Adding color to a bleak pandemic How digital art saved me during a NYC pandemic

By Ashley DeLeon

Deputy Editor

  I connect with people through the art of storytelling. I create stories during the silent moments of conversations when words don’t need to be said, and in the sweet moments of happiness that we can’t let go. Though the pandemic has written a bleak narrative of grief and tragedy for many of us, there is always an opportunity to add color to the story. A digital media class I took this past spring taught me just that. 

     On the first day of class, I walked in with an open mind and an open heart. We often don’t recognize the power of openness to opportunity in our lives, but it has a tremendous impact in the way we view ourselves and the world around us. I became open to the stories that can be told through images, even though I hadn’t been familiar with this mode of storytelling before. Time progressed, and I developed a strong appetite for learning more about digital media and artistry. To satisfy this hunger, I committed to learning two lessons independently for each lesson taught in class. Two grew into three, four, five, then six. However, it was not enough to satiate my curiosity. 

     I was inspired by my professor to pursue digital artistry more seriously after the semester ended, so I ventured to explore what my potential could be if I dedicated every ounce of effort and passion into my work. When we are devoted, passionate, and optimistic, we can surprise ourselves in what we’re capable of. 

     In the midst of worldwide turmoil, it could be difficult to stay motivated. However, motivation is what pushes us forward. Many of us were presented with two options– venture in finding a pastime or new craft, or search endlessly for control over the uncontrollable. My exploration started during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but that didn’t stop me in the least bit.

Illustration by Ashley DeLeon

     Over time, the happiness and fulfillment that digital media brought into my life had bloomed. While honing my craft into the wee hours of the night, I learned about my love for color. Color can powerfully convey any emotion and intermediary imaginable, and by exploring different hues, contrasts, and tonal values, I learned how to manipulate a viewer’s emotional response to an art piece based on a variety of color palettes and combinations. Even though the state of the world would point to a grim color palette, there were hopeful prospects worth highlighting through bright, vibrant colors. Within the crevices of grief and tragedy, there is hope. 

     When illustrating, I characterize myself into the artwork. I jump from corner to corner and slide within curves and into corners, being careful not to bump into sharp edges or fall off of the artboard. I can tap into different emotional minds with the swipe of a digital paintbrush, bringing memories back to life in the ways I best remember them. Though the nature of the pandemic made me shelter at home, in my artwork, I could be anywhere at any time doing anything I wanted. When we discover a mindspace where we can lose ourselves for hours and days, sheltering in place doesn’t seem so bad.

     Discovering my potential as a digital artist wasn’t always easy. Minor intricacies spawned dilemmas that couldn’t be solved by a YouTube video. Hours were spent solving the most minute issues that seemingly made no difference. I found myself wasting time by taking the long haul, without even knowing there were simpler and more effective ways to achieve my artistic goals. When hours and days were spent on an nonviable piece, it hurt the most. Frustration is part of any journey in life, but on the other end is serenity. 

     It’s easy to imagine ourselves in a position where we can supersede the expectations we set for ourselves, but nothing is more worthwhile than turning this into a reality. All this time, I had the tools in front of me. All it took was openness, optimism, and inspiration to open my eyes and see. I am in a place of fulfillment and happiness, always searching for ways to continue expanding the creative possibilities of my mind. 

     With a notebook beside me and newfound passion in my heart, ideas beam through my mind and flow through my hands with ease. For the first time in my life, I know what it really means to be an artist. Now, I can share stories and cherish memories using more than just words.

Illustration by Ashley DeLeon