Painting through the pandemic: One woman’s way of coping with COVID

 
The impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have affected nearly everyone across the world. While some have felt the financial impacts of the virus, others have been struggling with the mental impacts as well. Isolation and uncertainty have impacted many from all walks of life.
 
But one school teacher has found her outlet to help cope with the mental toll the pandemic has brought on.
 
Chylisse Marchand, who is a teacher at Redvers School, has been creating and evolving her artistic skills through the ongoing pandemic. 
 
While it started off as sketching during Zoom meetings, it quickly evolved into more abstract forms of art.
 
Marchand says she came from a family where art was always around them and is something she grew up with.
 
She also says that she began doing art as a hobby after moving to Redvers.
 
“Growing up my mom always told me I had a natural ability with art. Her mom, my grandma, was an artist and my dad’s brother was also an artist. So growing up I was always that kid that you could keep quiet by putting a pen or a pencil in front of her. Then through high school in small-town Gravelbourg, there wasn’t much for art there, so I just played around with it through high school. Then when I got into university I went into visual communications first, which is more of the graphic arts side of things and I found it wasn’t my thing. I switched and got an art major and a math minor in university,” said Marchand.
 
“I didn’t really do much for art except for school stuff, but when I moved here to Redvers things were tough for me, and when it comes to anything mental health-wise and I need to check out of reality for a minute, the moment that I sit down with a pencil or marker or pen my mind is blank.”
 
Pandemic restrictions started taking her art in a new direction.
 
“Back when the pandemic first started, I started doing Facebook live posts for the school with art. When everything was shut down that was one thing I could do, so I would do little fun things that the students could copy. Then the parents and the kids would submit them.
 
“Once everything started with COVID-19 I found that we would have to sit in different online meetings. And I’m one of those people that can’t sit there and watch and just focus, but if you give me a pen I can doodle. So I found myself in front of the computer fully listening but doodling at the same time.”
 
Marchand explains that her first pandemic piece was used as an outlet to vent her frustrations with the pandemic.
 
“One of my first pandemic pictures was a piece of art that could be a tattoo. So I pulled in all these different elements that showed where the pandemic was going like DNA and a stethoscope. I loved that piece, it’s one where you can sit down and cry as you do it but feel 100 times better once you do it.”
 
She then began to explore new types of art.
 
“I did a little bit of research on this type of art called neurographica. It’s this kind of art that you can meditate at the same time so it’s a way to lose your train of thought and just create art. I’ve turned my students towards this. They love the art of neurographica. Even the kids who were not natural artists were loving it because you’d start off with a shape and then you’d put some music on in the background and add more shapes. Then you would put some lines and then you’d colour the lines at every corner so that everything intertwines into one another and it’s just a super cool way of letting go.”
 
Marchand’s art continued to evolve through the course of the pandemic.
 
“I’m being a little bit braver now. I used to be much more of a controlled artist where I would have to make sure everything is done properly with things like my floral pieces. The same thing with watercolour, watercolour is so time-consuming but it’s beautiful. 
 
“Just recently I went to Michaels and I was looking at a lot of art that had gold added to it and interesting things like that, so I found some gold leaf and got Modge-Podge and I bought acrylic paints, which are new to me, so I just started playing around with that process and when I start on those ones I don’t even need a paintbrush, I just soak my canvas with water and let the paint drop and you can see how the colour moves.”
 
She notes that abstract art has given her an opportunity to express herself without needing to strive for perfection.
 
“I’ve definitely evolved and I’m trying new things. I’ve been loving the abstract lately for some weird reason. It has to be more about the process or the action of being able to let go and not concentrate on making something look perfect. Now it’s a lot more free-flowing.”
 
Marchand encourages people who are struggling with the mental impacts of COVID-19 to pick up art and give it a try, noting that art does not need to be perfect to be good.
 
“As an art teacher, I always say you don’t need to draw what you see, you draw what you feel. You can let it go, you don’t need to be a perfect artist who can directly reproduce something to become an artist. You can just let yourself go and have fun with it.”
 
Marchand says that she intends on returning to university to get her master’s degree, saying she wants to eventually turn art therapy into her career.
 
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