Artists in isolation: Watercolors on the quad

This past week I refreshed my inbox to find one of the most exciting emails a St. Olaf student can receive. The subject line read: “You have a package!” As I headed over to the Post Office, I was shocked to receive yet another email with the subject line, “You have some packages!” Now this was really curious, because I only remembered ordering one item. I approached the Post Office window with excitement. The student worker handed me three small parcels, each wrapped in different packaging. I opened the first to find the gouache paints that I was expecting, a birthday gift for a friend. The next two contained the exact same paint set! I checked my bank account and found they had only charged me for one, but sent me three! 

Over the summer one of my friends Maddy Bayzaee ’23 and I would FaceTime once a week for about two hours to watercolor and catch up. It was so wonderful to have something to look forward to. During one of these FaceTime dates she mentioned a paint I’d never heard of called gouache and expressed interest in trying it. When her birthday rolled around I knew exactly what to get. If she liked them, then I was going to get a set for myself, but the happy postal snafu beat me to it.

I just about skipped back to my dorm that afternoon, elated that I’d had such good luck. I soon carved out time in my schedule to do some painting. I sat outside my Ytterboe pod on a blanket in the shade and tried out the new paints. Generally, I use watercolor, but the gouache turned out to be very similar. It was fun to get to try a new type of paint without any expectations on myself to get it right. Afterwards I felt the most relaxed I’d been in a good while. Watercoloring has been a way for me to release stress throughout the pandemic. It is one of the few spaces where I let myself truly try different things, without expecting the outcome to be good.

It has also become one of my favorite ways to give gifts. I love watercoloring images that I know are special to my loved ones. I’ll ask people to send me their favorite photos and then I’ll do my best to recreate it. Having a creative outlet has allowed me to relax into the importance of making something. I still struggle with making time for art in my life. I am someone who would rather wait until all the work is done to have fun, but I am learning the necessity of stopping to make spaces of rest for myself. I’ve found that if I wait until the work is done then I never get to paint because the work really is never done in college. I hope everyone is able to make time to make art because we are living in unprecedented times, and the ability to find spaces of rest within that is absolutely necessary.

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