographs throughout my life. This process now offers possibilities foe working large in bad weather.

These ‘unprecedented’ times have shown the great blessings of art and gardening pursuits for my well-being. We are so fortunate that this pandemic has occurred in the digital age where social contact can be maintained with family and friends near and far. There is still much to do but so far, I feel positive and thankful for this time to reset and create many new works.