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Photojournalism

John Sanchez: when my art took a back seat, family and community got me through the pandemic

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The ongoing pandemic, in many ways, had caused a “reset” of my career. Being a working artist with a family and all its responsibilities comes with many pressures: making ends meet is just one small part, and I can say that I have been more than lucky over the years that many have wanted to obtain my work. 

Before 2020, I managed my finances and juggled my responsibilities well enough. Still, the pressure of making sales and being an effective parent and husband has been mounting for a long time. 

When the pandemic began, it forced me to take a look at the trajectory I was on. I took a break from creating and dived into a “normal” life. I began to work in a totally different field. That had its own challenges, but the biggest of it all has been watching my anxiety rise more and more the longer I am away from my paintbrushes. 

Only recently have I begun coming back to creating in very small ways.

Despite moving from actively creating art for a while, however, I was able to sell quite a few works without much marketing on my part. It looks like being home has given a few of my clients extra time to contemplate more of my work. I even had three commissions that kept me quite busy for a few months. 

Being at home most of the time has created some positive situations. This pandemic was a sort of blessing. Our community grew closer. All four families that live next to us have spent much more time together; we had frequent barbecues and shared food and playtime with our children. 

We faced it together, the good and the bad. A few of our neighbors had family members and friends that unfortunately did not survive. 

My art took a back seat for a while. This new sense of community and family has kept me on an even keel for the most part. Most of us got sick at some point, and the support between us has given me an incredible sense of gratitude. I cannot emphasize how having this connection with others was truly one of the most important aspects of getting through all this. 

I was asked about a lack of balance between people who indulge in art during the pandemic, while the art-makers like me fall on hard times. 

I don’t quite see it as an imbalance, but rather as proof of life being a combination of situations, some of which are self-made, while others are down to luck. I do not have any ill will towards people who have more than others. That is just life. 

Society is not this one thing, but a gathering of individuals, and each person has their own choice or circumstances to deal with. So I do not see society as an entity that should or should not give anything to an artist. Every time we try to implement this idea, we create much worse problems. 

Perhaps, to dive deeper into this subject, I might ask about our collective idea of what art is. It is possible that a perceived imbalance, or lack of support for the artists, might stem from the fact that those, who have the means to support the artists, have a differing idea of what art is? 

I believe that we have been suffering from a gradual eroding of what art is from within our community. There are far too many people that create something and then clamor or demand support for their “non-art.” 

Think about it, does Apple need such support from society for their iPhones or MacBooks? Not at all. Why? Because the value is evident in the product and tends to create lines of people at their stores, hoping to obtain what they are selling. 

A room full of dirt or a pile of bricks in an art gallery has no such value and only serves to challenge viewers (would-be supporters). This “art” often alienates the people. 

It is always nice to hear such phrases as “support the art,” but perhaps we should pause and have a conversation about what art is in the first place. 

If we do this, we might see that many artists are already supported by those that find value in their work. I do not think it is the same for institutions that continually have low attendance or individuals that create objects of questionable value. In my opinion, they need to stop stealing the concept of art or artist in order to gain financial support that is not deserved. I believe art that has value will generally find support.

John Sanchez is an oil painter who grew up in the New York City and New Jersey area. He trained at the Arts Students League of New York and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida International University. John describes his style as realism. He uses his traditional training to portray the modern reality of human life, including coffee shop scenes, uber drivers, and city landscapes. 

He lives with his family in Weston, FL.

You can follow him on Instagram @johnsanchez and see his work at www.johnsanchezart.com.  

Categories
Photojournalism

Meg West: Pandemic gave me the space and time to concentrate on my art

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The pandemic has affected my art and creative process in a surprisingly wonderful way. I had put my art on the back burner for quite a while, never using it to my advantage. Once the pandemic hit, I ended up losing my main income job, like most of us, but what I did gain was loads of time for creativity and creating.

I finally had time to finish those undone paintings, make stickers and prints I had worked on for a while, and learn new skills I had always wanted to acquire.

The pandemic gave me time to invest in myself and my art. It empowered me to start my small business doing what I love. Being stuck in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do gifted me the chance to finally get the ball rolling and believe in myself like never before.

Not every day was rainbows and sunshine but waking up knowing all I had to do that day was work on my art, create new ideas, designs and share them with the world made a big difference. This was something I hadn’t had the chance to do ever before. That is happiness right there; that’s how I kept the energy flowing during such a weird time. Although it was a rough and sad year for all, I am grateful for the time, isolation, and what it has done for me as a creator.

Meg West is a young artist who grew up on Cape Cod. She got her degree in illustration from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She describes her style as colorful, organic, and edgy. She is currently living in Baja California, Mexico, with her boyfriend and two cats.

You can find her art at @castor_creatives on Instagram and contact her at castorcreatives@gmail.com.

Categories
Photojournalism

Osy Milian

“The Grays”

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Osy Milian is a contemporary Cuban artist from Havana with a strong presence in the international art world. Her works depict the complexities of both personal and cultural experiences of modern citizens of Cuba, expressed through a vibrant artistic reflection. In this exclusive material for Draftsy, Osy agreed to tell us about her latest project – “The Grays,” a series of paintings currently on exhibition in Boca Raton, Florida.

While Cuba is currently going through a period of upheaval and disquietude, and Osy’s works in many ways remain relevant and match the mood of the moment, “The Grays” were actually created prior to the recent protests, during the pandemic and are inspired by it. The paintings reflect the uncertainty and disorientation of young Cubans affected by the virus and the further havoc it wrecked on their country. 

Osy normally uses vibrant colors to create her paintings, and yet the series live up to their name and are mostly done in grays and pastels, with rare splashes of brighter hues. The works are meant to convey a gray moment in the Cuban panorama, full of uncertainty, fear, and change.

“The figures on the paintings are translucent, they look and feel like ghosts. They are anxious, waiting for a change, waiting for something to happen in the country, for the things to get better” – explains the artist. 

In one of the paintings (“Karma” – ed.) a woman is holding a horse head, an oversized knight chess piece in her lap. The authority and strength of this powerful animal create a metaphor for the woman having full control of decisions in her life. The red hue over her eyes represents her anger. (Osy uses red for this emotion throughout the series). Ms. Milian adds that we also need to control the animal within us, the instincts of it – hence the red rage encompassing the head of the woman in the painting. We must be in balance with it and with the world around us. 

The red color is visibly more prevalent in the paintings depicting young girls, demonstrating that the new generation is more aggressive than the old ones and is willing to fight for their rights. The repeating theme of the birds represents the concept of migration, the flight that most Cubans cannot make. The inability to get away. 


Some of Osy’s figures are meditative, looking calmly back at the viewer. According to her, this calmness is also about control. In this case, control of emotions as the pandemic was making people in Cuba (and all over the world) anxious and crazy. The artist offers to meditate on the passing of time and realize that one day this period in our lives will be just a stage in the history of the world. 

When asked about the subjects of her paintings (they are all women or young girls), Osy explained that she considers herself a feminist artist and wants to speak for all women in the world. 

“My subjects are beautiful and strong women; my art represents them and the struggles they go through. I am also including myself in my paintings. Female artists deal with sexualization and the male gaze, we carry the weight of experiences that male artists don’t have to ever encounter. Women don’t want to be perceived as sexual objects. That is another theme of the series – you can see it specifically in the “Lilith” painting”, – added the artist. 

Osy Milian’s “The Grays” exhibition is presented by NCO Creative. It is on view at The Gallery Lounge of Boca Raton, in the Town Center Mall, and will be featured until Friday, August 20th. For viewings by appointment, please contact Natalie O’Connor at Natalie@ncocreative.com.

Draftsy would like to thank Natalie O’Connor for her help with this article. Natalie is the founder of NCO Creative, a boutique art consulting company dedicated to procuring international works, with a special focus on Cuban art. NCO provides services, such as art acquisitions, select artist representation, exhibition coordination, and the curation of Cuban art tours.

NCO Creative

239-465-3989

Info@ncocreative.com

Insta: ncocreative

Facebook: NCO Creative

Categories
Photojournalism

Doors of Lisbon

Every house starts with a door, a threshold. What lays behind it, what secrets it keeps, what stories it remembers? All we can do is wonder and imagine.

I am fascinated with the old doors of ancient cities. To me, it is a big part of their charm.

I spent two weeks in Lisbon in January of last year, just before the world had shut down. The capital of Portugal is one of the oldest cities in continental Europe, older than even Rome by 400 years.

I walked around the city the way I always do when I come somewhere new. I usually have a few places in mind that I want to see, but otherwise, let the streets lead me away. I take the wrong turns and follow the crooked alleys until the outline of the old town imprints on my mind.

I like to take walking tours with locals, see the city through their eyes, hear their stories. The tour I took in Lisbon lead me and a dozen other tourists up and down the narrow streets that often become literal staircases. The tour guide, a local historian, knew all the shortcuts around the hills and little nooks in the alleys by the sea where grandmas sell their homemade cherry ginjinha in chocolate cups, euro a shot.

On that tour, on my second day in the city, I started noticing all the beautiful doors. Adorned by traditional tiles, with heavy brass knockers, beautiful arches, and stone steps that have been worn out by thousands of feet coming in and going out.

I saw simple, well-made doors of the old Alfama district with historical signs above them often covered by laundry drying on the clotheslines. I admired the gorgeous doors of shops on Rua do Carmo, some of which still sell the same fare as they did a hundred years ago. I saw so many, I started looking for them and collecting them on my camera roll.

I hope you like the doors of Lisbon with their colorful tiles and rusted hinges. I hope they make you think of foreign streets you have wandered about in the past, and inspire you to take new trips once the world is open again.

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Categories
Photojournalism

A walk along the river.

I am home. The familiar outlines of the river, the recognizable smell of Siberian summer, and the noise of the city which didn’t change, the music of which once never stopped to inspire me. I feel like I am walking back into my past, and yet it is slowly changing before my eyes.
Walking down the street, I see the familiar places, buildings, benches, trees, and storefront signs. One side of the river has changed completely. Wild and rebellious in the past, it has turned into a beautiful and clean boardwalk where couples, families with children, and old people walk. The tree towering over the river, which was a witness of my student years, is no longer there. And now everything around here is polished concrete. Maybe the change is for the better. On the other side of the river, it feels like time is frozen. It seems as if the river divided the space into the new and the old city, into the future and the past. Although I know for a fact that on the other side, the construction of new buildings is already actively underway. Soon everything will be concrete there too.
The walk along the river feels like a dream. As if from the river, through her eyes, I look back at the city. Familiar and already changed places are slowly passing by, and some I am discovering for the first time. I look at the sky, where the clouds have remained unchanged, lush and airy.

I seem to be home, but it seems that my home is no longer here.  

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Tyumen, summer 2012

Categories
Photojournalism

Homeless dogs of Tbilisi

Ask any tourist who was lucky enough to visit the beautiful republic of Georgia in the past few years, if they saw any homeless dogs in Tbilisi. It is a given they will have at least one story about the friendly pooch they met on a street. There are a lot of homeless dogs in the capital of Georgia.

Every single one has a small round tag on their ear. The little plastic circle has a chip inside. It means the dog is safe for the people around it – vaccinated and spayed/neutered. (CDC still advises Americans to get a rabies vaccine before they visit Georgia, but the country has taken huge steps in the past few years to vaccinate and control the dog population). The tags on the ears also mean that the dog is entered into a local electronic database.

While the long-awaited federal law about animal control and protection is yet to pass (after being written over five years ago), there are plenty of local municipal programs and centers that treat, vaccinate and spay the homeless animals around Georgia.

Dogs and cats get picked up on the streets, given time to heal, if necessary, and then sterilized, vaccinated, and released back into the same area where they were taken from.

It is hard to tell exactly how many homeless dogs are in Tbilisi. According to the 2015 data, there were over 43 thousand of them. Animal rights workers and rescue centers volunteers say that despite all the recent efforts in controlling the population, the number of homeless animals continues to grow. Local vaccination and sterilization programs cannot keep up without a more widespread effort.

The attitude towards homeless cats and dogs is changing, Georgians are now more inclined than before to adopt a dog from a shelter or take one from the streets, instead of buying an expensive purebred puppy from the breeder. But all over the country, in big cities and small communities, it is often still considered a normal thing to do when someone abandons a dog or kicks their pet out on the street when a cute puppy grows up to be a hungry dog, or family circumstances change and for whatever reason, there is no room for the pet anymore.

It is impossible to solve the problem of homeless dogs in a few months or even years. The Republic of Georgia is definitely moving in the right direction. Very recently, there were protests for the harsher punishment for animal abusers in downtown Tbilisi. More and more people seem to care about animal rights. Hopefully, the federal law about animal control and protection will be passed soon. It could establish some very much-needed consistency in rules and regulations, and help ensure all the dogs in the country are accounted for, vaccinated, and fixed.

Perhaps the most dramatic change in this issue will come when the majority of Georgian society will see a dog on the street as an anomaly, not a normal part of everyday reality.

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