Art in the Time of Covid

Over the last twelve months, many artists have written about their experiences in dealing with the pandemic. For some, the times of lock-down, restrictions, quarantines, and “sheltering-in-place” have resulted in a terrific surge of creativity; for others, the opposite has been true. Being isolated — or being confined with family — can sometimes have adverse effects. Those with spouses required to work from home, or those with school-age children struggling with “Zoom” education may have found themselves with less time, much less energy, and far less inspiration for art.

With all that said, my life during the time of Covid has changed very little. I’m a homebody. I don’t enjoy getting out and going places now in the way I once did. Before Covid my outings were trips to parks or nature centers for a bit of hiking, an occasional visit to a museum, a symphony performance, the opera, or a ballet, trips to the library, and the various and sundry errands that are part of running a household.

The weather lately has prohibited any hiking — it was nine below zero when we woke up this morning, with wind chills of about thirty below — but during fairer weather I’ve still been able to get out and walk about, sketching flowers and enjoying nature. As for symphonies and operas and other cultural events, I’ve enjoyed online performances. I don’t feel that I’ve missed out on anything. I can find lots of classic literature at Project Gutenberg, and instead of running errands, I’ve begun ordering groceries online. We pick them up each Saturday morning during a time restricted to only high-risk individuals — and between that and Amazon, I can usually order anything and everything I need, from toothpaste to a new vaccum cleaner.

My schedule has remained unchanged, too, because of my husband’s work. As an essential worker in the health care field, he’s been going in to work every day throughout the pandemic — the only exception being his own recent hospitalization and recuperation process. He’s still in a bit of pain, is scheduled for a second cortisone steroid shot later this week, but braved the cold and snow this morning to drive in to work.

The only real changes for me have been that (1) I haven’t been able to visit with my older sister except for telephone calls. since the retirement community where she lives has not allowed visitors, and (2) activities and events of our regional art associations have been on hold. We did manage a workshop last fall, and we held a few outdoor meetings during the summer, but even those have been discontinued now, of course.

Other than one all-online art show (which I did not participate in) we’ve had no competitions, no exhibitions, no student shows or other community activities. Yes, I’ve missed sharing my paintings, having works on display at various community locations, and spending time with other artists. At the same time, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to look more seriously at my art studies, to think more about what areas I need to develop, and to try many different things.

Now that I’ve mentioned all of that, let me get to the point of this post — which, surprisingly, is not really about the Covid pandemic and how it’s affected us as artists. As I mentioned at the start, there have been many artists who’ve written on the topic.

The point of this post is an aspect of the pandemic that played a part in today’s alcohol ink creation. Let me show it to you first, and maybe you can guess how this particular piece relates to Covid-19.

Art in the Time of Covid — Alcohol ink abstract by Judith Kraus

Any guesses?

First, I’m going to say this. I like this abstract. Having recently developed a greater understanding of and appreciation for abstract art, I’m enjoying it more and more. As I continue learning, too, about the principles of good design, I’m feeling more comfortable and more confident in the abstract expression art I’m doing.

OK, so how does this relate specifically to Covid? Hand sanitizer. Yep. You read that right. Hand sanitizer.

I actually had to laugh a little when I turned to this project inย Alcohol Ink Mastery by Rick Cheadle and read the directions to “squirt hand sanitizer” on the substrate. By the way, I used Yupo paper for this. That seems to be the best support for my alcohol ink projects.

Hand sanitizer? Well, I certainly have plenty of that around the house and around the studio. I’d never before thought of using it as part of an art project, but since it is 70% ethyl alcohol, sure enough, it works as a base for alcohol inks.

The steps are simple:

  • Squirt hand sanitizer on the page (or tile, if that’s what you’re using)
  • Add a few drops of ink
  • Tilt the page (or tile) to allow the inks to blend

Simple enough, for sure.

Cheadle doesn’t specify how much sanitizer to use, and I did put a generous amount on my Yupo paper. (It’s a plastic-based product, so no worry about the page tearing.) Before I began, though, I chose the colors I wanted to use — violet, yellow, and white — and set them out.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about alcohol ink is that it’s good to work quickly. The inks can dry faster than you might think. I made sure I was prepared. I had each color ink sitting close at hand, the cap removed, ready to drop ink onto the paper.

I did notice a difference in how the ink spread. I’ve done this “ink drop” technique with isopropyl alcohol, alcohol ink blending solution, and now hand sanitizer. The ink didn’t “puddle out” in the usual circular shape, but seemed to blend and spread more easily with the sanitizer.

I applied the violet first, tilted the page a bit, and then used the yellow. Again, I tilted the page a bit to get the shapes I liked. I added the white, and I stepped back to give the work time to dry.ย  I was happy with it, and I resisted the temptation to “fiddle” with it “just a little bit more.” That’s one of the hardest lessons to learn in art, I think.

In the future, I will definitely be using more hand sanitizer — not just for my hands, but also for my alcohol ink work. As always, the alcohol ink is fun, and, as always, I am seeing more and more possibilities. What I create might not yet have much practical value, but I can imagine working on a larger scale and having colorful abstracts hanging on the walls.

So, all in all, art in the time of Covid has been a time of learning and growing. Even if my personal life hasn’t changed all that much, my art certainly has.

I hope each of you is well, and I look forward to seeing this pandemic brought under control in the coming months.

 

17 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful. Love the colors you’ve chosen too. Thank you for sharing the process. I’d like to try it as hand sanitizers lie around the house in ample quantity. I would need to buy the inks and the paper though.

    Liked by 1 person

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