Two weeks into isolation and those of us required to stay at home are, perhaps, beginning to adjust to a new normal. We are finding new and effective ways to stay connected to our friends and families and the world at large. We are working out how to cope with spending an awful lot of time alone, or, conversely, how to cope with spending twenty-four hours a day with our other halves and children.
Many of us have found that we suddenly have more time on our hands, whether because our commute has vanished, our work has slowed down or stopped, our college courses have been cancelled or simply because we are not out and about in the real world as much. This new, precious time can give us the opportunity to unearth some lost dreams, learn new skills, start a project or any manner of other things we’ve wanted to do but found hard to squeeze into our normally overloaded lives.
Here are ten ideas for things you can do at home, whether you live alone or share your house, to keep you sane and help you emerge from this period with a sense of accomplishment and perhaps a new hobby or two. If nothing else they are great ways to pass some chunks of time.
1. Join the circus with your dog
Deborah Colella has launched a #5MinuteCircus on YouTube for the duration of the isolation. These bitesize training videos are an offshoot of her charming Incredibly Clever Canine Circus. My dog Edward is a graduate of Deborah’s real-life dog circus and we still use the tricks he learned every day.
One of the positives of the current situation is that there are a lot of happy dogs who have their beloved owners at home all day with them and the five minute circus is a splendid way to strengthen your bond with your dog and get you up and moving about too. You can watch the circus training videos here.
Here is Edward unrolling a yoga mat with his nose (he’s a bit rusty!).
2. Sing with strangers
Sofa Singers is an online singing workshop created and hosted the amazing James Sills, who taught a singing workshop on my Pembrokeshire Experience last year. You sign up via Eventbrite to nab one of the 500 free places (it fills up fast!) and join James and hundreds of other people all around the world to sing for an hour.
Sofa Singers is especially perfect for you if you have always wanted to join a choir but are afraid of singing in public. Here you will only be able to hear yourself and James, but will be able to see everyone else who is singing with you. It’s such brilliant fun and can make you feel a little emotional to realise that all of these wonderful people are joining in from their isolation sofas all around the world.
Find out more here.
3. Learn film photography
Learn to shoot on film with my e-course Enchanting Analogue. Shooting film is a brilliant way to be more present, pay more attention to the world around you and document your life in captivating ways. Analogue photography offers a wonderful respite from the information and stress overload of the digital world, which is so important right now to help us keep our anxiety in check.
Students in the course often begin their analogue journey by taking photos of their pets, at home, which is a great way to occupy yourself indoors during the lockdown and pay tribute to these most wonderful of companions.
Here is a gorgeous photo Nicole took of her cat Chloe during the course. I adore how you can almost touch the softness of her fur, and the carpet looks like snow.
4. Learn writing, interior design and more with Masterclass
Masterclass is an online school where courses are taught by people at the very top of their game: they have writing by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman and Malcom Gladwell, photography by Annie Leibovitz, interior design by Kelly Wearstler and film making by Jodie Foster. The collection of teachers they have is astounding.
After watching the trailer video by Judy Bloom I decided to take the plunge and give creative writing a go – I’ve never read any of her books but I do now have a huge girl crush on her as she seems to be just brilliant.
There is a current 2 for 1 offer and you can find out more here.
5. Learn to watercolour: Anna Mason Art
I have a done a few of Anna Mason’s tutorials and they are brilliant. She is a patient and comprehensive teacher and you’ll be absolutely gobsmacked by what you can achieve even on your first attempt. Anna’s insanely realistic approach to watercolour means each painting will take you a few hours to complete, perfect for those of us wondering what on earth we are going do for a whole weekend at home.
Here is the pear I painted from Anna’s free tutorial. And if I can do this, so you can you, I promise!
6. Make iPhone movies: Xanthe Berkeley
Xanthe Berkeley specialises in teaching people to make films about the everyday moments of their lives. Whether it’s making a cup of tea, taking your dog for a walk, replying to your emails or even cleaning your teeth, you’ll be charmed at how precious these small memories become once they are collated into a mini-movie.
Xanthe’s Handmade Film Making course will teach you how to quickly and easily create charming movies just your smartphone. Check out Xanthe’s instagram account for ideas of little movies you can make of your time at home during the lockdown.
I’ve used what I learned on her course time and time again, it was well worth the investment. Here is the first video I made from the course.
And here is a little video I made this time last year of Edward’s trip to Pembrokeshire this time last year, just because.
7. Improve your drawing skills
If you’ve always wanted to get better at drawing but feel like you never get anywhere, I cannot recommend highly enough Betty Edwards’ seminal book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain‘.
Edwards’ method is so different from how many of us were taught to draw at school and my own drawing increased exponentially after working through her workbook. Her exercises begin and end with a self portrait and even if you don’t want to draw, it’s fun to spend a few minutes looking through these astounding before and after drawings from some of her students.
8. Make mono prints and linocuts
Creating art is a great way to have a respite from the goings on in the outside world and our own worries. Entering a state of flow and losing yourself in a practice that helps you notice the beauty in the world and allows the hours to whizz by.
Believing that you can’t draw well enough, I know from experience, can paralyse you and stop you creating any art at all, which of course means you never get any better. One thing that has really allowed me to get through this is printing, especially mono printing.
All you need to do this is some printing ink, a small (A5, perhaps) acetate, glass or metal sheet and a roller. That’s it. What you do is roll a very small amount of ink onto the sheet with the roller, place your paper on top of it, and print out a photo you love or even a picture from a magazine and draw over it (remember it will be a mirror image). Peel the paper away and voila! You’re an artist. It’s super, super easy and you’ll be amazed at how well they come out. Kids love this too as it has a sense of magic to it as your prints never turn out how you expect them to.
Here is my first attempt. I traced the image from a magazine so no drawing skills required.
Once you’ve got the hang of mono printing, you might want to give linocut a try. There is a whole heap of helpful advice here. I made my first ever linocut this weekend. It’s very scrappy and completely imperfect but I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I can’t wait to do another one and get better at this.
Jackson’s is my favourite place to buy art equipment from online.
9. Keep a nature journal
Nature is providing a much needed solace for so many of us right now and I am so glad that we are at the beginning of Spring rather than the start of Winter. I have found that writing some notes from my morning dog walks has helped the benefits of being outside last longer and has deepened my love for the countryside.
Writing and drawing a nature journal requires being able to identify what you’ve seen, and as a consequence your knowledge of flora and fauna will increase tenfold which will enhance your joy of being outside no end. I now routinely look up the birds I encounter and my woefully inadequate knowledge of birds has thankfully moved on from ‘blue tit’ and ‘robin’. Flower pressing is next on my list now that the fields are becoming filled with colour.
10. Work through ‘The Artists’ Way’
At the end of last year, in the week we moved from our flat in London to our temporary home in Kent, I finally decided to work through The Artists’ Way. I’d had the book for at least eight years but had never felt the pull to begin working through the chapters. Mostly I was put off by the thought of doing the Morning Pages (a form of free writing) but these are now my favourite part of the day.
Julia Cameron’s book has the capacity to change your life, and if you are finding this isolation period is giving you pause to reflect and think about changes you might want to make when we return to normality, you might find it the perfect time to have a go. I have taken so much from the twelve weeks of the course that I haven’t even begun to process it all yet, but suffice to say it’s left a profound impression on me. It’s an incredible journey, but definitely one to do when you have the time to devote to it.
I hope that these ideas might have sparked an idea for you, that you might be able to navigate isolation with joy, learning and creativity. I hope that you stay well and that we all emerge from this period with some art, new skills or perhaps even a new hobby or two.
If you try any of these ideas, or if you have any good ones to share, do comment below.
Tucked away behind the church in the village in Kent where I am living is a field of allotments. I’m fascinated by these enchanting miniature, personal Albions.
Next week we take possession of a dilapidated, neglected Victorian terraced house in North London and so begins a six month renovation project, during which we will be moving to the country.