Therese Cruz is a World Bank retiree who studied painting in Seattle and France. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two rescues, Charley and Leroi.
Cruz’s drawings are not pretty, though there may be a few that look whimsical, with childlike features, goofy even. But engaging art doesn’t result from giving what the viewers want, but by sometimes flipping their expectations in exchange for something better, something with character, done with complete freedom. By doing these drawings, she worked through some of her pandemic angst and coronavirus panic. The situation actually freed her from obsessing over art-related anxieties and other disruptions in her calendar, and instead enabled her to focus on the here and now. So she started on the drawings and some illustrations in a mix of styles and mediums, nothing planned, nothing pre-conceived.
“I was driving to Seattle weekly for classical drawing, and then the state governor said, no more group gatherings,” said Cruz. “Suddenly, there was nothing to do and nowhere to go, so I started drawing and painting with no direction. After a few weeks, I noticed the faces in the drawings had angst and apprehension in them. At the same time, Trump was making all these pronouncements so far removed from reality, so I created this Corona Veeroosh character mocking him. By week six, I thought the preceding period was probably the most intensely fearsome, and I felt we were settling into the ‘new normal.’ At the same time, I was beginning a new journey. I was about to restart my studies with my former art teachers in France, only this time, they had decided to go online and classes were to be conducted via Zoom.
“I didn’t know how long the pandemic would last, but I promised myself, I was not coming out of it with empty pockets, so to speak. I was going to get something out of it, with improved skills.”
Since the lockdown started, Cruz has been painting and drawing better than ever. She is less deliberate and no longer cares if she’s doing things right. Through her drawings, she creates a virtual world of complex images, portraits, stories, characters, conversations, and projected thoughts, never compromising her creative vision. The experiences and realities are hers, and she is completely free to do what she wants with them. They are unplanned and made using whatever subject or medium she feels like at the moment: drawing, painting, or digital art. She then put all of these in a sketchbook.
By allowing a wider audience a glimpse into her feelings about this period in her life, she reminds us of the power of human connections
“On week six, I put together the drawings in a bound sketchbook,” said Cruz. “I didn’t know what to do with it, but I wanted to share it. Eventually, I mailed it to an art teacher from Seattle who had been teaching intuitive art and bookmaking for 10 years to share with her students.”
By allowing a wider audience a glimpse into her feelings about this period in her life, she reminds us of the power of human connections and community as well as the value of art and sharing aesthetic pleasures, especially during these times. The drawings give voice to a full range of feelings. I particularly like it when the images projected boredom, detachment, resignation, and loneliness. I laughed at her portraiture of Corona Veeroosh as a model with flaming orange hair. I felt the sense of panic in the illustrated character who feared she may run out of colored pencils.
She uses color, composition, and different rendering styles to emphasize various emotional states and human moments. Facial expressions, body language, and distorted perspectives give a sense of absurdity. They feel almost like pages from an illustrated diary, processing and accepting the range of emotions that comes from stressful and dire situations. You try to get the positives, the humor, the irony, the wit, the satire, where you can. You connect and delight in her freedom of imagination because her portrayals are real.
The album is a year old, and she has moved on to doing other things since.
“I do not leave projects behind to resume later,” she said. “At my age, there is no later. If I don’t want to continue something, I recycle the substrate and paint over it. I don’t want to accumulate paintings and lose precious ‘real estate’ in the house—another reason why I decided to learn digital drawing and painting. However, I don’t want to use digital programs merely to do illustrations, which is the normal practice right now. I’m trying to learn to use it in traditional drawing and painting, be it Renaissance style or mid-century Bay Area-inspired.”
It’s a historical period in our lives, and this volume of drawings documents it.
It is tangible evidence at its most natural and unaffected best.