This was not what art and design sophomore Olivia Andersson had in mind for her spring quarter, as she stood on her Los Angeles balcony, putting the final touches on a painting she had spent more than 30 hours working on in that very spot.
Andersson is just one of many art and design students who had to compromise to create art from home while in-person classes were on hold.
Andersson likes to work with oil paints, which can be toxic to breathe. She has to paint outside because she no longer had access to the Cal Poly Art studios, or any other properly ventilated areas, anymore.
Working outside poses its own challenges, such as timing with daylight and weather patterns, which Andersson said can be difficult if it is really hot or raining.
“It was hard to manage time revolving around when I had to paint,” Andersson said.
Andersson also had some oil paints leftover from last quarter, but she had to order many more through Amazon or Micheal’s because she has limited access to materials at home.
Andersson was enrolled in Art Theory and Practice (ART 203) and Critique, Discourse and Practice (ART 260) and said her professors did a good job adjusting to teaching online. However, in some of her classes, she said there was a lack of understanding students’ mental health beyond school.
“It’s more than just us teaching ourselves,” Andersson said. “It’s also dealing with mental health issues that are arising from being in quarantine, and life challenges in general.”
Art and design junior Sierra Brill said she believes social distancing is beneficial and necessary for everyone to stay safe, but does not think it is the best learning environment.
“I found myself really missing going to coffee shops to do homework, or being on campus and drawing or being in-studio on campus,” Brill said.
Brill likes working with mixed media, but her biggest challenge is not having access to studio space.
However, she had compromised, working with acrylic paint and ballpoint pen as opposed to oil paints.
Brill said she believes there are two thought processes artists use when it comes to making art during quarantine: Some want to use the time to be creative and make a lot of art, and others feel pigeon-holed and too stressed out to do it.
Brill considers herself to be in the latter group.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure to better yourself from this, and that’s not necessarily what you have to be doing right now,” Brill said.
Art and design sophomore Fernanda “Nanda” Ortíz likes to create sculptures.
Ortiz said she often reflects on psychoanalytical dreams and childhood traumas that have heavily influenced her, and then incorporates personal narratives into surrealism in her art.
“I’m trying to make it more personal so it feels like more of [the art] telling a story instead of just showing a theme,” Ortíz said.
However, at home, she does not have access to a kiln or any power tools she would normally utilize. Instead, the situation forced Ortíz to use items from around the house to implement into her work.
Ortíz has had many ideas for larger-scale art projects that require more materials, but she said the most challenging part about working under quarantine is not having access to any of them.
Ortíz said that because the art and design community at Cal Poly is small, it helps that students know one another and their artwork, creating a comfortable environment even from home.
“It’s very easy for us to communicate with each other because we have that sense of camaraderie,” Ortíz said, although she still felt an element of isolation from attending classes through Zoom.
Ortíz, like Brill, said she faces external pressure to create art during this time. But to Ortiz, art and design students are facing just as much stress as everyone else and they should not be expected to make art nonstop.
Artists around the world are using this time to create and raise awareness about coronavirus-related relief programs.
In an article from Architectural Digest, American artist Liza Lou said she has been working on a project since the start of lockdown.
“These past few weeks, I’ve been asking myself what art means in times of trouble. It led me to start a community art project, Apartogether, on Instagram, inviting the public to make comfort blankets out of whatever material they have available,” Lou said in an interview to Architectural Digest.
“Art can hopefully serve as a glimmer of hope during a time of doubt, across all genres,” said American painter Robert Nava in an interview to Architectural Digest.