Part of our series Artists in Quarantine. We talk about the lives, interests and concerns of artists during the lockdown.
Simon Tozer is an artist based in Bristol and works with screenprinting and also runs regular workshops in Centrespace.
How are you today?
Today l am feeling good.
No music, but the sound of pigeons and seagulls here in my studio. Pigeons like to look in and see what’s going on through my window. Opposite there is a flat roof, where l have a great view of three seagull chicks. There has been a brood every year here for the last four years, but this is the first time there has been more than a single chick. They are fluffy grey balls with long bandy legs, and currently waiting for a parent to come back with some food. They are probably finding food harder to come by because of the closed restaurants – l hope they will all be ok.
Where do you normally work?
At my studio in Centrespace in Bristol. It is a block of 30 workshops in an old print works. Centrespace has been running as a co-operative for 42 years.
Why do you choose to work there?
I love the place and the people here. It’s like stepping back in time when you enter. The building is accessed through a decrepit alleyway that was once part of the medieval city wall. It is in the centre of Bristol but very peaceful. My studio is overlooked by Bristol Crown Court so sometimes l see people in wigs looking down at me. We have a really nice mix of activities there, as well as artists and illustrators there are traditional crafts: a potter, jeweller, enameller, woodcarver, upholsterer, musical instrument repairer, bike builder, and many more.
How long have you been working there?
Seven years, but for the first six l shared my studio with another screen-printer. Since then I have really appreciated having a space to myself. My Studio has two rooms, the print room and a clean space for drawing and admin. plus a side room which is converted into a washout area for screenprint.
What has changed (or not at all!) because of the lockdown?
Initially, almost everyone in the building stopped coming in, only a couple stayed who were unable to work from home. Some have still not returned because of having to shield. I teach screenprint courses in my studio, all of which are now on hold – perhaps it will be possible to restart in the Autumn.
How does that impact your practice?
I used to sketch outdoors most days, drawing buildings and street scenes which l find helps me with tapping into a creative flow. It’s a grounding process being outdoors and drawing what you see, while life goes on around you. Standing on a street corner drawing has not been not possible during lockdown, so focusing on drawing smaller things at home has been interesting. Choosing what to draw (from life) for me is about remembering how to see the world in a way that is fresh, when you begin to respond to the energy of the world. If what you are seeing is very familiar it can be harder to make that leap.
What have you discovered because of the lockdown?
I have discovered that in some ways l like having some restrictions in my life. There has been a change of focus to a much more narrow environment of home and the neighbourhood immediately around my home. Similarly a new focus on the people around me, on my street, which has been positive. Also, there has been a quite powerful connection with the natural world, which l don’t want to loose. The lockdown happened at the part of the year when life in the natural world was burgeoning, and at the same time some of us that live in cities were lucky to have had the silence and space in to recognise it, has been a very big positive.
What do you miss the most as an artist?
If l am honest there is not much l have missed as an artist. I missed my studio. I am naturally a fairly solitary person!
What do you miss the most as a fellow human being?
I have missed going climbing. Bristol has several indoor climbing centres. I go bouldering with my son on the weekends, and I used to go climbing with a friend regularly on a Thursday in a converted church, followed by a pint in the pub next door. I will be very happy when the climbing centres reopen.
See Simon’s work in our shop.