As someone who struggles with anxiety, and the mood dips that go with, the climate crisis affects my mental health – and, therefore, my wellbeing – greatly. I have some really dark thoughts that leave me feeling powerless. However, in my better moments, I can be more proactive and take steps to widen the gaps between the dips – one of which is my art practice. But, then again, as the climate crisis looms so large in my mind, I know I cannot just carry on as normal using materials as though doing so has no consequence. Rather, I am compelled to examine my art practice in order to lessen the harm I cause the planet and, by extension, my mental health and wellbeing.
As a watercolourist, water is a prime ingredient of my art practice. Yet, research tells me that water security (our access to water) is a major factor in the climate crisis – to the extent that some predict our desperation for water will cause wars. So I feel it irresponsible to effectively steal water from another area (Cumbria) by getting it from the tap – especially after I discovered what is required to get it here and make it suitable for drinking. Also, if water scarcity is going to grow as an issue, I imagine the monetary value of water is going to grow in relation. So it makes sense to make adjustments now. Consequently, I have decided the responsible thing is to make my art practice reliant on rainwater rather than the stuff that arrives at the tap. So I placed a bucket outside and waited…
Despite the weather forecast for imminent rain, it took three days for it to arrive. In that time, I had to retrieve my bucket after it blew away in the wind, and place a brick in it to stop it blowing away again. After the rain had arrived, I was able to help myself to half a cup of rainwater and use it for the above painting.
Making myself reliant on rainwater in this way, quickly brought home the point of water scarcity. No longer could I just turn on the tap and paint as and when I wanted. I had to wait for it to rain first. I then quickly remembered that this was winter – what would it be like in the summer? I’m thankful, I can tell you, that I’ve only made my art practice reliant on rainwater at present! (But ought I not extend it to the rest of my life? How would I go about doing that?) And I’m not about to pour that dirty paintwater down the sink as I normally would. That stuff is precious! What is more, if I were inclined to do so, I’d make sure that point was reflected in the price I asked for my paintings. However, not pouring the dirty rainwater away creates another issue as my cat has a habit of drinking it. So I’ve now had to commandeer a plate to place on top of it. The final point I want to make is everything that is in the rain – all the pollution they talk about and whatever else United Utilities would filter out for me – is now in my painting.