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This week, we’ve been chatting to Patrick Nicholas, one of our local hosts who runs his photography holidays from Orvieto, Italy. He is an exceptional photographer, and he has been focusing on keeping his creative juices flowing during lockdown. As restrictions begin to be lifted where he is, he reflects on exactly how he’s managed to stay creative, and shares some tips on keeping your own isolation diary!

photographer Patrick


Every morning I write my morning pages. A cross between a diary and a commonplace book. I first heard about this method of tapping into one’s creative source in 2000 from a client on one of our workshops who studiously wrote his pages before meeting for breakfast. I myself started some six years later after reading a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. I had kept a diary, a few jottings every day since 1983 but this was different. The act of writing, it must be long, and not on a computer, is a way of drawing things to the surface. Sometimes I add small drawings.

It is my morning meeting with myself, or with luck my other self, the one who suggests and nudges me. I follow a certain ritual: I go to a café, order a cappuccino, always use the same battered fountain pen, keep my cartridges in an even more tatty tin case with a black cat on the lid. The ritual is important. Haydn could not compose without an apple sitting on the corner of his desk.

hilltop village in Umbria, Italy

The cafés were closed of course for two months so I usually sat at a restaurant on the street from where I could watch the world go by. The cappuccino came from a vending machine.

So what sort of things came to the surface over these months?

Given that photography and painting have more and more in common I have found ways of adapting photographs taken years ago to add to my portfolio with inserts and manipulations added in Photoshop. Once one could only change the mood of a picture in the darkroom but now all that has changed for the better.

I have had ideas for short videos about my work which I have posted onto YouTube and Vimeo. To this end I spent time looking at tutorials on YouTube to increase my proficiency. I believe photographers should develop their video skills nowadays given how the technologies have converged.

photographer captures castle on green hill

I also recalled books long ago laid down but not forgotten. Notably ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’. Certainly, it’s a book that made an impression on me when I was young and then again much later. It’s one of those books that you’d happily give someone if you thought they’d gain something from it.

The author, Pirsig, refers to human dualism, the rational as opposed to the romantic. Maintenance belongs to the former so I thought of looking to some of my equipment and what I could do to improve, clean and repair it. I made a couple of videos too which I posted to YouTube.

This seems an apt quote from the book: “You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”

This certainly has been a time of looking back though I have been trying to pick out a path for the future.

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