Saturday 28th March
Most of the Day
I am organising, editing and sending images for my new book on drawing people to my publisher. My concentration is shot but I have promised to send everything by, well, yesterday. It is taking a long time to process the images. I hope people buy the book and find drawing expressive people much easier all of a sudden. I love the fact that many of the sketches in the book are of my family. Obviously I would love to be a kind of travelling people sketcher but I have a family to look after so most of my sketches are of my kids, my in-laws and my parents and siblings. It feels lovely to think that I will be sharing my dear family with the whole world. In the book I emphasise, in as many ways as I can, that you must become really good at observation in order to draw well. You can’t draw what you see unless you can see well, and so I always tell my students that they must pretend to be an alien, who has never seen a human before – nor even has any concept of three dimensions – but must somehow convey what he finds to his commander in a sketch. It’s corny, I know (green alien, a commander, antenna, big head etc) but if it works for a single human that’ll be good enough for me.
The message I took from the NYC ICU doctor Dr David Price yesterday has hit home. Your own hands are how you’re going to get infected. Sure, you might breathe in the Covid-19 virus if someone coughs at you, or if you’re stuck in a car with someone carrying the virus. But you are far more likely to transfer the bug to your respiratory system by touching your nose, eyes or mouth with your fingers. Your hands are a Trojan horse: they seem safe, but they’re anything but. ANYTHING BUT SAFE unless you wash them like a maniac, then DO NOT touch your face. I am a terrible woman for poking bits of my face so I am practicing wearing a mask at home to try to break the habit. It works.
My husband Marcel pours me a gin and tonic. I want to sketch it before I drink it, but it smells so wonderful, so fresh, that I can only just suggest the lemon and ice before having to drink it. “Put Gordon’s on the label,” says Marcel, “rather than Castle-Edgy.” Nothing wrong with foreign gin, I think, and write what’s there. He is seated to my right, and Liv is to my left. She has recently been bitten by the gardening bug. She talks ninety miles an hour beside me, asking me to look at inspirational photos of gardens: she particularly likes one of an amphora on its side, from which tumble beautiful house leeks over a gravel bed. It is artful and house leeks do very well for us (which probably means they do well everywhere). “It would look like someone had kicked it over in our house,” says Marcel, and he has a point – nearly everything else has been kicked over – but I still think it would look lovely. Liv is learning so much about plants during the Quarantine. Marcel and I used to have time and energy for gardening, and there were days when our little patch was paradise. But the rules for living changed long ago, and freelance people dumb enough to live by their passion – us – have to work all the time to turn a buck (I’m not complaining, but it does mean that gardening is a luxury). Luckily, it looks like our daughter will pick up where we left off. She is tall and strong and has a great aesthetic so it bodes well. But back to the present: all the “look at this, Mum” means it’s very hard to concentrate on my sketch. Between Liv’s chat, the fact that my drink is changing and that there are no short cuts with glass, I have my work cut out for me. Still, it’s nice to be challenged.
I have a lovely bubble bath full of free hot water – solar panels – but am finding myself more and more unsettled as the days go on. I decide to write a novel to take my mind off things. Then I fall asleep in white cotton sheets just in from the washing line, where they have flapped and danced in the sunshine and wind, becoming transformed in the process into the smell of a happy childhood dream, where only eternity and bliss lay ahead.