Quarantine allows students to embrace their artistic creativity

A+work+of+digital+art+created+by+Annika+Brelsford+in+honor+of+this+years+Pride+Month.

Art Submitted by Annika Brelsford

A work of digital art created by Annika Brelsford in honor of this year’s Pride Month.

During quarantine, and especially over summer break, students were left with more free time than they could imagine thanks to activity cancellations and stay-at-home orders. For some, this meant more time to sleep, catch up on TV shows, play video games, or explore new and exciting activities. For others, however, this new (contained) freedom meant more time to focus on their passion: art.

Junior Annika Brelsford has been making art since before she can remember, starting with oil pastel scribbles and slowly but surely making her way to watercolor still-life’s, acrylic portraits, and digital illustrations.

Drawing for me encapsulates so much of who I am,” Besse said. “It isn’t just for fun either — although everything I draw is — it’s also an emotional outlet or something that I can be free and creative without worry! It’s strange, sometimes I find that when I draw my hand often moves on its own without even thinking.”

— Nan Besse

“Drawing and painting appeal to me because they are both a personal and public practice. I enjoy both of those sides of it, no matter how tiring it can be,” Brelsford said. “For example, you spend a lot of time alone while perfecting a drawing or painting so that it looks just right, but in the end, it becomes a very social thing when you show a piece to someone. It’s scary, sometimes, to open yourself up to another person through your art. Accepting that vulnerability takes a lot of time.”

A large part of accepting that vulnerability for Brelsford is the Instagram account that she created in order to exhibit her art to more people. While she started it before covid-19 hit the U.S., her postings became more frequent as quarantine dragged on and the need for a creative outlet was needed more than ever.

“Art is an outlet for me. If I’m feeling really sad, I can draw a sad picture by doing so, I allow myself a little validation. It helps me work through whatever I’m feeling but also communicate how I feel to other people,” Brelsford said.

Brelsford isn’t the only student at SPA with an art account, however. Junior Nan Besse and senior Katherine Goodman both run their own Instagram pages wherein they show off their newest pieces from quarantine.

“Drawing for me encapsulates so much of who I am,” Besse said. “It isn’t just for fun either — although everything I draw is — it’s also an emotional outlet or something that I can be free and creative without worry! It’s strange, sometimes I find that when I draw my hand often moves on its own without even thinking.”
In addition to drawing like Besse, Goodman has been exploring more hands-on art, such as sewing and patches, all of which are adorned with anti-hate and radical political phrases.

Art has given me something to do, an outlet for the frustrations and anxieties that have surfaced… and it makes me feel like I have some agency or control over my own life.”

— Katherine Goodman

“I’ve been drawing for pretty much all my life, but I only started making patches last spring,” said Goodman. “I really love seeing what was just an idea become a fully fleshed out piece, creating something from nothing, but in addition to that, I make art because doing so helps me process and better understand my own thoughts and feelings on a topic.”

These patches became especially important to Goodman as the pandemic progressed and the murder of George Floyd sparked outrage across the nation.

“Art has given me something to do, an outlet for the frustrations and anxieties that have surfaced… and it makes me feel like I have some agency or control over my own life.”

However, finding the energy to make art during such an isolating time was not as easy for some. Sophomore Max Spencer recalled that it was especially difficult for him to find the motive to be creative.

“Though I made art over the summer, it was by no means easy to create,” Spencer said.
“Due to our unprecedented circumstances, being stuck at home and being isolated from friends and social society in general, myself and many of my similarly artistically inclined friends have found it exceedingly difficult to motivate ourselves to create art in any form. However, once I started painting, I found it much easier to keep going and start again. Art has been critical for me to stay motivated during this difficult period.”

Spencer also found time over the summer to attend an online studio art course through Minneapolis College of Art and Design, which he says helped him to get enough inspiration to start painting again.

Wilson shows that there are others ways to express ones self. Countless artists use painting and drawing to get out their emotions. But Wilson is able to put that same passion into her music. Photo Submitted by Quenby Wilson

Creativity in students during the summer wasn’t solely poured into visual art, however. Over the past few months, sophomore Quenby Wilson spent her free time under her stage name Undecima, creating covers of her favorite artists’ music as well as working on her very own album, “You Know I Love You, Right?” which premieres later this month.

“I think the reason why I love songwriting and music making as a form of self-expression is because, compared to journaling or talking to people outright, music is kind of untouchable,” Wilson said. “If I said the things that I write about my music as statements in conversation, a long conversation would ensue about “why do you feel like that?” and “are you talking about me?” but when I put these feelings into music, I don’t get any of that. No one wants to ask a songwriter “is this song about me?” because it feels invasive. This untouchability has allowed me to be honest much more openly, and the process of angrily walking to my controller, banging out a bassline in Garage band, and singing everything that’s frustrating me until I’m not angry anymore has been extremely therapeutic.”

While Wilson has not been able to collaborate on her music with anyone in-person, this has not stopped her from sharing her work with friends who are likewise amateur producers and songwriters.

“Making music about all of these feelings has been such an oasis for me. It’s a way for me to work through destructive emotions in a constructive and productive way, and it’s helped me connect with my best friend more as well. She’s a genius producer who I admire greatly and we’ve called for hours and hours working on our respective projects and listening to each other’s demos. Making music has not only helped me work introspectively to cope with my feelings, but it has also helped me stay connected to the people I love most in the world.”

While this summer’s quarantine has done nothing but wreak havoc on people’s plans and lives, it is comforting to know that many have continued to find solace in their creativity during this time.