Categories: Cathy Breslaw, SD Press Club Award winner, THE BUZZ, Working in Isolation

THE BUZZ: Working in Isolation: Melanie Taylor

Written by Cathy Breslaw

July 28, 2020

Most artists work in relative isolation.  Our collective art practices and the creative process demands it. It goes against the human urge to congregate and socialize.  Still, we persevere as the ‘call to create’ nudges us.  We then deliberately make space – intellectually, emotionally and physically for the act of creation. We move forward quietly, with intention and faith in the process. Never have artists been more aware of isolation than time now spent alone in this Corona Virus pandemic environment. It is not our choice, but as artists we are familiar and in some ways ahead of the game in our familiarity and relative comfort with loneliness of self -containment. This “Working In Isolation” series aims to highlight how artists are adapting and how their work has evolved as a result of the pandemic. Read more articles in this series HERE.

San Diego artist Melanie Taylor’s landscape oil paintings are an interpretation of observations and creation of fictions. Inspired by places experienced and known, the lock-down has given her an opportunity to experiment with the immediacy of watercolors.

1) How has your work shifted during the pandemic? Has it been a change in the process of your creating art? The mediums you use? The themes or concepts you are thinking about?

During the lock-down I am unable to go to my studio which is a 10 minute drive from my home. I usually paint with oils and can be pretty messy, so having a separate dedicated work space is a necessity. I shut the studio down in March and took watercolors, drawing equipment, papers and sketchbooks home where I set up a small table work area. Focusing on drawing and watercolor proved to be liberating and informative. I was able to complete a watercolor painting or drawing in one session, as opposed to multiple layers/days of an oil painting. I also revisited images and notes from older sketchbooks and discovered new connections. The light and transparency in the watercolors have influenced my oil paintings, a direction I might not have taken so readily had it not been for the focus within limited parameters.

2) What have you discovered about yourself as an artist during this pandemic?
Working on a small scale made me consider mark-making in the images more thoughtfully: it became a time of introspection and retrospection. The pandemic reinforced my interest in the environment and the importance of the human race reconciling with nature. I also discovered that making the effort to create, having that discipline, is very important to my state of mind! 

3) What have been your biggest challenges working in isolation?      Surprises?  Even though painting (for me) is a solitary activity, I found being isolated from fellow artists and not being able to visit a museum or gallery challenging on a professional level. Not being able to see family and friends living abroad has also been a huge challenge, and this motivated me to draw inspiration from places and landscapes that I miss. What surprised me was the freedom I found in the work process during lock-down and in the drawings/paintings themselves. I hope that sense of freedom continues; it was a positive step aside from my usual practice and I am grateful for that.

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