Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 17

I’ve talked on here before about using creativity and art as an outlet and a form of meditation during these trying times, and I’m now going to do it some more because this is my blog and you can’t stop me.

For me, the act of creating something is one that gives purpose to the day. If I have made something, been artistic in some way, then it’s as if I have permission to sign off the previous twenty-four hours as productive, useful, and not just me sitting around eating chips in sweatpants and watching The Office for the twelfth time. Don’t get me wrong, I will still use my day like this, but if I’ve slipped some creativity into the mix then I don’t feel so guilty about it. 

There is something very fundamental about the joy of creation. Of making something tangible and stepping back from it and looking at it and thinking “I did that”. Of putting something new into the world that didn’t exist before. 

Perhaps this is how God felt when he tinkered around with heaven and earth. Maybe he stopped to savour the whole formation of reality thing and got the same flush of pride I do when I sketch a cute animal. Happy with his progress, he cobbled together some light and firmament and got into the meat of it all, what with the plants, and the moon and the stars. Then, seeing as he was on a roll, he also sketched some cute animals. Only, you know, using flesh instead of a grey-lead pencil. Finally, wanting someone to whom he could look at, nod in the direction of all existence, and casually say “I did that”, he slapped some clay together and made humans. He might have gone a bit too far with that one. A good artist really needs to know when the work is done.

Of course, I can’t know the mind of a god, what with not being one or even being convinced that such a thing exists, but I do know that when I draw a picture or write a goofy blog and I make something, it feels good. 

I’m not the only one who’s been taking advantage of this surplus of home time in order to make and create. An artistic bent runs in my family and I’m proud to say the next generation has absorbed this genetic trait and are already whipping up masterpieces of their own. My niece and nephew, Ella and Harry, six and four respectively, are currently out of school and daycare and bearing up rather well under the homeban, all things considered. It helps that their parents have broken down the days into hour blocks of subjects and activities, and that a lot of those blocks include self-expressive electives.

Most recently, using the medium of chalk, they transformed their driveway into an explosion of art so grand it rivals the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (if not in technique, then at least in passion). 


Callum, my youngest nephew, is also pictured, but to my knowledge his input was more that of emotional support and encouragement than actual drawing. He hasn’t quite got the fine motor skills needed to wield the jumbo chalk. 

The father of these adorable children, a man I am proud to call brother, or just Matt, that works too, only recently discovered his own creative outlet after watching the always inspiring and always soothing Bob Ross. Having YouTubed countless Bob Ross painting videos, Matt eventually decided to pick up a brush and give it a go himself. Depicted below is his third attempt and, I love the man, but I hate him a bit too. His third attempt! Show off.



The brother of this adorable man, a man I also call brother, or Damo, or womb companion (were twins, it’s not weird), is also of the artistic bent and about ten years ago decided he wanted to teach himself photography. These days, it’s as if he can’t help but take a glorious photo every time he clicks the button. It makes holidaying with him a challenge because, even though I know we’re both pointing our cameras at the same thing, his always has the habit of coming out as masterpieces and mine come out as happy snaps. Thankfully, we share all shots over Google photos, so I just pretend all his photos are mine.

His own method of fighting the frustrations of self isolation with artistry has been to post a photo a day to instagram displaying the beauty that can still be found even when your field of inspiration has shrunk down to your home and small excursions to the surrounding area.

Below is a sample of the work he is producing.

You can see more of his work on his instagram account. His username is damian.robb.

Finally, you were promised cute animals, you came here for cute animals, all anyone really wants to see on the internet is cute animals, so here is my latest work-in-progress. 


God damn, but is he cute. Good pup.

I sketch with a Faber Castell TK9400 3mm 4B Clutch Pencil, which is a fancy way of saying a grey-lead pencil that comes in a metal casing rather than a wooden one. I draw because it’s an outlet. Because it makes me focus on one thing and forget about the stress of everything else. Because putting something new into the world feels good, even if I’m the only one who ever sees it.

Whatever your art is, be it crochet, or cookie baking, or hair cutting, or fingernail art, or home improvement, or soap making, or sowing, or tailoring little outfits for your cats, or origami, or music, or writing blogs to try and make people laugh, go do some of it. Make something. Make anything. It will feel good, I promise.

But I don’t need to come up with the words to convince you because a cleverer writer than me already has. Neil Gaiman gave this commencement address at the Philadelphia University of the Arts in May 2012 and his words are as powerful now as they were when first delivered.

Tomorrow: Boredom.


Recently I broke up with my partner of five years. Let me assure you now, at the outset, this will not be a post describing in excruciating and uncomfortable detail my heartbreak, no, but the information is relevant because it sets the context.

In five years you set patterns, you develop routines, you build a sense of yourself that is, in part, reliant on the other person. My break up forced me out of the familiar little rut I had burrowed into. In what felt like an instant, everything well-known, every habitual instinct I had in my home became foreign and awkward. The activities and past times I used to use to fill the hours between work days were no longer available and I found myself as an unsure guest in my own home.

This is a jarring experience. The usual jokes I would make, ideas I would express, and places of comfort I would seek were no longer there. I was alone. It was just me. And I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I have hobbies, yes, but the beauty of a hobby is both in the picking up and putting down, and once I had placed my hobby down and raised my head I found myself asking, “Now what?”

The first week was spent in justified idleness. I was sad and therefore entitled to unrestricted wallowing. I would do small things to maintain the house and feel immensely proud for continuing to act like an adult in my time of hardship. People told me I was doing well and I believed them.

It was into the third week that I found myself walking up and down my hallway. The dishes were drying in the rack, my lunch was made for the next work day, and I was pacing my tiled walkway in silence. The same question came to me that has probably just occurred to you. What the hell was I doing?

The truth. I was waiting.

I know how break ups go. We talk about them, we analyse them, we watch them in countless movies and television shows. I knew the stages of grief and felt like I was moving through them at a satisfactory pace and in a satisfactory manner. And what comes after. Life, right? It’s after the shock, after the depression that the dust settles and life comes barreling in to whisk you, newly single, into the next stage of your life. This is how it had felt after previous break ups. But my previous break ups always came at a time when my life was changing anyway. The end of high school, the start of university. Now I had a full-time job, I had my own home to return to. I had unbroken routine, and life, if it was going to happen, was happening. So with life happening, why the hell was I wasting it walking up and down my hallway?

The truth. I was impatient.

A prickle began to build, a thorn of impatience growing within me that snagged every time nothing happened. When I had done the necessary tasks of caring for myself, when I had watched television, read a book, cooked and eaten, I still found myself with empty hours to fill and no real drive to fill them. I was lonely, I was bored, and I was impatient because life wasn’t rushing in to entertain me and fill the hours with action.

A month after the break up I took a week off work and reassured myself that life would begin now. I didn’t have work to blame or use as a crutch. I used the week to visit friends, to reorganise my home, to spend time with family, and gave myself room to think. To feel whatever it was I was feeling and the space to recognise it. It was perfect, and healing, and in the end I found myself back in my home, alone, with hours and hours to fill.

So rather than wait, rather than let the impatience build and boil, I set out to fill them. I began a painting. I didn’t have a date in mind of when to finish it, and with so much time on my hands I was in no rush to do so. I started it with an outline on a canvas. That was day one: just the outline. The next day I squeezed out one colour of oil paint and dabbed spots of black in the appropriate parts. The third day I chose three colours to work with. By day four my palette was a mess of hues and I wasted no time in setting to work. I had an audiobook playing in my ears and my hands were busy applying paint, and I was happy. I was engaged, and unaware of the hours that needed filling.

This small act of starting something open a door in my head. Months before my cousin visited wearing a beanie someone had crocheted for him, and at the time I told myself I would learn how to replicate the beanie. The burst of inspiration was diluted by the cycle of normal living, and was forgotten. But now I found myself in a situation with nothing more pressing to attend to. I started by buying wool and a needle. Since then I’ve completed ten beanies — one for each of my family and a few of my own.

I started the first steps to decorating my house. I hung photographs and put together furniture.

I started getting fit. I ran four kilometres before gasping and spluttering to a stop. The next day I ran four and a half. Yesterday I ran ten.

I started to write again.

The lesson I learnt from this experience is not to wait. Not to sit back and wonder why life isn’t unfolding the way you want it to. In short:

If you’re impatient for something to start; start something.