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Art During the Apocalypse

Right about now, everyone is suddenly reprioritizing. The kind of reprioritizing that usually happens when you have a near-death experience. You realize that work isn't so important after-all and that the people you love are, that so many things can be put off for a week a two and that certain people are worth the risk of a hug or kiss.

I'm in the service industry, meaning as an art teacher, I provide a service that is not all that crucial (much to my surprise) and is often the first thing cut in times of social distancing. Many, like me, and waiters, mail-carriers, mechanics, restauranteurs, and other professions that rely on people coming in and paying for a service, are suffering loss of income. We don't have paid sick leave, and most are barely scraping by.

I'm lucky. I live in a small place that is easy to manage and i keep my bills low for just such occaisions. So the sudden loss of income will be rough, but not deadly. Please keep that in mind be especially nice to people who still have to work now; mail carriers, nurses, clerks, delivery people, etc.

This is a great opportunity for our entire country to stop being human doings-and be human beings again. Now we have time to pet our cats, play games with our children, garden, and things that we swore we would get to some day.

While the virus runs its course, we as a culture are being confronted with some of the worse aspects of human nature, and the opportunity to make it better. What if we changed our way of thinking to one of caring consideration for our fellows? What if we looked to our neighbors not as germ-ridden threats but as friends and allies in the days ahead? People on lockdown in Italy are opening their windows and singing songs with their neighbors that they can't see or touch.

We are mostly still untouched by the virus, and healthy. Lets develop an attitude of loving-kindness toward those around us and find ways to protect and care for each other in the coming days.

Meanwhile, art is a healing, soothing balm in troubled times. You are probably stuck at home reading this, and have art materials available. Painting and drawing are a form of meditation and can help build your immune system by calming and centering your mind and body.

This is a quick study I did while recovering from an operation at home:

Self Isolating?

Try a few timed studies at home. If your new to painting, keep it simple and maybe start off with sketching values on simple objects. THis helps you learn how light hits a 3D form and trains your eyes to see those subtle shading differences. There is probably no better exercise you can do than value sketches!

In this sketch, note the basic shapes of sphere, half sphere, cone, etc. and how the light falls on them. There is no greater exercise for skill building than careful study and sketching of values like this...

Value sketch of a simple still life. note the spherical shapes of the peaches, the planar shape of the cut peach and the conical shape of the pitcher. This is great experience for skill building!

If you have a little more experience and want to get some canvas wet...try a value study with black and white paint, then make a full color version like this:

If you prefer pastel, try something like this pastel value sketch then full color study:

This kind of sustained focused activity will get your mind out of worry-mode and into thoughtful-reflective mode which is far more peaceful and serene. In times like these, it is even more important to practice art.

My classes are still going on, by the way, but I have added the option of attending online. If you would like to try it out, you are welcome to join in online from home. All you need is a computer. I'll invite you to try one at no charge and paint a long with my class. Next one if tomorrow evening at 6pm.

If nothing else, just paint on the kitchen counter at home, taking one item from the fruit bowl at a time and doing studies. Remember to keep up your spirit, practise loving kindness, and we will all help each other through this and grow as human beings instead of human doings.

This is a painting I finished yesterday called "Moment of Peace" based on a reference photo I took of the sunset on the beach near my house, also known as my "happy place." Whatever your happy place is, paint it, and you cannot help but feel better, maybe so much better that you will throw open the windows and sing along with the Italians!

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