covid 19

The Changing Scene at The Living Room

As the pandemic continues to cause a make over at The Living Room, I’m looking for ways to document it in sketches. In a recent visit I was allowed inside the gate to see how the program keeps changing to meet the constantly evolving needs of a community in medical, social, and economic crisis.

In March, when they were ordered to close the doors on the day shelter with its rich offering of services, they morphed quickly into a program with a new mandate to offer food and housing, including referrals for men and women. When I spoke with them recently, their outreach program had placed 60 people in 6 weeks and the numbers of people they were serving hot meals was growing exponentially.

handwash station

Not only did the services change, but the “campus” also has undergone changes. One of the first was an outdoor plumbed hand washing station.

TLRrefridge

And more recently refrigeration units were installed outside the offices. TLR now is opening a pantry program so they will be functioning like a free grocery store with the items people need to make nutritious meals at home. In this way they are responding to an anticipated increase in unemployment by the end of July and a lot more hunger in the general population.

They also have plans to convert portions of the campus to housing for women, since it doesn’t seem likely the day shelter aspect of the program is likely to return for some time.

Masks-1 copy

Meanwhile the participants I knew, like Silvia here, are seen only occasionally at TLR and always masked of course.

Masks-3

I’m learning to read the welcoming look in their eyes on my rare visits when I run into people I know.

Masks-2

If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, I invite you to look at my exhibition of portrait stories of these women, titled This is My Story: Women and Homelessness, on the Santa Rosa Public Arts website.

And to learn more about The Living Room and how you could help, visit their website.

Fences

When life seems to be turned on its ear, as it has with this pandemic, I cling to this practice of expressive art like a life raft. The process of making the art takes precedence over the accomplishment of a masterful outcome. The intuition about what materials and tools to use takes precedence over any kind of well thought out plan or design. The sensation of mark making becomes more important than the mark made. I try to dive in and not come up for air too quickly.

Of course this leads to questions about how to finish. So in this piece even my idea of adding the hands didn’t quite finish it. The blue reminded me of the bluebird couple that sits on the corner of the roof we can see from our dining room table. So I painted one of them and collaged it on. . .then needed the eggs. And finally as I wrote, even a garden scene like this turned out to be about the pandemic. . .in a helpful way.bluebird

acrylic inks, gel pen, drawn with a stick, splattered and scumbled on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

We try new ways to live with each other,

with masks and gloves and zooms,

The same fences that keep us in

are those that keep us out.

Nature topples those barriers we make,

finds a way around or between them,

Its winds dry our lonely tears

and sun warms our tender hearts

Birds share their freedom of air travel

without passport, mask, or elaborate protocol.

Creepy Critters

This whole invisible virus thing is really creepy. I try not to entertain creepy thoughts,  but sometimes when I’m doing art they jump out onto the paper, especially when I’m splattering a la Ralph Steadman. On the paper they are harmless enough, even humorous.

This creepy critter came the day after I found a rather large spider in bed with me in the middle of the night. Ever since I’ve been pondering where he or she might have been hiding all this time. Gulp. This Covid virus is a lot like that, though I’m sure it’s not this “cute”. creepycritter

Acrylic, inks, gesso on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Don’t look at me that way! You think if you crouch low in the corner I won’t see what you’re hoarding. I can see what you’re up to, secretly spreading yourself all over. 

Scat! Shoo! Away with you! And take your gazillions of eggs (viral particles) with you!

To see more splatter art try this blog.

The Living Room: Pandemic Times

When the doors of The Living Room were ordered closed over two months ago to protect an already endangered population of homeless and at risk women and children from the viral spread, the staff got busy reinventing the program to meet the needs of the pandemic. Outside the gates. In other words, in the parking lot.

Last week I found my spot again under the redwood trees on the outskirts of the parking lot. I was sketching and hoping to see some of my friends, participants of the program I have come to know for the past year and a half of volunteering in the programs.

Redwood Gospel Mission had parked their mobile shower truck in the parking lot and people were lining up for the free hot meals – a breakfast and a lunch of healthy and appetizing food which they could carry off to eat somewhere off the property. Some headed for the side street and curbs, others for the bus stop or their cars.

Men were welcomed along with women and children. A man emerged from his shower and, after picking up his hot meal of pulled pork and veggies, did a little jig of happiness, exclaiming to no one in particular, “This feels so good! I want to live here!”

TLRpandemictimes

After getting their food, which was handed out the window of the kitchen, people were invited to go around to another window to pick up mail or get referrals and toiletries if needed.

My friend Ruth was getting her food bag and stopped a minute to talk with me. I asked how she was coping since the Covid crisis. She still sleeps in a tent with her partner, but no longer has the support of the programs and her friends at The Living Room, can’t do her laundry and rest comfortably there, and so much more. Also since the libraries are closed, it’s more difficult to stay connected with what’s going on, not to mention find public bathrooms to use. The encampments tend to be so dirty with trash that she doesn’t stay there, where otherwise there might be some sense of community.

Sheltering in place has a whole different meaning when your “place” is a tent or a car. I’ll be sharing more stories as I learn them and sketch stories of these folks who come to The Living Room. They’re our neighbors and we wish them well and want to be of help in any way we can.

The Living Room offers a variety of ways you can be of service. You can find out more on the their website and Facebook page.

 

Are you keeping your distance?

We in this multiverse society seem to be ranting at each other a lot lately about the right and wrong way to do everything now from proper mask wearing and social distancing to proper cleaning of vegetables and doorknobs. Meanwhile we are wishing we had more face to face contact with others.

So of course this issue popped up in my latest conversation with the muse, when I pulled some pieces of previous mixed media demos and experiments off the pile I keep in my studio. I put them together, and they started to tell a story of current relevancy.

socialdistancing

masking tape, acrylics, collage, pen on w/c paper 10X11″

Is this enough distance? or am I crowding you?

Actually I was here first, so you’re crowding me. And I can see that you’re not wearing your mask properly. You’re probably one of those people on the news protesting the shelter-in-place rules, because you want to be able to go to the beach or to work when it’s not safe, and you don’t care if people die because of it!! Murderer!!!

What does 6 feet look like anyway?

In my neck of the woods anyway we are moving in jerky ways in public, rushing to get done with our shopping, then halting suddenly when someone gets too close. We avert our eyes in an effort to avoid contact when someone needs to get down the aisle past us. Or someone quietly hovers just out of range, waiting until we finish picking our avocados. It’s nerve wracking. We apologize and accept apologies. However because we are starved for any person to person contact, even that satisfies some of the need.

At this writing I’ve tried different kinds of masks, and am learning to breathe better while wearing them, though I wouldn’t be able to carry on a longer masked conversation without passing out from the exertion. But the glasses still fog up a bit with each exhalation. So I hope if you run into me in public, and I don’t recognise you, I will be forgiven, because it might be right at the moment when I exhale and the world blurs over. It’s just another one of those adjustments.

 

 

 

Confusion

Is there anyone out there who isn’t confused about where we’re going with this pandemic? It makes us a bit ditzy, wondering what other people are doing to cope, I mean other than wearing masks in public, taking walks, zooming, and watching whole series’ seasons on Netflix.

Me, I do some deeply satisfying art dawdling in my art studio each day. Sometimes I start by cutting up a doodled painting from another day and seeing where the pieces take me. It feels so right to recycle art at this point in time. This particular one came together when I found the woman, and felt I could relate.

walkofftheedge

acrylics, black and white gesso, collage, white gel pen

She’s a bit confused. . .aren’t we all?!

Oops! Don’t walk off the edge.

“It” came from China on a wave.

Where is everyone going? We’re still on a Shelter in Place order!

Of course it’s particularly distressing when our medical heros, the scientists we rely on to find the cures, are unable to reassure us. This Covid virus is still eluding the best of them! It seems we still have more questions than answers.

questions gesso textured w/c paper with acrylic inks, gesso and citrasolv collage.

I almost put cations on this piece as well, but decided to leave it open to interpretation. Please fill in any dialogue that comes to mind.

Meal service at The Living Room

I parked myself under the trees at The Living Room this week to grab a sketch of of the scene. The staff and volunteers have figured out a way to feed people in need  while still following the shelter in place guidelines. . .by handing the to go food out the kitchen window! Breakfast and lunch are inside the bag and if you want to see the lovely food they’re serving to about 120 people a day, visit their Facebook page!

TLRMealService

I arrived after the morning rush. I’ve missed my weekly visits to The Living Room where I talk to people, sketch the stories and portraits of the women who come. But it’s good to see that they’re able to continue serving so many people during this time even though the facility cannot be open as a day shelter.  And they continue to hand out necessities for people who are homeless, like toiletries, clean socks, pet food, and now of course, masks! If you feel inspired to help, there are easy ways to help, which can be found here.

 

How the Days Get Filled

Well, yesterday Bob and I spent about three hours combined doing a deep cleaning of just one of the wall areas in my studio. And then there’s the hours fixing computer glitches after my computer was upgraded. And there’s the keeping up with phone calls and checking in with friends and keeping up with the (bad) news.

But in between it all some art is happening and it’s my salvation! So yesterday I sat up on the road above my studio to listen to the birds, enjoy the view and do some “Shelter-in-Place Sketching: My Neighborhood”,  a Meet up organized in the San Francisco Urban Sketchers group.

backyard

For the sake of those of you who have never been to my home/studio, and might even live in another country, I labeled things. Clearly sheltering-in-place here is not a particularly difficult occupation, especially in springtime.

I live on an acre on a private road, so there’s not much traffic of the human sort, but still, in the half hour I sat there I got to talk to my neighbor and wave to our postman.

stilldreamingNO

Still glorying in the wonders of our trip to New Orleans in early March, I have done some thumbnail sketches from pictures, good practice for the art of urban sketching which requires that one leave out a great deal of detail and capture the essence.

In the cleaning of the studio I pulled out a portfolio of portrait paintings I’d done in the 1990’s. They were so clean and accurate. Not like these messy concoctions I enjoy so much now. My vision is not what it was then, or even ten years ago, so the painting has changed. The farther away my subject is, the more I must simply get the “feel” of it and  sacrifice accuracy in the process. The result is different, but no less satisfying. I share this in the hopes that you may also accept wherever you’re at with your art as worth the effort to express yourself. That’s why we do it anyway, isn’t that true?

And then I’ve been drawing portraits for the #30faces30days April challenge on Sktchy. But I’ll save the results for another day.

 

Sheltering

As I closed up my studio last night I thought that I had let another day end without completing the various art projects I have going. Common enough. Then I remembered that there are no longer appointments, gatherings, events, classes to compete with my free art making time, and I added this to a growing list of much needed silver linings in these anxious times.

Yesterday I got out a pile of unfinished Muse Group demos, hand made papers and more and started putting things together. There was something about the “leftover” shape of the blue piece below that suggested house so I made it more so, but not overly literal, and here’s what came.

shelter

Powdered graphite patterned textures, acrylic and collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11

What would you find if you pried the roof off any house now?  No, no, best not do that!

Come up to the door and knock softly. Carry a rose to show you care.

Be ready to say “Your lawn is so beautiful and green, your landscaping so artful, your windows so cozy.” Be ready to say “hope all is well with your family.”

Be ready to step back as the door gets closed in your face because you stepped too close.

Go back to your own Place and don’t cry. The people who loved you before still will, but only if you keep your 6 feet, or is it 10 now?

A friend brought her laundry over yesterday to use our machines. We managed a clever hygenicly safe protocol dance to protect both sides from the virus which, most likely, neither of us has, but we suppose could have. Then we stood a good 15 feet apart to chat for a while before moving on with our days. I’m sure others are as curious as I about how other people are coping, hence the desire to “pry off the roof”.

piles

A peek here at the unfinished pile of mixed media work from which I drew to create the piece above. I just measured the pile at 4 inches tall. It’s really a gold mine from which I shall continue to extract gems. The serendipity of the raw occurences ends up being the most satisfying to me.

If you’re a mixed media artist you doubtless have hoarded treasures galore. Now is truly our chance to play with them, and to realize that we may actually be afforded lots of time now to do so. And it costs nothing.

Stay tuned for another video lesson.