Art During the Pandemic: Jeannette O

Art can be reflective of society and its circumstances.

In this new series called, “Art during the Pandemic,” I interview student artists about how they are expressing themselves creatively in relation to the global crisis. 

Based in Toronto, Jeannette O is a passionate artist. Well immersed in the world of art, she is a third year student in a visual arts program. 

In this interview, Jeannette shows us a recent artwork that was inspired by the current pandemic. 

CH: Tell us about your art. 

JO: My piece was done for an assignment given in one of my art classes a couple of weeks back. We were challenged with the task of creating an illustration inspired by an art movement of the 19th century. My piece is based on a Cubist piece titled, “The Girl with the Mandolin”. In my piece, the nurse holding the clipboard replaces the woman holding the Mandolin in the original piece by Picasso. I used black felt-tip pen for this piece, and it took approximately three evenings to complete.


CH: Does your art piece connect to the current pandemic?

JO: The original piece by Pablo Picasso informs us about the role of women back in the early 1900s. They were often seen as objects, simply needed to model for prominent male artists. I decided to add a conceptual twist while creating my piece; I asked myself, “What was the role of women today, right now?” With National Nursing Week approaching, I realized the importance of women in the nursing industry, especially with this pandemic. Therefore, I illustrated a female nurse, highlighting how much the role of women changed over the century.


CH: How do you think art in general is affected during this time period?

JO: In general, I think that every artist’s unique style is becoming more prominent during this time. I believe that many artists gather inspiration from fellow peers, at least that is the case for myself. At school, there is always a certain criteria needed to be fulfilled, and students’ ideas may overlap as everyone shares their ideas. Being apart from fellow artists, now we have the opportunity to fully explore and develop our own ideas. Although we may lose inspiration, I think that this is a healthy way and time to create a unique style that we as artists are comfortable with.


CH: Has the art you produced changed since you’ve been in quarantine?

JO: Yes, definitely. I have always produced art for a certain assignment, having the stress of needing to satisfy a certain criteria. I felt very restricted, and I did not take many risks in my art-making. Now, with the “marks can’t drop” rule, and having so much free time on my hands, I have taken many more risks and begun to create art which exceeds my comfort zone. I’ve begun experimenting with mediums I have never felt comfortable with, and techniques I’ve always wanted to master, such as acrylic painting.


CH: Do you find yourself producing more art because you’re at home all the time now?

JO: Yes, suddenly having so much time on my hands, I decided to explore different styles and try new methods of art-making, especially in my sketchbook. I was so bored, I even began to indulge in totally new mediums as well, such as graphic design, digital illustration, and string art. During this time, I have explored a wide variety of different techniques, and had plenty of time to figure out what I liked, and what I didn’t.


CH: Has art helped you during the pandemic?

JO: Yes. Although I continue my art-making and it has served as a healthy distraction to this pandemic, I am more inspired by other artists. Whether they are renown artists, or just fellow majors at school, I love to observe their work. I can spend hours scrolling through images of a certain artist on the media.


Now, a little bit about the artist… 



CH: How long have you been doing art?

JO: I’ve loved art for as long as I can remember. As a young girl, I would constantly look for paper and a pencil and draw some of my favourite Disney Princesses. In grade 4, I began attending Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto. There, I was able to further develop my passion for art. In 2017, I enrolled in the Visual arts program at Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto. Being a third year student in this program, I am still in the process of developing my own style and experimenting with new media. Feel free to visit my art website, where I continue to share my art-making on a digital platform:


CH: What other hobbies do you have in your daily life? 

JO: Now, with lots of time to spare, I decided to revisit many of my past hobbies. I revisited the piano after a two-year hiatus. I am currently practicing various praise songs I played in the church band a couple of years ago. I have also picked up a couple of new hobbies during quarantine. I’ve begun to go on runs in the neighbourhood several times a week. I hate cardio; however, these excursions allow me to be outdoors, and it has slowly become one of my favourite hobbies. 


CH: How are you during this pandemic?

JO: Honestly, I love being at home and spending time for myself. Although I miss my friends and spending time in the city, I find that quarantine is actually very relaxing. I was able to indulge in more art-making and new hobbies than I have ever done before. However, there is always the stress of the virus lingering in the back of my mind. Especially now, with the weather warming up, this worry is ever-growing.