Prologue: I had plans in 2020 to spend a summer month in New York immersing myself in the practice of art at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, which is located in the building that previously housed the Whitney Museum of American Art. It was supposed to be a key highlight of the year. Instead, with COVID-19, the painting marathon had to go virtual. What started out as a year of challenges and disappointment, turned into a year of reflection and a renewed resolve to continue to push my art practice. I wanted to share my thoughts… beginning with my experience at the painting marathon.
Over the past decade, I’ve forged my own path and education as an artist. The last 3 years, my training has brought me to Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, University of Washington Rome Center, City College of San Francisco and San Francisco Art Institute.
In 2019, in search of a rigorous curriculum that would push me to my limits, I had the fortune to participate in the Drawing Marathon with Graham Nickson at the New York Studio School. The experience was exhilarating — challenging my perception, imagination and stamina. Two weeks of 13 hour days, starting early in the studio, evenings of critiques, before arriving back to my Greenwich apartment…my body thickly dusted with charcoal. It challenged my previous notions of what I was capable of and blew it away. “Draw a life size horse on an 8 foot sheet of paper!” was one of the exercises. And, sure enough, by the evening the horse had emerged from the blank paper stapled to the wall. Graham’s statement still rings in my mind, “An artist always finds a way”.
The experience was so impressionable that I decided I would spend my 2020 summer at the New York Studio School in a Painting Marathon with Elisa Jensen. I think it would be safe to say 2020 was not like any year we could have imagined to kick off the new decade. With a worldwide pandemic and the local impact, the marathon went virtual.
While I missed being in New York — the energy in the expansive shared studio space, the street food and the weekend visits to all the museums surrounding the area — the virtual marathon offered new experiences and advantages.
Firstly, I was able to devote even more time to my art; no longer bound by the time the school was open. I could roll out of bed, make my turmeric and ginger tea, stumble into my home studio and continue to paint from early morning well into the evening. The collaboration platform used during the marathon enabled every artist to upload their process photos and finished paintings and I was able to spend more time studying fellow works and how they dealt with the challenges Elisa threw out to us like: “No white in your palette”.
Secondly, working in my own studio meant that all the creative processes I was learning and started adapting did not need to be transplanted from the set up environment at the school back to home. A big part of my goals with participating in the marathon was to boost the level of my creative output in my regular studio practice and the virtual marathon meant that there was no shift — at the end of the marathon, I could just keep on going.
Finally, the last two paintings I created were 4’x4’ and 4’x5’. I could not imagine the logistics in having to transport those canvases back from New York to California.
While the virtual marathon and frankly 2020 was not anything I imagined I would need to adapt to, I know that “an artist always finds a way.” In this case, finding the way has brought new possibilities.
You can follow my work @lonistark.