My thesis project reflects my experiences from the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. After being sent home from college in March of 2020, my future became plagued with uncertainties. The spring and summer became a waiting game. My future was unknown as I awaited whether my college would invite back the entire student body and if they would cancel my senior year soccer season. I trained and practiced soccer like never before in preparation for the possibility of a season, keeping my hopes high. On the other hand, I needed to keep my family safe. Social distancing became embedded in me as a new way of life so I could eventually be able to interact with my grandparents again. At the conclusion of the summer, Muhlenberg College announced they would not be taking back all of its students— this meant there was no soccer season and virtual classes were the only option for me, despite already having a living situation arranged and paid for near the campus. If I physically went back to be at school to practice with a small group of teammates, I could not see my family because of the risk of bringing the virus to them, as my teammates continuously explained they would not limit their socialization. If I stayed at home, I would be able to stay connected with my family but miss out on being a part of the team. However, I could go off the beaten path and graduate at the conclusion of the semester, and apply for graduate school in order to play soccer and be close to my family.
I wove this narrative into a digital storybook. The digital storybook is just like a physical flipbook, but it exists through an online platform. I developed my work through three main programs: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. This had not been my original plan as my concentration in art is printmaking, specifically silkscreen. Due to the inability to access studio equipment, I turned toward digital art to develop my story. I decided to combine hand drawn elements with photos and digitally rendered images. This combination of media evoked a dream-like experience— where the elements and scenes seemed real, but just ‘off’ enough to seem like it is out of place.
COVID-19 changed my life so drastically; it turned my life into a nightmare that did not seem real. This feeling is a driving force within my work. A major component within my thesis is the narrative. The book is meant to be read as one long story, but with ‘mini’ series embedded within it— like chapters. Certain images are unpacked and further explained by following images to help provide context to the overarching story. My usage of text within images and juxtaposing pages took a lot of time and crafting to figure out what contained the most balance. For example, in many images I use hand drawn text as an artistic element rather than visualizing it as words.
Although my digital storybook is not like the typical graphic novel, I drew inspiration from artists Chitra Ganesh and Donald Baelcher. Ganesh uses a more comic-like style in her work. She effectively is able to showcase narratives within her work by combining reality with fantasy and text bubbles. I mainly drew inspiration through her presentations of narratives in her digital artwork. I drew from this my own ideas on combining the two types of imagery within my own work to create a dreamscape experience. Baelcher’s drawings use hand drawn dark black outlines filled with pops of color. I recreated this simplicity of drawing within my own work, and digitally added in color to these hand drawn images to create a similar look to his style of art.
My thesis was a process of developing a narrative to be explained in imagery with minimal text. The ambiguous nature allows the viewer to formulate their own thoughts, and reflect on their own experiences during the pandemic. Everyone’s lives were changed because of COVID-19. My thesis explains my story.