How Art Revived Me During the Pandemic
Meet TASNY Student Pilar Lagos
Kristen Andersen (KA): Why did you decide to take an online art class? Describe your experience.
Pilar Lagos (PL): Art brings me joy. This is the main reason why I made the decision to take an online art class this year (2021).
With the pandemic, I started to notice that my days and weeks were becoming a blur, so around the holiday season in 2020, I took time off work even though I knew I would have to stay put in the city. At first, I was feeling sad that I would not be able to fly home to my native Honduras to spend time with my family. I was also worried about how I would fill my days; I felt stuck and restless at the same time.
Fortunately, after spending an entire year at home with my husband, I began to notice that he is always able to entertain himself. He’s either studying for his PhD, reading fantasy or sci-fi books or “hobbying”, as he likes to call it.
I figured I could also do the same thing; find ways to keep myself busy and enjoy much needed rest. So, I ordered a bunch of DIY embroidery kits and dusted off my watercolor paper and paints from previous art classes. Needless to say, spending time off immersed in my own art practice rekindled my interest in drawing and painting. So, without giving it much thought, I signed up for two classes with the Art Studio NY and stayed on.
CVST, by Pilar Lagos
KA: What have you gained from taking virtual art classes?
PL: I have gained the ability to spend time alone with my ideas and not be afraid of my thoughts. Before the pandemic, I kept my social calendar full and didn’t really make time for myself or my art practice.
I’ve also learned to be much more patient with myself.
For example, I’ve learned that if I want to achieve good value on a drawing, spending the time on a piece will reap results. Part of the creative process is to be present in what I’m doing and being unafraid to pause to let ideas simmer.
KA: What advice would you give your pre-pandemic self?
PL: I would tell myself to never stop doing art, even when life gets busy. It’s ok to carve out time for yourself to do the things that you enjoy.
KA: How has the pandemic impacted your art practice?
PL: The pandemic has impacted my art practice in several good ways.
For example, when I took a children’s book illustration course at the University of the Arts London in 2017, I went there with the goal of creating and finishing a children’s book. This did not happen and I felt frustrated that I did not experience a eureka moment. In hindsight, I didn’t even have a character in mind, yet I was expecting so much from myself.
What I failed to notice at that time was that a week in London playing with colored pencils, pastels and markers, sparked my interest in the different techniques that artists use to illustrate children’s books. From then on, I started to collect children’s books and would spend hours looking at each page. One thing led to the other, and, in 2018 I took another picture book course at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, this time with a character in mind. Yet again, I felt frustrated that I could not illustrate my character in the way that I wanted because I lacked basic drawing skills.
This year, I set myself the goal of learning to draw. I told myself to enjoy the process rather than rush it. I also allowed myself to explore different mediums and not fixate on a particular project.
In a way, my pre-pandemic art practice was a reflection of my life. I was always rushing, taking the subway from one place to another and did not allow myself to rest or reflect.
Now, I feel much more grounded in my art practice. I physically have nowhere to go on a daily basis so I take out my paper and allow myself to explore and play with paint or graphite.
KA: Why do you practice art? What has attracted you to this hobby in particular and why has it stuck?
PL: I practice art because it makes me forget the outside world and I’m transported into my little bubble of joy. I think the reason why this hobby has stuck is because I finally relented to my obsession with perfectionism. I have given myself the opportunity to learn; to be a beginner and enjoy the process of achieving something new (and unexpected) each time I sit to work on a piece.
Cortical, by Pilar Lagos
KA: Do you have an artistic influence (a favorite artist, someone in your life, someone you look up to, etc)?
PL: My all time favorite artists are Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondriaan, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet. More recently, I’ve become obsessed with the work of Michelangelo. My favorite illustrators are Marion Deuchars and Francesca Sanna.
More personally, I consider my mom an artist and my biggest inspiration. She was always ready to help me out with my art projects while growing up and made sure that my brother and I were exposed to art. I recently found an old photo of my family at an art exhibition. It’s not surprising that my younger brother went on to become an amazing architect, and, here I am in my mid-thirties, doing art again.
KA: Has art changed your life, and if so, how?
PL: Yes, I’ve become more protective of my time and how I start my days. Art has given my life a sense of structure in this very unknown world that we are living in right now.
One of the first things that I do every morning is spend a few minutes working on a piece. I’ll either go back to add more value to a drawing or continue working on a second or third layer of a watercolor piece. I usually do this before work and before my husband wakes up. It’s a pocket of time that belongs to me and I like to savor it as much as I can.
KA: Do you have any art pieces in particular that you’re really proud of?
PL: I am particularly proud of the distorted portraits that I drew in the ‘Fear-Free Drawing: Portrait and Figure Drawing Class’ with Lindsay Eller. Around the time of the course, I had a very sudden and painful positional headache, which turned out to be a spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. I was in constant pain and bedridden for 10 days. Surprisingly, when I drew in bed, I would forget that my head was pounding.
I placed all my energy on what I had in front of me, a sheet of paper and graphite pencils.
When Lindsay tasked us with the exercise, I wanted to draw a portrait that would depict the pain that I was experiencing underneath my skin. When I drew the first piece, I literally felt that I was releasing all the pain in a very tangible way.
Venous, by Pilar Lagos
Spontaneous, by Pilar Lagos
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