Creative people have been responding to the altered reality of COVID-19 in a variety of ways. Some have suddenly found time to work on long-abandoned projects, and others have discovered they’re unable to create in the same way they’re used to. So when we began discussing the promotion of Art Life with Montreal creator Catherine Ocelot, we thought it would be interesting to use the “launch” to spark conversations on this topic, online and (hopefully) in real life.
Yesterday, we kicked the conversation off with the first post in a five-day Instagram campaign, so be sure to check that out! Every day this week (until Friday), we’ll be posting excerpts of Art Life with an associated question in the comments. Have a look and let us know how your art life is going right now.
We’ve also asked Catherine Ocelot a few questions about how her art life is going right now. Read on and enjoy!
Art Life Q&A with Catherine Ocelot
1. How has COVID-19 affected your Art Life?
Or course, like everybody, in many ways. The only thing that hasn’t changed is that I’ve been working from home for years, so I’m accustomed to that. Doing so with my daughter here all the time is a bit tricky! But she’s almost 12, so she’s pretty independent. This was supposed to be a busy year for me work-wise with the launch of Art Life, a book tour, a show of my comics and drawings at la cinémathèque québécoise, and a new book (in french) that was to be released in November. The work is not lost, but I am left with so many questions–when will my new book be printed? Will we be able to reschedule the show? Will the bookstores survive? The small publishers? When will there be book events again? There’s so much uncertainty in the art world right now… I am very grateful that Art Life was able to make it and is starting to find its way into the world 🙂
2. Do you have any advice for artists who are struggling to create right now?
Unfortunately, I don’t!! I’m just getting back to work myself, after many weeks of feeling stunted, paralyzed, and spending my days reading the news to try to understand the shift we are going through, the new world we are living in. For me it was a lot to process – and still is – and the situation is different for everybody… Some people have the ability to throw themselves into their work and forget everything, but I can’t. I can’t compartmentalize, I need my life to be, or at least feel, minimally in control before I can concentrate on creative work and have my ideas flow. When the work is less personal, like for contracts or commissions, I find it’s different, easier. But for more creative or personal stuff, I need a bit of peace of mind! I guess the only advice I would give is to not force anything, to trust your instinct; if you feel you need time to process, to rest mentally, or to structure your days into a schedule, to watch tons of movies or play with your cat, then that’s what you need to do…
3. How is art helping you cope with our new reality?
It took me a long time before I could concentrate enough to start reading books again. It’s a book by Elena Ferrante, Frantumaglia, that has helped me the most to transition to this new reality. It’s a book that brings together her correspondance, conversations, and interviews, for the last 20 years. It only talks about her work; no one knows anything about her personal life since she has never appeared in public. I was struck by her intelligence, her profoundness, the understanding that she seems to have of herself.
Besides reflections on her work, there are also many ideas and thoughts about the outside vs inner world, showing oneself, friendship, identity, all of which are themes that interest me in general. Reading this has helped me give more space to things other that the pandemic, and open new doors. Documentaries about artists–especially woman–often have this effect on me; they sort of help me find my space to exist. I guess it’s part of the reason why, in Art Life, I went to meet other artists…
4. If you could only read three books while in quarantine, what would they be and why?
I’m going to go with comics, and maybe authors instead of specific books: Julie Doucet, because her work is brilliant, full of life and humour, Jillian Tamaki because she is so poetic and profound, and Alison Bechdel, because I find the analytical aspect very stimulating and nourishing.