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  • Writer's pictureTom Hadfield

How drawing SAVED and still can SAVE this Year

It's no understatement to say that the past 6 months have been some of the hardest many of us have had to face in our lifetimes. Isolated from friends, family and partners, a growing sense that the livelihoods and careers we dreamed to kick start this year, may now be further away than ever. It's challenged everything we once took for granted. But among all the angst and despair, as we prepare for a winter of more solemn headlines, there's a chance we can look back on this year as something more than a pandemic.

A year where we became more educated, more supportive and understanding of the plights faced by others around us. A year where we launched new endeavours for ourselves, learnt to value what we have, took up new skills and became more considerate. This year may have one overarching headline, but that shouldn't detract from what we can still achieve.

I gave a presentation at the start of this year, before we were plunged into this uncertain and alarming situation, which spoke about the importance of art and creativity in mental well-being and communication. The transcript is available in a previous blog, if you fancy another short read. But, if this year has taught us anything so far, it's that it is never too late to discover something new or rekindle a passion.

The aim of my talk was to encourage people to reconnect with their creativity and disregard this feeling of not being talented enough or inadequate at drawing. Creativity is an escape from the real world around you, even if that escape is only for 5 minutes. Consistently over time, it can work wonders.

One of the reasons I'm confident in saying this, is because I did exactly that around three years ago.

It's well documented that we're approaching another lengthy period of restrictions and limitations on our 'normal' lives, which itself is incredibly daunting. It's extremely difficult to get into a positive mindset and I'm certainly not going to sit here and tell you how you should be feeling. I can only share what I did the past few years and how it helped me. If that in any way helps you or someone you know, then this might well be my most profound blog to date.

Three years ago, I was in a complete muddle as to what I wanted to do with my life. I had recently graduated with a degree in Architecture and was several months into a placement year, before I was expected to go back and complete another two years of university study. I was in a complete muddle because I no longer wanted to do that, the question was, what did I want to do?

Now this feeling of uncertainty and not knowing where the next few months of your life are going to lead you, is not a fun place to be. Stress and its effect on mental health are things we are only really starting to talk about now, but acknowledging the problem is barely scratching the surface of the issue. For me at that time, the best way out was to escape from the real world. To do that, I drew. A lot.

Allowing myself some escapism from my daily routine started to change the way I viewed my situation. It gave me the ability to reassess what was important at that moment. Fundamentally, happiness was what I was searching for. Through drawing, I was able to see a way to better things. A simple pencil and paper pad were my tools to switch the focus of what I wanted to do with my life and career.

I'm not saying that we all need to become illustrators, but the principles are the same. You can't fix something in your life with plasters, you have to fix from within. Mental health is your greatest asset. I rediscovered a love for drawing and that enabled me to start setting new goals about what I wanted to achieve. It's worth saying this isn't something you can necessarily do alone and there is no shame in that. Reach out and seek support because we are all entitled to love.

Fast forward to this year and I'd progressed into the most enjoyable and rewarding job I've ever had. I drew every day, working on projects I was excited to be part of. It allowed me to take a step back from my own personal illustrations I'd grown over the previous two years and frankly, everything was dandy. Then along came Covid-19 and the whole landscape flipped.

In the past 6 months, I've not worked. I'll be honest, the first two months were bliss, since then however, it's been a slow decline into fear for what will come next. There are lots of similarities to how I feel now, compared to how I felt three years ago. The ray of hope and optimism I have is that I made it through before. History has a knack of repeating itself.

Drawing, for me, has been the saving grace to the most challenging of years.

Rekindling a passion can turn everything around, but importantly it should start from within. Drawing doesn’t have to be something you share with people, it can be something you do on your own, to kill time at a coffee shop, to find peace of mind, or just to explore your inner creativity. Your canvas can be anything and any size you want it to be. And if you want to, don't be afraid to share your passion.

One of the best things about this year for me, has been the number of people I have seen start new things, showcasing their talent. From art, literature, music to dance, this year has presented us with an opportunity to invest in ourselves. What's been better than that, is the support these people have been given by their peers.

I cannot begin to thank enough, the people who contacted me over the past year and either asked for custom commissions, ordered prints, or even just engaged with my artwork. It honestly means the world and regardless of how small you might think your contribution is, believe me it means a hell of a lot more. Thank you.

For me it started with a pencil and a note pad, but frankly it doesn't matter what your toolkit is. Invest in your mental health, take up something new, rediscover a past love and support people around you. This year doesn't have to be all about a virus.

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