During these troubled times, I feel more and more lucky to be an artist. Art has nourished me, kept me focused, productive and creative.
Toni Morrison said it best: "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak."
Before Covid, I had identified primarily as a figurative painter. In January of this year, my work expanded into new territory when I built a website to accompany my oil painting collage, US History (forgotten). Covid poured gasoline on that fire. An online metamorphosis has vigorously continued since, so without hesitation, I now identify myself as a multidisciplinary artist. Aside from my work in oil paint, ink and other two-dimensional mediums, and the ongoing addition of content and oil painting art illustrations for: www.ushistoryforgotten.com, I have created dozens of TikTok videos,:
which can also be viewed on YouTube.:
Six months ago I began the Lockdown Series, works of ink and chalk on paper. At the time I was under the mistaken assumption that the pandemic would be over in a few short months. I've come to see these safety measures (masks, physical distancing, etc.) as a new way of life. For me, lockdown now means new normal, a new lifestyle, rather than the temporary period I had initially assumed.
On September 1st, 2020, I was a first-time participant in the Strada Easel 30-Day Challenge, and October 1st, 2020 began participating in Inktober's 31-Day Challenge. (See two separate slideshows above.) In the Strada Easel Challenge, for 30 days I painted or made a drawing from life daily (rather than from a photo, imagination or memory). Daily work was posted on Instagram, which is also new to me. (IG: msusanbroussardart)
My biggest surprise of Instagram has been being part of a supportive global community of artists. It's been a thrill to connect with artists from North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. The experience has been wonderful, and much needed and welcome during these difficult times. Many thanks to Strada Easels and Inktober for organizing these great events.
During the years leading up to lockdown, I had been spoiled working with L.A.'s amazing artist's models. (Without exaggeration, the world's best art models.) The luxury of working from life with models came to an abrupt end in mid-March, 2020. Quarantine has not been easy, but being an artist, I feel much luckier than most. There is still much to be grateful for.
The Lockdown Series, represents the studio work that has creatively sustained me over these months in self isolation. I have been able to continue working with the figure by referencing the drawings of master draughtsmen. I am intrigued by the uniqueness of each old Master's technique and "language". Dissecting a master's drawing is like cracking a code with ingenious layers eventually revealing themselves.
New to my figurative work is the addition of a narrative. This series references classic mythology, while juxtaposing various old Masters' figures. The attempt is to analyze or explain the human condition, as well as modern mythology. Using classical mediums and styles of drawing opines that history is merely repeating itself in current events of these troubling times. It comforts me believing that everything has happened sometime before in the history of man, albeit perhaps not in our lifetime. This gives me hope that we will get through this.
The Lockdown Series is work on paper, using a variety of mediums as used by the master in the original artwork. (Black, red, brown or other colored chalk, and black or brown ink.) All work is created by hand directly on large sheets of rag paper (30 x 42 inch paper), without collage and photographic process. The hand process is slow, meticulous, and unforgiving, which is well-suited for the endless days of self-isolation.
For the month of September, 2020, I have very much been enjoying participatingThe Stada Challenge paintings I've done so far are posted in the above slideshow.
Sheep is the title of this work in progress triptych. Ink and chalk on cotton paper with deckle edges, 30" H x 126" W. [Three sheets of 30" x 42" (762 × 1067 mm.)]
Some of my favorite old masters inspired the parade which appears in Sheep: Tiepolo, Durer, Goya, Michelangelo, Daumier, Pontormo, Degas, Ingres, Poussin and Toulouse-Lautrec,
The title, Sheep, is a metaphor for thoughtlessly following the leader, and succumbing to peer pressure, as opposed to thinking for yourself. Our nation's current discussion of complicity and failure to do the right thing, is the inspiration for Sheep. The three central characters in Sheep (in the center panel foreground; L to R:) represents leaders: media, government and religion. The horsemen in the left and center panel represent police and military. Sheep speaks of the ability of leaders to lead us to be either our best or worst selves.
Saturn Speaks [After Degas, Holbein, Goya, Kollwitz, Daumier and Sargent.], talks about our interconnectedness, even during quarantine. People may feel isolated and alone, but our actions inescapably continue to be felt by others, with consequences, for better or worse.
Like all of the artwork in my lockdown series, Saturn Speaks is not a collage and does not use photography. All of the painting and drawing has been done by hand directly on one sheet of 30 x 42 inch paper (2 1/2 x 3 1/2 feet).
While washing my hair I created this in 3 - 5 minutes. I called it, We Will Survive. The surreal lockdown rollercoaster had begun.
I had much fun and learned a lot doing this master copy of Venus Lamenting Adonis. It also helped me formulate my plan for lockdown. I often prefer an old master's drawings to their paintings. And I love learning about an artist by doing a copy of their work.
But rather than tell someone else's story, I wanted to somehow customize the work to tell my own story. (Like I had done in week two and three.)
The prior week (week 2 of lockdown) I used Michelangelo's figure drawings to tell current day mythology. What luck that it set me on a wonderful creative course for the quarantine. For week three I used Daumier's figures to illustrate more childhood mythology. This drawing shows a student being scolded just before their best friend rescued them.
For the second week of lockdown I created Dodgeball, a triptych (3 panels), using red chalk, black chalk and brown ink on paper that I stained with tea.
The figures are master copies of Michelangelo's drawings for the Sistine Chapel.
The inspiration for this challenge came when an old friend jokingly asked me to make a painting commemorating her childhood victory of catching a killer dodgeball hurled at her by the school bully. I liked the challenge, but not being a narrative artist, I initially drew a blank.
While at the Getty's Michelangelo exhibit - the day before it shuttered - this concept occurred to me.:
Michelangelo's burly muscle bound figures would tell our schoolgirl mythology perfectly.
The red (headless) figure on the center panel is catching the dodgeball. The figure just to its right is throwing the ball.
The side panels show the spectators.
On the last night of normal restaurant business before the lockdown, I took this lobster home in a doggy bag to paint. The chef had sawed it in half. I texted a friend, "My poor model! Its head had to be tied together with a blue rubber band." She replied, "He is lucky - he's still got a job!".
Remember when we used to get together with friends? A friend gave me some beautiful oranges from his tree.
It's always a treat painting fruit with leaves still on them.
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