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Pandemic Art Challenges



Pandemic Scrapbook

by Sandra Oliver

Painting "Something from Your Garden" by Dee Dee Ruth
Challenge #1 by Dee Dee Ruth

It has been over a year since the pandemic began, and most of us have spent our days in our homes with little face-to-face contact with our friends. I have been fortunate to be part of a group of seven artists and friends, all of whom have studied watercolor under Anna Kay Singley and who got together frequently to paint. At the time, all were CCAL members and included Maureen Carter, Linda Claytor, Cathy Dubiel, Miriam Liner, Dee Dee Ruth, Anna Kay, and me. Anna Kay knows us well and wanted us to continue to paint but was worried that we wouldn’t. She sensed that we are a competitive group and that we would respond to a challenge, therefore requiring us to paint something, anything! So, she presented us with the challenge – do a weekly painting on a subject that she proposed and that she would also paint.

Painting by Linda Claytor
Challenge #2 by Linda Claytor

The challenge the first week of March was simple, paint a flower from our yard. As the weeks went on, the challenges became more difficult and creative. Sometimes she gave us parameters such as the size of paper, the medium, or the color(s) we should use. Sometimes we had to do research on a specific artist and present a painting in that artist’s style. Each week, we would text a photo of our completed painting to the entire group. Sometimes we asked for a critique or advice on what should be done to make a particular painting better. Some challenges were fun; some were interesting; some were difficult. Regardless of the topic, we continued to paint weekly through October.

Painting by Sandra Oliver
Challenge #3 by Sandra Oliver

As our portfolio of paintings grew, I decided that I would prepare a notebook, The Pandemic Scrapbook, for each member of the group to document our work. During the months that followed, we were able to get together twice on Dee Dee’s large patio wearing our masks and practicing social distancing. The first time, we showed off the paintings we had completed up to that point. The second time, I gave everyone their Pandemic Scrapbook, and we exchanged our artist’s trading cards.

Most challenges were one week long, except the artist’s trading cards as we each had to paint seven cards. We painted anything and everything...

Painting by Miriam Liner
Challenge #10 by Miriam Liner
  • flowers and vegetables

  • inside our home and outside our home

  • light and shadows and reflections

  • landscapes and seascapes

  • texture

  • one dominant color

  • limited palette

  • CBS Sunday Morning suns

  • people and structures

  • interpretation of a particular painting

  • a cookbook cover or divider sheet along with the recipe

  • seven artist’s trading cards

  • something we were comfortable painting and something we were uncomfortable painting

  • study and painting in the style of Helen Frankenthaler

  • study and painting in the style of John Pike

  • representational and abstract

Painting by Maureen Carter
Challenge #15 by Maureen Carter

Altogether, the seven of us completed 22 challenges and 174 paintings! Some even painted non-challenge pieces during this time, some of which were in the scrapbook.

We are no longer painting a weekly challenge, but the experience certainly helped us get through the early months of the COVID-19 Pandemic and keep in touch with one another. Thank you, Anna Kay! You know us well.

Painting by Cathy Dubiel
Challenge #20 by Cathy Dubiel

The last page of the scrapbook sums it all up –

Through it all, we . . .

kept in touch,

had a little fun,

learned a lot,

safely got together twice,

and continued to paint!

Painting by Anna Kay Singley
Challenge #21 by Anna Kay Singley

CHALLENGE 1 – Paint something from your garden – Dee Dee Ruth

CHALLENGE 2 – Interpret an abstract painting provided by Anna Kay – Linda Claytor

CHALLENGE 3 – Paint a watercolor background – then draw on it with graphite, pen, etc. – Sandra Oliver

CHALLENGE 10 – Paint something with shadows – Miriam Liner

CHALLENGE 15 – Paint a subject you are comfortable painting – Maureen Carter

CHALLENGE 20 – Do a collage on canvas at least 11” x 14” – Cathy Dubiel

CHALLENGE 21 – Paint something with an element of surprise – Anna Kay Singley


Author Photo:  Sandra Oliver

About the Author

A native of North Carolina, Sandra Oliver has called South Carolina home since moving here in 1976. She retired from the South Carolina public schools after teaching both business and mathematics.

Sandra first developed an interest in art after moving to Newberry, SC, in 1993 when she briefly studied pastel and oil painting. Devoting her time to her family and teaching, Sandra did not resume her art studies until mid-2011 when she began watercolor lesson classes with Anna Kay Singley. She has also participated in numerous painting workshops since then. Sandra’s primary medium is watercolor, although she occasionally has worked in acrylics, oils, pastels, and mixed media.

She has been juried into the South Carolina State Fair Fine Arts Exhibit, Amateur Division every year since 2011. She has also exhibited paintings in the Crooked Creek Juried Art Show, Union County Arts Council Juried Art Show, the North Charleston Juried Art Show, Old Santee Canal Juried Art Show (Moncks Corner), and Art Flow (Allendale). The Gallery in Newberry and Handcrafted Artists Emporium in Newberry display some of Sandra’s paintings.

Sandra is 2020-21 President of Crooked Creek Art League and has previously served as workshop coordinator and as co-chair of the Annual Juried Art Exhibit. Her collage and watercolor work, “Orchid,” received the Post Card Award in the 2017 juried exhibit.

You can contact Sandra by clicking HERE.

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