Blog / 2021 / A Body of Work Taking Shape

November 29, 2021

sketches for Everything’s Fine

The series is called Everything’s Fine, it’s all about mental health, and I’m broadcasting the painting of it on Twitch. If you click over there, you can watch some of the recent livestreams to get a feel for what these online open studio hours are like. This post shows the images I’m currently working on as well as those that I’ve already finished.

drawing of two coyotes singing
sketch for Black Hole of Everything Good

This sketch for one of the images I’m currently working on shows two coyotes who are singing rainbows. The animal on the left has a heart, while the one of the right has a hole where the heart should be, and that hole is sucking in all the rainbow song, just like the hole in me feels like it will never be filled.

mental health image depicting the inside of a brain shown as two seahorses, an almond nut, and an almond flower
sketch for Threat Level Cupcake

This image started as a title: Threat Level Cupcake. I wanted to find a way to depict how my brain always seems to be on alert for trouble, so I decided to paint the hippocampus and the amygdala, two parts of my brain that I’m fairly certain are the cause of my stress. Since the hippocampus is named for its seahorse shape and the amygdala for its almond size, this image basically composed itself.

COVID virus balls in soap bubbles floating over a porcupine surrounded by traffic cones
sketch for Pandemic Anxiety

Pandemic Anxiety came to me as a fully formed image: COVID virus balls in soap bubbles floating over a porcupine surrounded by traffic cones.

drawing of a monstrous figure made up of tentacles and teeth as well as butterfly wings
sketch for The Only Honest Self-portrait I’ve Ever Painted

I think the title for this piece will be something like The Only Honest Self-portrait I’ve Ever Painted, but I’m not sure. Like my self-image, my feelings about this piece aren’t exactly stable. I’ve always struggled to see myself clearly, both physically and emotionally. It’s probably why I paint so many portraits. I’m forever hoping that taking the time to try to understand others will help me unravel my feelings about myself a bit.

skeleton art
sketch for Practicing Death

“Too intense” and “overly sensitive,” I’ve always been more than society thinks it’s okay for me to be. Mostly I’ve come to peace with being “not quite right” in this way, but it definitely helps to practice being dead now and again. I like focusing on how ephemeral me and my feelings are.

pink woolly mammoth pretending to be a circus elephant balancing on a ball
Gwenn Seemel
The Woolly Mammoth in the Room
acrylic on wood
10 x 8 inches
(For prints and things with this image, go here.)

This is the first of the Everything’s Fine series that’s completed, and it’s fitting too since it’s a reference to the way that mental health is the elephant in every room we walk into. You can see the making of this piece here.

figure with a multi-colored column of traffic lights for a head
Gwenn Seemel
Yearn Signal
acrylic on wood
20 x 10 inches
(For prints and things with this image, go here.)

This is the second painting from the series that’s all done, but the first for which I started to really understand what making a body of work in public means. I began this artwork later than many of the other images shown here, but completed it earlier in part because those who’ve been interacting with me during the live studio hours had such a positive response to it.

I don’t like to think that I’m so easily swayed by outside affirmation, so the evidence to the contrary has been enlightening. It’s a good reminder that humanity’s very social nature makes us all susceptible to the feedback and behavior of those around us.

This is especially important to me right now since I live in a relatively unvaccinated county in New Jersey. For the last few months as Delta surged, whenever I’d go for a walk, I couldn’t help but think about how every other adult I encountered had chosen not to be inoculated against COVID. I know they’re hypnotized by their politics and, in particular, by their greedy daddy-god Trump who never wanted to take the pandemic seriously because it might hurt his bottom line. Plus, they’re reinforced in their wrong thinking by living among other people who are also refusing to do their part to end this crisis. Still, my own malleability is a good reminder that being angry with them isn’t useful.

Twitch schedule
Twitch schedule

I’ll continue live-painting on this schedule through the end of the year at least. I have eight more images I’d like to make besides the seven shown here, so the series is far from done. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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