It seems strange now, but it is just a month and a half ago that I completed the Drawing and Painting Diploma, with Distinction. 

Rather than delving straight into a successful art career, I have put some other bits and pieces of my life in place: I had my new piano tuned, which I bought just before Christmas, a fulfilment of a childhood wish half a century ago – and have started a practising routine. My original degree is in music, and after taking a long detour into visual arts, it felt like it was time to get back to it. I am investigating offering piano lessons, which seems like a more promising avenue to a reasonably steady income, than trying to sell my paintings. I am still working on finding a way to balance music, art and money in my life. I wonder if I ever will. I’ll let you know when I do!

I also bought a new car – at five days notice, after learning that my old one wasn’t going to pass the annual road security check. I bought some paint to paint my house (it needs it). And I went on a very long deserved holiday, testing out the new vehicle, and spent a blissful couple of days on the Coromandel peninsula, a ten hour drive north of where I live here in New Zealand. The beaches up there all look like something out of the movie “The Beach”. 

Less than a week after my return home, the whole country went into lockdown, to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. I am so thankful to live in a country with a government that is able and prepared to take quick action, to try to prevent a public health crisis of as yet unknown dimensions! 

New Zealand’s splendid isolation hasn’t been enough to keep the virus out altogether – we are too tied up in the network of travel and business with both China and Europe – but it has bought us a few weeks’ worth of time, and a chance to see what has worked, and what has dramatically not worked, in other countries affected by the pandemic.

We are now four days into the countrywide lockdown. Stores are closed, except for essential supplies. Roads are empty. Streets are deserted at most times, but today being Sunday, and the first bit of sunshine after heavy rains, many people came out to catch the air and wave wistfully at each other from the other side of the boardwalk. Lots of people use their bikes rather than their cars. There are new rituals emerging as to how to dance around each other, keeping distance and still make it seem somehow normal. A tiny little grinchy part of me rejoices that people are finally respecting my personal space!

We are told not to drive outside our immediate communities: no trips to remote beaches, no forest walks, no shopping at the larger supermarket in the next town. Police cars everywhere. A friend of mine who is a cop, said that he has to learn a new rule book every day. No one really knows what they are dealing with, after all. No one has ever been through a country wide lockdown. Most people have been complying with the self isolation rules, so far, but some, especially younger people, are having a hard time to understand the seriousness of the situation, and that the rules about not getting together at the beach, or having parties, also apply to them. 

I got into a tiff at the local dog park, because I pointed out to someone that their expectation that I would engage in a chat and pet their dog, was putting lives in danger. I was told I was unreasonable and “not nice”, because I said I would wait outside until they left. I think by far the biggest challenge for many New Zealanders will be to understand that “being nice” can kill someone, in the present circumstances. Too many people who seem to be unable to string together a coherent sentence that includes the words “do not”. Fortunately I grew up in Germany, so I don’t have any trouble with that! And I am finally coming to appreciate why that can be a good thing.

I was going to write something completely different for this blog post, something about my background maybe, why I took the course, what my expectations were and if the course met them. But it all seems so irrelevant now. So I will just let you look at some of the work I have done for the course, and hope it will cheer someone up, whether they are self isolating, continuing to provide services essential for the running of society, or simply anxious and waiting to see what will happen.

Stay safe. Keep making good art. The world will need it, even if it is now qualified as “non essential”. In my birth country Germany, it was the thing people clung to after the catastrophe of Fascism, and all the horrible things people experienced during and after the War. We haven’t reached that level of catastrophe just yet, by any stretch. 

Kia kaha – stay strong!
Astrid Nielsch

Deviant Art Website

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