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In the last six months, I have painted the same canvas numerous times, to reflect on my feelings during this Global Pandemic. It is an old, used canvas that I purchased at Goodwill for a couple of dollars. In the beginning, I painted the entire canvas white with Gesso and then began to use my oils to describe how I feel.

It all started with a celebratory painting filled with color and exploding with light, when things were looking good, the first major surge of COVID illness subsiding,  people standing in long lines to get vaccinated, distances softening and it looked as though the pandemic was coming to a conclusion….but

Early Sunrise

It followed with a shift in color and emphasis based on the fact that there was a significant portion of the population refusing to be vaccinated even when vaccines were offered for free. Ironically, there are numerous individuals in other places eager to be vaccinated, without any access to vaccinations at all. The blues began settling in.

The Blues

Pausing with bright colors to consider whether the fog will ever lift, whether we will ever make it to the other side of this global pandemic, whether it might be better to soften colors and expectations even further.

Fog Settles In

Gliding softly into sadness about what would happens next, darker blues, softer light, yet still appreciating the silence of ever shifting remoteness.

Night of Darkness

Stuck in gloom as reality hits hard, floating in dark waters, far away from realizing the end of the pandemic. Many more lives are unnecessarily lost, years of schooling missed, food sources cut short, distribution systems weakened, life expectancies shortened, quality of living amended again, even farther, bending to the severe isolation and rapid surge of hospitalizations and deaths, mostly of the unvaccinated, during the pandemic.

Doomed

Hope is lost, the painting reflects on shapeless darkness. In some ways, this particular painting was very satisfying, as I lost myself in the darkness covering the entire canvas in dark blacks, reds and blues.

Then, the painting returns to shape and form, but this time, without much sentimentality. This time, it is based on the assumption that life is short, and that today is all there is.

My conclusion? Any painting we may do about this pandemic is true to life, each varied color and mood may be augmented for differential emphasis on our interpretation as to how things are going.

Not a Chance, But Life is Short

These are my ups and downs of painting during a global pandemic.

I hope that you enjoyed this reading these short notes on painting my way through pandemic blues and may consider sharing your own experiences on this notably historical event as well.

We may no longer write long paper letters, but we do know how to blog our way through tough times.

What’s your story?

A big part of the enjoyment of art for me, is playing with ideas.

Front yard in moonlight, Abaco, personal photo
Edited version, more focused on light

Interpreted scene, oils
Interpreted scene, ink
Interpreted scene, Water color
Personal Photo of our front yard, Abacos

Do I go forward with an oil painting of this, with more vivid colors?

Or should I play with something even more abstract?

What will be gained from taking this to a different concept of artistic thought?

Will anything be learned about its value as a setting?

If I do take such a leap, how can I add to the idea of luminescence?

What is it that lures artists to repeat paintings, differently?

Perhaps life, itself?

Me TOO!

Personal Drawing and Story of my Grand Daughter

Me TOO!

I went to the Park
And a little boy was at the park
When I did something
All he said was “Me too”.
“Me too.” And that’s what
I do to my brother.

This is a poem and a drawing of my grand daughter, inspired by the idea that we should save stories of our childhood that have great meaning to us so that we will have stories to tell to our future children so that they may laugh and learn from them.  She had just experienced, for the first time, what it is like to have a younger child around who wants to do all the things that the older child is doing, while the littler one incessantly shouts  out,  “Me too!”  She whispered to me, “I can’t go up the big slide because if I do, that little boy tries to follow me and I don’t want him to get hurt.”  

She smiled and then added, “I do that to my brother, too. “It had never occurred to her before, to consider how her bigger brother felt about being trailed by a frustrated smaller child who wants to do everything that he does.

We both laughed at the discovery.  I hugged her and said, “Why don’t you write a story about it?”

Winter Bridge

Winter Bridge, Oil Painting, 12″ x 16″ birchwood canvas

Here she is, my winter bridge painting. She has gone through a number of transitions, on her way to becoming. Now that she is here, I cannot imagine how she looked before.

I wanted the sky and water to mingle and reflect in this painting.. And I wished the Winter Bridge painting would highlight the Willamette River’s natural beauty while staying real to the sight of industrial pressures that such city rivers also bear.

I hope the viewer enjoys the sky, soft background hills the river flow and water reflections. I also hope the viewer considers the port side, the big buildings, the ominous boats that cover up the natural ridge of this beautiful river, dominating a once pristine cove.

May we never forget how this river flows so naturally under the bridge, the left bank tucked into trees and soft sky. And may we also remain concerned when we see that it flows on the other side, past the industrial messes we make.

Our Front Garden, July 2021

Part of the beauty of gardens are all the hiding places for baby birds who can’t yet fly, for small animals seeking safety while nibbling at low greenery, protecting busy bees and butterflies settling into cooler places during the hottest part of the day. I find when painting these darker places, that they point like arrows to colorful flowers, often contrasting the showers of light that shoot carefree through grasses, and sometimes pointing straight up to daisies announcing, “over here”, “over here” to thirsty birds in need of the bird bath.

This is an oil painting on canvas, 20″ x 24″. My husband asked for the painting before I even took it off the easel in my art studio. I think that he likes it.

We form a book club of two. She lives in NYC. I live in Portland, Oregon. The distances between us are magnified by the pandemic. We did not see each other this past year, as travel is severely limited by the ongoing global pandemic. We decided to share readings about pandemics of times past while staying in touch via the internet and phone. Each of us brought books and articles to the table and our first reading list looks like this.

The Great Influenza, by John Barry; The Plague, by Camus; Year of Wonders by Geraldine Books; Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter.

The books we choose tell stories of pandemics occurring in the last 400 years. We read of plagues and pandemics between the years 1660 and 1918, seeking to understand the one in 2020. The stories we read might just as well have been written about the plague we confront today. Reading them is proving cathartic. It is somehow reassuring to learn of other pandemics, of plagues past, and how lives were lost. Yet eventually, the incidence of illnesses and deaths subsided and things went back to normal. That is, if you can call enormous loss and experience with paralyzing fear, normal.

Previous plagues did not subside without stress, tragedy, conflict, pubic protest, political in-fighting, devastating illness and untimely death, family upheaval, lonely migration treks, escape attempts and economic loss.

It is clear from these stories that there are ways to prevent or reduce the numbers of deaths and illness even under the direst of circumstances. But it requires community cohesion, respect for the rights of others and acknowledgement of one’s community and family responsibilities.

During one of our discussions, I asked her, “Did you ever study the history of any pandemic while you were in high school or college?.”

She said, “No I did not.” I agreed with her that I did not either.

We both remembered references being made by teachers to a “plague” of some time or place, but what was missing was an historical description or analysis of what happened. We remember no required readings in our coursework of historical or fictional accounts about pandemics. Perhaps there were some readings and we did not take note of it, figuring such horrible experiences were all behind us?

Thus, it would seem that when our global pandemic was officially announced on March 11, 2020, we were not prepared. One would have thought that it was the first pandemic humans had ever experienced.

“It is happening over there, not over here.”

“It is their fault.”

“It will never get to us.”

“It will be brief”

“It will take a while”.

“It looks like it is increasing but it really isn’t.”

“It will be resolve quickly by medical technology.”

“It cannot be managed unless we all participate in this together”

“Data are being repressed”.

“Do you know anyone who has had it?”

“Do you know anyone who died from it?

“No need to change our behavior.”

“Our rights are being taken away.”

“Our responsibilities are too many.”

“I am so sorry for your loss.”

“Glad that you are feeling better.”

“Will it ever end?”

“It feels like it is coming to an end, but how can I be sure?”

“We have a vaccination, now.

“When will I get it?”

“For how long must wear masks and stay socially isolated?”

As time marches on, the seriousness of what is happening cannot be ignored.

What can we learn from reading books about pandemics? I would say, just about everything. Through books and book discussions we can start to come to grips with what happened. Reading these stories offers a better understanding of how we might cope. It offers a way to imagine our future during these bleak hopeless times. It suggests the healing process that we must go through when the pandemic subsides.

Below is a Poem from the Irish Times sent to me by a friend of mine.

When, by John O’Donnell

And when this ends we will emerge, shyly

and then all at once, dazed, longhaired as we embrace

loved ones the shadow spared, and weep for those

it gathered in its shroud. A kind of rapture, this longed-for

laying on of hands, high cries as we nuzzle, leaning in

to kiss, and whisper that now things will be different,

although a time will come when we’ll forget

the curve’s approaching wave, the hiss and sigh

of ventilators, the crowded, makeshift morgues;

a time when we may even miss the old-world

arm’s-length courtesy, small kindnesses left on doorsteps,

the drifting, idle days, and nights when we flung open

all the windows to arias in the darkness, our voices

reaching out, holding each other till this passes.

When, by John O’Donnell

It isn’t over yet, the pandemic still rages in parts of the world. Many of us have only shyly begun to return to our former selves. 

Or at least what we think is our former selves.  

I  wonder, once this global pandemic subsides even further, what will we remember?

Photo taken during “Stay at Home” measures, November 2020.

Landscapes

Landscapes we paint, no matter how big or small, are wondrous moments witnessed through our abstraction.

When thought of this way, there is nothing real about a landscape, other than the fact that light is shifting, objects are reflecting and atmosphere hovering, and we experience constant movement of ideas and thought, while traveling through these variable, natural compositions.

Nature is for painters, our most wild and beautiful challenge. Lucky for us, nature is everything, and we have many opportunities to paint, to write, or simply observe its amazing show.

There is no right or wrong painting or poem as all abstractions are personal.

Knowing this, brings freedom of our own thoughts and choices of shifting moments we remember.

Watercolor

Oils

Oil

Watercolor

The Bird Won

Alone, oil painting

It wasn’t so long ago, but almost forever and a day, before the sun fully lifted into the sky.

The light broke, and now Freely into Blues.

Together alone

Variations of the same oil painting while playing with glazing and color mixing on birch wood.

Oil painting variations were completed during the period of time that I participated in an art class called Painting on the Edge taught by Michael Orwick, offered through the Oregon Society of Artists.

There are people whom I carry with me, in my head and my heart.  I am finding the time, through my paintings, to bring them back into view.

Street children  have lingered in my memory for decades.  In this case, I recollect two boys playing cards on a heavily utilized footpath near the dhobi ghats where their parents were working as laundry washers, on the streets of Mumbai, India. I call this painted moment, “Unity.

I took notes describing the scene.

“The boys play their game as though they are alone. Yet, in fact, they are surrounded by people swiftly walking past them. The boy’s feet touch, defining their play area. The sidewalk patterns mimic the shape of their feet and legs, further symbolizing the boys’ sense of land ownership and unity.”

Personal notes
“Unity”, Oil painting

I took a quick photo of the people walking nearby.

Walking area, personal photo

Most likely, the children’s parents were working in the dhobi ghats where laundry workers wash and dry clothing. The urban work space looks like this.

Personal photo of Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat area, Mumbai, India

Each laundry washer, or dhobi, has a small area to work from where clothing and bedding are washed and hung them out to dry.

Clothing drying on lines, Mumbai, India, personal photo

Children are around the scene, and on the streets, as many of their living arrangements are very nearby. In some cases, children are living on the sides of streets, with family members, some under difficult conditions.

Children living on the streets of Mumbai, India, personal photo
Home of mother and son, on the side of a busy street, Mumbai, India, personal photo

Cars and trucks hurriedly stream by some of these tiny home shelters.

Street shelters, Mumbai, India, personal photo

Successfully capturing the surrounding light and colors, depicting the boys’ levels of intimacy, illuminating their likely concerning situation and yet at the same time, highlighting the strength and endurance of these children, abstractly, is the challenge for this painting.

Work developing ideas for this oil painting are showing in an earlier blog, here. This oil painting has been completed during the period of time that I have been taking the art class called Painting on the Edge taught by Michael Orwick, offered through the Oregon Society of Artists.

Walking the Line

Somewhere between the art of tonalism and luminism is a painting of all the colors seen on the horizon at the moment of sunrise. It depicts the time when a night-darkened horizon line breaks loose from the underground with bright light. Colors go from soft grey to white streams of light that allow colors to jettison through the atmosphere, bouncing onto the grounds and waters below.

It is a moment of rainbow color craziness, lasting only a few seconds before the plain morning light breaks, leaving the simpler blues and yellows of breakfast sunshine.

An en plein air painter might have 10 seconds to observe the shifting array of sunrise colors.

Photography and painting alter it, limited by the technology, techniques and mechanisms used to depict it.

I call this painting, Alone Together.

These sketches were completed during the period of time that I have been taking the art class called Painting on the Edge taught by Michael Orwick, offered through the Oregon Society of Artists.

Alone Together, oil painting