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A View From the Easel During Times of Quarantine

This week, artists reflect on quarantining from their studios in New Mexico, North Carolina, Florida, and New York.

This is the 162nd installment of a series in which artists send in a photo and a description of their workspace. In light of COVID-19, we’ve asked participants to reflect on how the pandemic has changed their studio space and/or if they are focusing on particular projects while quarantining. Want to take part? Submit your studio — just check out the submission guidelines.

Elle MacLaren, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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My studio is a converted garage. It is my retreat, and making art in that space helps alleviate the anxiety I have been experiencing around the pandemic.

As a mixed media artist I have accumulated a plethora of materials and I have many choices to utilize what is at hand to make new work during our stay-at-home orders.

I started making a new body of collages using the boxes and packaging products that have been arriving at my doorstep with so much online ordering. I have boxes of boxes and papers used for packaging all around my studio. The concept of the container in times of personal containment informs the work. I have a new relationship with corrugated cardboard. Cutting or ripping it apart and reassembling in a work of art gives me a sense of order and some control in these times of uncertainty and chaos.

Rachel Goodwin, Durham, North Carolina

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This is my messy, crowded studio. Any studio I’ve ever had looks like this. It allows me to easily and quickly become immersed in my work and play around without judgment or criticism. During this quarantine time I have been working from home full-time and trying to homeschool my two teens and have had a hard time being in this space as often as I want to be. When I do get to work, I draw instead of paint, or work on sculpture. Before quarantine, I was painting and working on sculpture in a relaxed, quick way, and now I find bringing myself to work on painting or sculpture feels too permanent and not as easy or as experimental as drawing feels right now. One of my drawings, made recently, is shown in the top right of this photo on the wall to the left of the closet door. Right now, I am also finding this strong desire to work with pastels like I used to many years ago. Pastels feel ephemeral, like dust, like working with nothing to make something that’s never been before — which seems, to me, to fit what is needed during this time well.

Camilla Fallon, Manhattan, New York

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During the first week of staying indoors, I made sketches of our cat. I began to use the extra bedroom as a studio. For nearly two years, I painted small pictures there, but this time I decided ahead of time to use dry media, so pastels and colored pencils would be it. I ordered three brands in small amounts to try out and struggled with paper textures, pastel mark-making — taking stock of the issues that come with a new medium. I set up a few familiar objects to draw at first, and then bought some tulips to add to it. Every year I paint flowers for a few weeks during the spring. Drawing or painting flowers is a nice break from whatever else I’m doing. It took center stage during this quarantine. I drew fruit on a plate with pastels, using a smaller format. Drawing food and fruit became slightly complicated by having to go to a grocery store more often than I wanted to. Sometimes I say to myself: “I wish this pastel were paint, it would be easier to get closer to the color I want.” Then I counter that with: “I love the texture, aren’t pastels more fun than paint?” I don’t know what it will feel like to go back to the studio. These drawings feel casual. The work in the studio feels riskier: it takes preparation, thought, planning, materials; it’s expensive to make, and takes much more time. My home studio makes for a more easeful approach.

Jami Nix Rahn, Weston, Florida

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I was packing up my studio in South Florida in anticipation of moving to solitude and inspiration in the Rocky Mountains when the stay-at-home order came through. My bookshelves are empty, paint and canvas boxed-up, and the only supplies left in the drawers of my studio were small bottles of ink and bamboo brushes brought home from a trip to China nearly 40 years ago.

When I began my career as an artist, pen and ink were my favorite medium; I spent hours in solitude drawing. As the years sped by, I experimented with many different mediums; pen and ink left behind.

It was like coming home to pick up these old friends and begin making marks again. As I progressed, I realized that subconsciously I was laying down patterns and connecting dots. The drawings could easily be read as contact tracing in this period of the coronavirus. On another level, I couldn’t help thinking that I was mapping my life and 40 years of living, working, and growing.

Jane Zweibel, Brooklyn, New York 

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During this time of quarantine, my studio situation has changed dramatically.  My large studio in Sunset Park is not accessible. I have adapted by carving out a tiny studio workspace in my cramped Brooklyn apartment. My miniature studio is located in my bedroom, alongside my bed, and between my exercise bike and my wardrobe. I have been making art at a small chair and table that I purchased from Amazon. The work created in this space, during the pandemic, consists of two bodies of work, which have been directly influenced by this crisis: “Jungle Ladies in the time of Corona”, and “Isolation Interiors.” The former is a series of small acrylic paintings depicting solitary female figures inhabiting lonely landscapes. The latter is a series of line drawings incorporating observations of immediate surroundings and imagined self-portraits. My materials and process have also changed. I typically work large and paint with oils, but I am now working with non-toxic materials like acrylics and drawing media. In my “normal” studio work schedule, I usually have painted for six to eight hours a week. However, my circumstances while quarantined have provided me with more studio time, so I have been putting in two to three hours each day.

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