Art in a Time of Adversity – Annabelle Berghof ’23

The coronavirus has sent me across the country to my small apartment with my parents and brother, away from friends and isolated from many family members. It is hard not to feel the pressure of the ongoing situation in such a small space. Over the past few months taking online classes, I felt even more frustrated, as the phrase “we’re all in this together” did not seem to account for the added living difficulties of lower income people like me. 

I felt the mental strain of my situation more than ever, so to have a moment of peace and an escape from my surroundings, I started to paint and draw again. It felt a bit like I was back in high school and preparing a college portfolio, yet this time without any restrictions or judgment. I also had no one to compare myself to, so my focus was solely on improving my own art. I gave myself the challenge of creating at least one piece of art per day, more willing to take this on when I had little else to do. I dusted off my old art supplies, took out my sketchbook, and let my mind wander to fantastical places. Some days I would have too much schoolwork to create a full piece, while other days I sat at my desk for hours on end, hardly noticing the time passing. 

An abstract work in progress

The challenge lasted longer than I thought I would – about 75 days. Posting my art on Instagram was a useful motivator, as I got messages from friends saying how much they loved seeing my art every day. I drew mainly abstract scenes from my imagination, but I would also occasionally draw people. Personally, I find drawing people to be more stressful due to the need for constant attention to proportions, but the end result is often worth the struggle. As I was painting every day, I learned to be more loose and not spend too much time in the planning stages of a painting, as often my best ideas would come to me during the process of painting. I have also loved to experiment with different media – one of my favorite combinations thus far has been ballpoint pen and gouache paint. 

Master copy of The Penitent Magdalene by Georges de la Tour

Coming to Princeton, I had assumed I was fully choosing academics over art, but I have actually found myself creating more art on my own as a way to relax and process my thoughts and emotions than I did when I planned to go to art school. Art can be a powerful form of therapy in these uncertain times, and I encourage everyone to try the challenge of creating one piece of art a day!

Leaf and Human Head

July 3, 2020

Annabelle Berghof ’23

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