034 / Pandemic Artwork Stories


034 / pandemic artwork stories


Traversing the Storm

Where are you painting from and what have you been doing to keep busy?

I have been sheltering in place since March, so I am painting from my studio/home in Oakland, California. I have created a cozy nest with two easels and a sketchbook in every place I sit down. I have storage carts for my art supplies - pastels, oils, acrylics, watercolors, and drawing materials. Many canvases are stacked against the walls. I also have a large collection of art books which serve as inspiration for the aesthetic spirit. I love to listen to music when I am working, it keeps me in the flow. In addition to my art, I am an insatiable reader and a lifelong walker. Sometimes I meditate and write down perceptions that come to me. This has helped me through a trying year and occasionally these insights end up in paintings transmuted by my creative process.

How did you find inspiration from your surroundings for it?

Though I normally prevail upon friends and family to pose for me, this year that is not possible. There is beauty in everything, however, if you only have the eyes to see it. I frequently photograph people, animals, plants and cloud formations on my daily walks, always on the hunt for images with an eye to future paintings. As a young girl, I drew horses endlessly and many decades later I find myself coming back to the metaphor of the horse as a patient and enduring being, instinctively awaiting the renewal of life. Painting horses is in my DNA at this point. I used cloud images from photos taken on my walks as a starting point for the landscape.

What is one positive that has come from this experience for you?

I am fortunate to be an artist, as I am used to working alone and do enjoy my own company. This, however, is different. I love my friends and family dearly and so miss being able to get together for a face to face chat or a hug. Despite that, I have discovered deep inner resources which have helped me get through this year alone. I was ill for several months in the spring and it was not safe for anyone to come in and help me. I found the strength to take care of myself and manage to keep on a fairly even keel despite the enforced isolation. 

I have been deeply upset about the pandemic, economic privation and political/social unrest going on in the world now. I have found an abiding faith that we will be alright and will get through this time in history with renewed compassion and a profound understanding of our shared humanity.  

What is one of your favorite pieces in the collection from a fellow artist?

There are many wonderful pieces in the Great American Paint In collection, but one I particularly enjoyed is Eden Compton’s gouache painting, "Waiting for a Better Tomorrow". It is a period piece of a woman sitting alone in the clothes of the 1930s Depression era. It shows a connection to the past and the understanding that throughout history we have gone through tough times but have eventually emerged into a different world with growth and new understanding.

Learn more about Ellen's artwork and story