Local artist paints Salfordians living through the pandemic

TAMG reader, Philip Westcott from Salford, shares his experiences of creating art during the pandemic:

“Art can have a very therapeutic effect during this pandemic – whether through its practice or appreciation. People can become very depressed at this time and doing something artistic gives them a chance to focus on that and not other problems in their life.

For some, like myself, it was a chance to do a few paintings from events that moved me; like the struggle to buy basic supplies.

When the virus first caused panic buying, I was lucky enough to be on holiday in Mexico, with my wife; a country not yet affected by it. As days past we saw newspaper articles about shortages, but it wasn’t until we came back to Salford and tried to buy everyday items that reality struck and seeing people desperately searching for toilet rolls struck a chord with me. Seeing this, I reworked one of my old sketches of an old lady and hoped that people would appreciate the problems they were having.

A few years ago, we visited China and saw people wearing face masks there, because of the smog, but never expected to see it here. Now essential workers must travel on trains and the underground, and these can be crowded. I depicted four of these going to work to show the dedication of these people, putting themselves at risk so that others can survive.

Another thing we will have to get used to is queuing. Like most people, we only try to go to the shops when we need essential shopping. By now shops have introduced markings to help people queue before entering and we have been fortunate that the weather has been good.  People have been sticking to this but once inside this is not always practical as the isles aren’t always wide enough. Some shops have even introduced one-way systems. At least the staff are now protected with plastic screens. This social distancing is something I think we are going to have to get used to for a long time now.

I personally will continue to do figure studies of people living their lives in and around Salford in these trying times but I fear that sadly, some of the people I will portray may not survive and it could be a long time before we see groups of old people sat on a bench, chatting happily and passing the time in each other’s company.

The response of the public by the placing of rainbows in widows shows the respect people have for the health workers and other key workers, as did the clapping on Thursday 26th March. People have come to appreciate all the workers who are now doing essential jobs.

Involving children is a brilliant idea and it’s important as it keeps them occupied and helps them to understand in some small way that people are making everyday sacrifices in these trying times.  By focusing on how they can show their appreciation, it could also help some of them cope with not seeing family and friends. It can help them to feel not so isolated especially if they are going for a walk, as part of their daily exercise, they see other windows with the rainbow sign.

Friends of ours even involved the whole family by cutting out hand shapes on different coloured paper and then making a large rainbow that filled the window.

We are certainly taking part in living history, which is being recorded now by artists, like myself. It will be important social evidence for future generations to see how the Coronavirus of 2020 affected the people of Salford and the UK.

For more details on Philip’s artwork, visit http://www.philipwestcott.co.uk/

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