Living through a Pandemic: Series, Repetition and Process

By Kristine Schomaker

When we first went into self-quarantine, safer-at-home mode, I couldn’t concentrate on painting or creating any type of art. There was too much going on. Too many unknowns in the world, in the country, in our city. I had to think about my business and how to keep it running and relevant. I considered Art and Cake’s place in all of this. Would we be able to continue publishing and supporting artists?

Like so many friends, the stress, anxiety and depression could sometimes be overwhelming. Thankfully, I have an amazing support system; a community of artists, friends and family who have been there for me and each other. One of the biggest take-aways for me is that we have to be kind to ourselves. Through all of this, we are worrying about so many others. Our friends, our family, our community, our colleagues, our peers. We forget to think about ourselves.

Just that short statement says so much. “Be Kind To Yourself.” Of course that means something different to each of us. For me, it is more self-care, art making, walks outside, meditation.

When I was able to get a handle on taking care of myself (Ok who I am kidding, who really has a handle on this?). When I was able to become more aware that that was what I needed, I started to think smaller. We often think too big. We go to the extremes, forgetting that we only have to take one small step at a time to get started.

Rather than take out my paints or mixed-media material, I made it easy on myself and grabbed my colored pencils and graph paper and started to mindlessly make marks. That was a start. I was binge-watching “Midsomer Murders” and “Brokenwood Mysteries” as a distraction from the news, from politics, from life, so it was a bit easier to start drawing too. I ordered fine art markers and went to town.

Then I started seeing my friends doing the same thing. On social media, I would see series of drawings, repetitive poetic works that were a bit outside their normal practice. Artists were feeling the same way I was. Creating however they could whether inspired by what is happening around us, for meditation, in response to their stress and anxiety, in order to stay awake or fall asleep late at night and just to have something to do, some way to work with their hands, a process of art.

I invited a few friends to submit work for this article and put a call out for more artists who were feeling the same way. I started out with drawings, but expanded to included mixed media and digital. Especially right now, when we are safer-at-home, artists are using whatever means they can to share their experience. I didn’t want to limit or curtail there endeavors.

Kristine Schomaker

Jody Zellen

In the studio, during Covid-19 I have been drawing and painting “Covid-19 influenced flowers.” These works are quite different from what I usually create. I find the process both relaxing and absorbing. They start out as pencil drawings that then get filled in with Gouache. They are various sizes. I think they reflect the positive and negative aspects of what we’re communally going through.

Kate Carvellas

My art usually comes from a place of joy, freedom, experimentation and a deep need to express myself. However, I have barely been able to create any work since COVID-19 hit the world. One night I drew an abstract doodle in my journal. And, it felt incredibly therapeutic. A way to express the anxiety, anger, fear and powerlessness I was feeling connected to the pandemic. Since then I have created6 of these drawings using acrylic and oil paint markers; all black and white except for one that wanted some color. I have no pre-existing ideas when I create these drawings. I just start them and let my subconscious and intuition carry me along. While these drawings have very little connection to my regular work, they both have one thing in common: They both are a way for me to communicate things in a way that words cannot express.

Jeff Iorillo

This project began in mid-March with drawing abstracted busts on acid-free bond paper, embellished with acrylic, spray paint, oil stick and pastel. As the quarantine and the project continued, the heads became more espressive of my own and our collective shock, horror, confusion and panic. I kept doing them, usually in batches of 6 or more at a time, quickly and gesturally to keep them loose. This kept me busy in March into April, until I had 100 of them. Seemed like a point to move into something else…I’ll show you the wall-sized full-figure murals if interested!

My regular studio practice as an abstract painter is usually concerned with painting elements like mass, momentum, color and texture. Expressing my emotional life isn’t really a conscious part of it, so this project was a departure from normal for me.

I made a 1-minute slideshow of finished pieces and studio views

Mary-Gail King

In my personal art practice I work as a Contemporary Impressionist oil painter. As such, I brought home a big easel, large canvases and all of the necessary supplies I needed to continue working on a series of florals I’ve worked on for a number of years. Many of those are located on my web site (link below) and are on display in Gallery 113 in Santa Barbara for the month of July.

Once I got home I discovered that all I wanted to do was shrink into the studio I created at home, went for hikes, and taught myself to bake bread. I also dove deep into connecting with people on social media. I turned to the comfort of everyday activities I’ve enjoyed all my life. Homemaking, hiking and sketching wherever I found myself became more important than creating large scale works of art. In addition to shrinking into the small world surrounding my home I reached out to my students and collectors through Zoom, private Face Book groups and personal development communities. I obsessively watched late night tv hungry for news, humor and just watching how they used the technology available to all of us to transform their couches and extra bedrooms into video production studios. So I hooked up my iPhone over a 5”x7” pad of paper, set up my computer so I could talk to people on camera, got a Zoom account and started painting.

The scale of most of the sketches I’ve done is about 5”x7”. That size paper fits easily into a fanny pack when I paint on location and is easy to film in the four square feet of space I have directly under my phone for demonstrations.

I’ve been obsessively creating course content and working to promote what I do in order to move my art classes online. It’s been fun. Quarantine has force4d me to focus and to do what is easy in order to achieve what is hard. During this time I’ve become grateful for ease, a beautiful home, and a way to connect with people and my life purpose through my art. My commitment to myself is to continue my art practice in order to bring joy to myself and to others. It will be interesting to see what comes of the new images and practice I’ve put in place. What a great adventure!

Geoffrey Levitt

I started my Bicyclist Traffic Signs Series because I am self isolating so I have to exercise around the neighborhood. My wife told me that bicycles were selling like hot cakes because of COVID 19. I got to noticing the interesting bike lanes and signs in Lancaster and Palmdale. So I decided they would make an interesting political statement. We noticed how much cleaner the air was when there wasn’t as much automobile traffic. It is similar work to my train series since it is intended to try to get people out of their cars and using either public transpiration like in my train series, or bicycles like in this series. Most of the pieces were developed from photos I took in my neighborhood. We have been watching period pieces on TV where most people used bicycles. Wouldn’t it be nice if this happened again? Think clean air and quiet.

Daryl Bibicoff

I am creating Black and Color Motion Digital Art Abstractions about the year 2020. Color, as I and everyone else is witness to this year, plays a huge role in our future. Whether it be the Covid Pandemic, BLM Marches, LGBTQIA, or World Cultures, I am creatively expressing this digitally.

Shannon Keller

I have been working a lot (more) since the onset of the safer at home order. I originally couldn’t sleep, was up late into the night and would wake several times throughout the night as the weight of the world was weighing heavy on me. The days felt very much the same and although I was exhausted I couldn’t get good rest.
To trick my mind I began thinking of what thrived in the night, what creatures were stirring or just waking to the moonlight and what flowers were blooming in the darkness for little to see.
I started to incorporate this imagery into several drawings.
Some of the imagery is overt and others subtle but these works are directly linked to the pandemic world and they are meant to share hope and light while also commissary. I read an article in early May and it was like a calling- saying the arts will be the second tier of responders – the cultural healers from this pandemic. That has helped me keep making and stay focused. The ink drawings are pandemic turned to revolution sketches.

Andrée B. Carter

This series of 15 ink drawings was started at the beginning of the Coronavirus quarantine. The process of these repetitive drawings grew out of a necessity to keep myself occupied with the limited supplies I had at home. I started by creating random grids as armatures to support the all-over organic patterns that were traced on top. After about the third drawing I became mesmerized with the process of these doodles. They were charming and playful, a distraction from the pandemic, and would lead me to a larger body of achromatic paintings.
Then something more terrible happened. In the midst of these “doodles”, George Floyd was murdered. My high contrast black and white drawings took on a new meaning for me. The organic shapes and the linear grids were now fused together. A new symbolism emerged from the use of the opposites. By mounting the drawings on handmade paper and then stitching them together the series becomes stronger as a whole. So, now what?

Max Presneill

In reassessing the relationship of my work to social issues I decided to start a series of drawings to isolate key motifs of my painting practice. They began with a few drawings that used brand new marker pens which I used to make one continuous line until the pen ran out of ink. These reflected on the length of a life, a process until death.
The series morphed into a few drawings that attended to the chaotic scribble, typical in my paintings, enclosed within a confining but fluid enclosure – trapped and struggling – as a metaphor for political action, frustration and the need for struggle.
They then morphed again to a consideration of ideas of brotherhood as a member of the Chosen Few Motorcycle Club – a mixed race MC. These used club colors, sub-cultural codes embedded in certain shapes and colors with significance to us, which explain the ingrained culture of anti-racism in the club – originally a black club in 1959 that became the first 1% ‘outlaw’ club to allow all ethnicities to join.
As they are in the process of developing I can say that they have led me to reassess my painting practice in line with incorporating more direct elements. My paintings have dealt with these issues for a few years now but some clarity to areas of recognition and accessibility have become a new consideration. We will see where this leads….

Desy Safán-Gerard

Being confined during the Pandemic with my life partner in his house, away from my Venice studio, I became intrigued by illustrations in his paper on smart phone communications that has kept him working on it steadily day and night. I decided to use portions of his illustrations to generate new drawings that would interact among themselves. So, I printed and used some of his beautiful designs by cutting them up and pasting them on paper where they enticed me to draw and paint around them. Missing my beloved studio, I used a large table in his library where all this work was carried out, on and off and steadily throughout the lockdown. The results reawakened my old time conflict about the inherent symbiosis between art and technology. These works represent a resolution of that conflict.

Faith Purvey

In addition to other attempts inside the studio, I started incorporating a site-based drawing practice into my daily walks. I challenged myself to make one drawing per day as a way to extend my outdoor meditation. Using old gel pens and metallic markers, I sat in parks or odd urban spaces for about an hour per drawing. The subjects were common plants; the compositions unremarkable. I did this for 7 days; the black tree was done the day after George Floyd’s murder about a mile from my home. As the Twin Cities went up in flames and unrest all around me, this daily practice abruptly stopped. I hope to resume soon.

Merilyn Hernandez

I have been working primarily in the digital format as I do not have access to buy the typical supplies I would normally use. I, like everyone else, have been feeling the stressors of this year. My art has been a way to destress and I have been focused on using pastel colors and calming scenes in the pieces attached. Creating calming scenes has been really important to my mental health at this time.

Micke Tong

Drawing has always been a foundation for me. Due to shelter in place during this era of Covid 19, I felt I needed an outlet to jog my imagination and challenge my mind, deterring me from the echoes of reality’s chaos. I found my salvation in Kuretake ink brush pens and a sketch pad. No premeditated concepts, no under drawings, I just let my mind go to where it wanted. It feels pure. This isn’t a new practice by any means, but more of a back to basics for me. An untainted draw flow with a tag-line that states ‘where it ends, nobody knows’. Twenty to thirty minute drawings, reduced to just seconds.

Nina Bays

As a mixed-media collage artist, my usual process involves a lot of pre-planning. Being under self-isolation has altered that — my energy feels a lot more chaotic and the need to create something immediate is strong. ‘Faces of Isolation’ is themed off of ideas of distance and physical and emotional protection; I limit myself to a maximum of three magazines to use for materials for each piece. The imagery I find is what speaks first, instead of searching for elements for a pre-conceived composition. As a side note, I also find it interesting that many print publications have either gone under or have been put on hold during this time, making the medium all the more precious.

Patricia Liverman

Since the quarantine began, I’ve been using GPS to make daily maps of my movements while at home. In my normal work, I build up layers of oil that I remove from the canvas, and there’s a lot of time spent applying paint and waiting for layers to dry. With the additional time the stay-at-home order created, I decided to begin a second practice outside of my studio space using various materials that I can work with easily on the table.

The maps have become a way of journaling the experience of these past months. They provide a way to examine the quarantine’s scaled-down reality and capture the sometimes slow, sometimes rapid, movement of time. I’ve always been very interested in repetitive processes and the anomalies and shifts that come about. I expected to see a lot of similarities within each map, but what has most struck me is the amount of variation. As I work, I’ve tried not to be too precious, to explore materials, and be okay with whatever emerges.

Stacie B Greene

During the pandemic lock down I find myself distracted, while I’m still drawing and painting I’m not doing so at the rate I did pre-pandemic. One day I was looking at my pile of teaching demos, studio experiments and random pieces of scrap paper, I was immediately inspired to create collages. I also decided to create these collages as gifts to family, friends and people who have supported me. While these pieces are a departure from my current practice they are cathartic.

Steve Seleska

These new works on paper are different than my normal process. I found that by looking around my studio and using what I hand on hand was a new challenge and a lot safer than going out to buy supplies. These images are meant to show the anxiety that I think we were all feeling during this pandemic. The images were made using pen and ink, watercolor, and cut outs from old 1960’s sewing magazines.

Kristine Schomaker

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