The Artist In Residence
That’s us all three weeks into the lockdown, and the world is so different – but not in a good way.
Austin Lafferty Solicitors continues to operate in a cobbled-together but remarkably efficient way, using (see previous blogs) the magic of technology and the internet. We keep in contact with each other, clients and those other institutions still working. Documents are produced, money can still move, and the needs of clients are being met.
Volumes are down of course. Not only is there a more moderate level of business, but outside the office there is less to do than usual. Clubs, cafes, restaurants, theatres, cinemas are all closed, with many routine activities either impossible, disallowed or just diminished.
In normal working mode, I generally struggle to get time for a leisure life. I do get to enjoy sport, creative art, gardening, socialising, but they all have to be scheduled and made to happen. Recreation is a serious business.
As regular readers know, one of my main outside interests is drawing and painting. This has been a lifelong pleasure for me, art having the twin attributes of allowing me to express such talent as I have been given, and also to tune out of the world when it is good to do so. I can work on an animal drawing or a child portrait for hours at a time, forgetting everything else. Unlike pounding the treadmill in a gym or listening to music – both good things to do – there is a creation at the end of it, a permanent thing, and even if given away (most of my work is informally - i.e. for nothing – commissioned, by friends, family, or for charity) I keep a photograph of every piece – indeed you can see pretty well all of them on Facebook in Austin Lafferty Arts Exchange.
If I get the picture right, there is an additional buzz in The Reveal. A happy customer is a lovely thing to experience. I once did a drawing of a recently passed-away collie dog for a retired church minister. It was a surprise present for him, commissioned by a mutual friend. I worked from a photo and used black pencils. The dog had a lovely coat that shone as well as bright eyes and a wet nose. I was able to get the image right by judicious use of the rubber, in erasing those areas where the shiny reflection occurred. I wasn’t there to hand the drawing over, the friend did that, but she told me later he burst into tears on the sight of it. In happiness she reassured me, not appalled disappointment.
But now, with the day job reduced – though I am more than managing to fill my days in the office - I have time on my hands at home. With my little studio/office in the garage, I am surrounded by my pencils, brushes, paper, canvasses, as well as a PC, router and printer/scanner. Self-contained for production of artworks of all sorts, and hours on end to get on with it. I have added a few here for illustration purposes.
I am not writing this to say how brilliant or unique I am. Lots of us have a hinterland that is creative or fun or useful or exciting. In our own firm there are other artists, musicians to a professional standard, dancers, at least one cheerleader, and a variety of sportspeople. Indeed in the wider legal profession you get all sorts – thriller writers, international rowers, stand-up comedians, whole rock bands made up of lawyers (one including a very senior judge). 10 years ago I curated an exhibition of artworks, photography and jewellery by solicitors for the annual Law Society of Scotland Conference. We raised thousands for charity and showed a different side to the usually serious and sober image of the legal profession.
I can’t spend all my time drawing. The other thing I have beefed up is gardening. Over the years I have enjoyed pottering in our back and front gardens, though mainly (because of that lack of personal time) only doing basic work like weeding, mowing, hoeing, tidying, while leaving the heavy work to professional gardeners coming in from time to time. Since lockdown, I have been transformed into the Austin Titchmarsh of the south side of Glasgow. All my stone flag paths have been scraped and de-mossed (only after 27 years, who’s in a hurry?), the earth beds have been dug over, hoed and raked, driveway and red-chip paths have been tidied up ready for two tonnes of new chips to be delivered and spread round. I now have a wheelbarrow. My lawns are neat, cropped and edged. I have planted a variety of spring flowers and other small plants. A spot has been identified to plant a new small tree (red maple japonica when the shops reopen). By the end of the summer I should be ready to win the Chelsea Flower Show single-handed.
I am going to stop now. The lorry with the red chips has arrived.