Finding Creative Inspiration (and Sanity) During our Coronavirus Summer
Like many across the world, 2020 has been a strange and difficult year. To find art inspiration during our Coronavirus lockdown, I explored my backyard in the Pacific Northwest. I was lucky to stay busy with work, creating science illustrations and animations for Science News, Sky & Telescope, Kezar Biosciences, and many more. During the Covid craziness, I’ve found myself so incredibly fortunate. I’m working, my supportive partner is working, and my children are coping remarkably well with school from home. We are safe, and trying hard to stay healthy.
Yet, I can’t say it hasn’t been a challenge. To fill my reserve of creative juice, this summer I found calm and respite in the wild places of Washington state. With my family, I wandered the beaches along the southwest coast, explored the Cascades, and close to home I tended my garden.
Painting and Nature Finds on the Beaches of Washington
My family and I traveled to Washington’s Long Beach peninsula to wander the empty beaches. Even in the middle of summer, the temperature stays beach-chilly, and crossing paths with other people is rare… perfect during the Coronavirus pandemic. We played in the waves, flew kites, and found welcome reminders that the world is much larger than us humans.
We watched brown pelicans dive for schools of fish at the edge of the breakers. They occasionally gathered to rest in the surf (painting above). Down the beach, we found the decayed body of a gray whale that had washed up in April. A rare site for us, we looked up information and discovered that there have been hundreds of dead grey whales found on Pacific beaches this past year. NOAA is investigating the whale deaths, trying to understand why the numbers are unusually high.
Mountain Hiking Excursions for Awesome Colors, Patterns, and Art Inspiration
In between our beach adventures, we escaped to the mountains near Seattle. Despite having to wear masks as we passed other hikers, we found solitude, places to splash, and some fun critters. Exploring the alpine lakes of the Cascade mountains we dipped our toes in mountain streams, and caught little frogs to admire before letting them go.
This was the first time we went backpacking post-kids, and I was SO impressed with my 7 and 10 yo. The whining was a minimum, and the memories of playing in meadows will soothe my soul over this isolated winter to come. We camped at Barclay lake, and witnessed an avalanche tumbling off of Baring Mountain. Safe on our side of the lake, we listened to the roar and appreciated the reminder of nature’s awesome power that we don’t see in our everyday lives.
Gardening to find Creative Calm and Nature’s Patterns
Finally, one of my small, everyday escapes, is into my garden. Maybe it’s my cosmic sign, Taurus, or maybe it harkens back to time spent with my Dad gardening as a child, but playing in the dirt grounds me. When things are overwhelming, I can step outside and spend time tending my vegetables, pulling weeds, and just… being. Sometimes my kids will help me, but mostly it’s time by myself. Time to daydream, and time to process the different ideas spinning in my head. If I’ve had the chance to work with you, you may have heard me say, “Great! I’ll get back to you, I need time for things to percolate.” My gardening time is where that happens. All the different ideas trickling together into a picture of your science.
One of my favorite garden treasures are tomatillos. Growing up Asian American, tomatillos weren’t something I was familiar with until I started gardening. I’ve grown to love the tart flavor in soups and enchiladas, but the reason I really love tomatillos is for their papery thin husks. They float from a vibrant Kermit green to a deep violet, gently hugging the precious contents within. I have a couple favorite vegetables to grow (Ok, a lot), but tomatillos hold a special place. This fall I was able to create a painting of tomatillo husks, and I hope to paint a full series exploring their color and texture.
Thank You For Joining Me on this Art Inspiration Journey!
I so appreciate you taking the time to share this look back at some of the adventures that have inspired my art this past year. I hope that you have found your own ways to escape, cope, and celebrate the beauty around us. I’d love to hear if you appreciate this content, and I SO want to hear about your adventures. Please leave a comment!