Samples of my sketches made from within church services.
Today was a little rough around the edges. I miss my city; I miss my people; I was angry. I am still angry. I did not plan this drawing, AT ALL. Joey and I were about nine minutes out from the apartment on a way back from a grocery store run – when I needed, needed, NEEDED, craved, indecently craved, was absolutely drowning with lungs filling up with the realization of how powerless I really am, was gasping to breathe – no, not to breathe – to MAKE –
So I had to. I HAD to. I HAD TO.
So here’s what I made.
(Script of final scene; actors are pulling up to the apartment:)
(Mickey: scribbling one last squiggly suggestion of a blouse – “Uhhhmmnnnehh…”)
(Mickey: squinting at drawing while turning drawing up towards Joey – “How does this look?”)
Joey: “That looks exactly like you.”
Joey: “Yeah, that’s probably the best likeness I’ve seen of you, in a sketchbook…”
Joey: thinks a bit, as all actors shift stage to inside the apartment –
Joey: “Yeah, no, really, no one who knows you would dare mistake – oh wait, I’m getting a call -“
During the first half of June of 2021, I had the privilege of traveling to Texas with my partner and friends.
Here is some of what it inspired!
Over the course of the trip, while laughing and talking and waiting for our food in a restaurant, or singing together in a car ride, or in the quiet, still hours after my morning runs while everyone else was still asleep, I was also growing something more from my imagination than from my observation. I didn’t let myself use mirrors or photographs or other references. If I had to guess, I’d say that this composition grew primarily out of my mind’s eye and the afterimages of what my eyes were seeing over the course of the trip.
This was an open case which was in progress until I heard a ruling in June of 2021.
Please continue to visit frequently and keep me company.
Tap on any image for a closer look!
(Order is from oldest to newest – for instance, you can find the most recent additions at the bottom.)
THIS I SWEAR:
To give my truth, my whole truth, and nothing but my truth, so help me God.
Painted between November 3rd and 28th, 2020
Full description (Google document link): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1v_hhke4xplv9bdbDKDAezSUzLAhG5oKf8tG9tMgVKX0/edit?usp=sharing
In the Old Testament of the Bible of the Christian religion, there is a chapter of the Book of Exodus called “The Burning Bush.” The chapter describes how the Hebrew prophet Moses encounters a bush that is burning without being consumed. Moses then hears the voice of God emerge from this singular shrubbery, delivering unto Moses a mission to return to the land he fled from in order to lead his people out of oppression and into freedom.
This is quite a famous story in Christian teaching, and it has been told and illustrated in many ways and over many centuries.
I have had an uncomfortable amount of time to think in solitary silence during the quarantine of 2020, and in the vacuum of sound and fury, I find myself even more inclined than usual to become very curious about very odd things – such as the strange conundrum of a bush which burns yet is not consumed.
I was snagged on strange details of this old story, and questions began to burn in my mind, questions which yielded no answers to consume in exchange.
For instance, why do no translations of Exodus ever mention any smoke? (Could this lack of output/smoke prove in a scientific sense that the fire really was not consuming any input/fuel?)
Why is God so cryptic – “I Am Who Am?” (That’s a nametag label which would give me pause in any circumstance, and I can’t imagine it offered Moses any clarification at the time.)
Why did God feel it necessary to call upon the services of an aging shepherd who had just abandoned the very people he was supposed to now save, to slavery in Egypt, in order to flee a murder charge (of which he really was guilty)?
Why did God abandon the very people He was now handing off to Moses to go save?
Why did He permit the act of slavery in the first place?
Why does He ever let anything bad happen?
Why is He letting 2020 happen?
I might still be happily locked in the cycle of asking unanswerable questions if I hadn’t begun to turn my line of questioning inward:
Is there an analog for the “burning bush” in my life?
What is it which sustains my will to work, even during the 21st century ice age which COVID-19 has triggered?
Whose voice is it which is still giving me purpose and mission as I sit alone in four cold, empty walls?
I sat and thought quite a lot.
Then, the sky opened up (with the aid of a little caffeine), and an answer finally plopped down.
The people in my life are my burning bush.
The people in my life sustain my will to work.
The people in my life are my purpose.
As it was in my beginning, is now, and ever shall be –
Even as the world as I know it comes to an end.
I set to work, using the new fuel of my realization to push through COVID-prompted artistic inertia. For a little less than one full month of great intensity subsequent to my moment of clarity, I drew out the vision. I painted. I fought. I produced.
No smoke – just a Burning Bush.
During the act of creating this painting, I pushed myself more than I ever have before and climbed to higher heights than I had ever anticipated reaching. I made copious use of old family records, scaldingly hot chocolate, the score of the ballet Giselle, the work of the rap maestro known as Logic, all-natural vegan chewing gum, and the patience of my amazing mother, father, and brother. I sang beyond the standards of sanity, I got paint on every surface in my bedroom, and what I lost in sleep, I more than made up for in thought.
My guidebook was a copy of the Bible which had belonged to my Lolo – my father’s father, who survived World War II in the Philippines, worked to pay for even so much as a “public” high school education, immigrated to the United States, became an incredible doctor, married an incredible doctor, raised four beautiful sons, and practiced medicine in Queens until he contracted COVID-19 from a patient in March. His handwritten notes spurred my progress. Now, he lives on exclusively in these notes, in the people whose lives he has protected, in our memory, in our photos, and in my paint. See him for yourself next to his wife in the far-right of this canvas – my father grinning below.
I gave myself to this piece irresponsibly. I cut it pretty close, living and breathing my medium in a new way. My living situation entails that my studio setup is a turned-over toy chest with a bulletin board laid flat on it, with an empty plastic picture frame as my big fancy painter’s palette, in between my bed and my room’s largest wall – where I hung as large an expanse of canvas cloth as I could fit. This was the station at which I worked, and I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for it – for the ability to continue my work at all.
I did many things which I had never intended to do. In order to portray the figure on the left, I revisited the most painful form of entrapment which I have ever personally experienced – my scoliosis brace. I wore this plastic corset for sixteen hours a day for every day for over ten years of my life in order to prevent a back surgery which would forcibly straighten my S-shaped spine by fusing it into place with titanium rods and screws. (You can see the scar from that very surgery in the painting, denoted with a ray of vivid yellow light – which was all I could process when I emerged from the anesthetized fog of fifteen hours of back surgery. Just an overwhelming yellow light.)
The brace fit as though I had taken it off the day before, instead of some eight years before. It felt just as painful, too. I wore it for a while before taking any reference photos in it, so that I could catch just the right expression of pain and desperation. I painted my arms as they were in that moment – as I moved frantically to undo those three old straps, with the muscle memory of doing so thousands of times still remaining from years ago. I hope never to need to put my brace back on again.
This was a start – but after obtaining this image and painting myself into the piece, things took a wild turn.
Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that my modus operandi as an artist is to plan out elaborate, enormous compositions, replete with hidden symbols and painstakingly-encoded messages. This is the way my prior two large pieces came into being.
However, I didn’t do that with this third large composition. I tried trusting my instincts, and praying fervently for the grace and the power to paint an impactful work. With minimal planning, I proceeded to work with a rigor which I have never been able to muster before.
I still don’t understand, looking back after emerging from my month-long feverous haze, where the fervor came from. It’s easy to attribute a night of inspired work to a sad news article and some extra-potent coffee, but this was a marathon – not a sprint. I sustained my pace for the duration of this piece, and every night, I laid in bed five feet away from an entirely new image. This was the nature of my urgency – a fire.I had the global pandemic at the forefront of my mind, and I was not fully conscious of recreating the flag of the Free Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. I was not fully conscious of mimicking that movement’s imagery and even the color scheme. I did not even realize the association until a few nights before Burning Bush was done. However, my support of Hong Kong is critical to my mission beyond even painting, and my heart constantly feels as though it is breaking for the people of Hong Kong during these times – so it makes absolute sense to me that even without intentionally recalling the visual themes of the movement, that even after not being directly exposed to them for months, they were at the forefront of my mind, and of course, my paints. When the memory resurfaced from some subconscious but obviously yet active part of myself, it hit me with the force of a column of wind and fire. I can only interpret this as one of many signs that my prayers for artistic guidance were heard.
Now, as I try to do what I can to draw out Burning Bush from my bedroom and to show it to as many eyes as I can, I still burn with questions, but also now with a new prayer.
I pray to meet you.
Every single one of you.
Everyone else, too – especially the ones who don’t have the patience to read this far!
I pray to the One who Is, Whoever They may Be, that when we are delivered from this 21st-century plague, that I get to meet you –
In person –
To shake your hand –
To thank you for your time –
And to pass you the torch…
For your Burning Bush.
Please take your time to process and enjoy Burning Bush. If you or any others have any questions or would like to speak to me for any reason, please call or text me at (732) 991-9799 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To view more of my work, please visit the rest of my website at michaelalozada.net.
I invite and encourage you to show my work to anyone whom you would like to share it with. All I ask is that you do not use any of my work to promote violence in any context, and that you credit the creator – Michaela Jane Lozada.
oil painting on canvas stretched on wood, over 10 feet wide and over 7 feet high (89.25″ x 125.25″)
Completed between August and December of 2019
Full description (Google document link):
One of the strongest and most peaceful methods of protest which has been utilized by the pro-democracy protestors of Hong Kong is the practice of forming human chains. Human chains are a quiet yet powerful form of nonviolent protest, which people have been using to fight for their rights for centuries. It is a very powerful symbol of standing in union for human rights and democracy.
Human Chain portrays such a chain, consisting of fictional characters who represent a wide array of Hong Kong’s demographics and archetypical personalities. (The face of the central little boy is scrunched up because his character is based off of the image of a toddler who was subjected to tear gas by the Chinese police.) However, this is not a depiction of any human chain from real life: I have placed the chain in an underwater setting. This decision is symbolic of the protestors’ determination and relentlessness. There are specific thoughts which I imagine my characters proclaiming:
“May the seas rise over our heads –
May the ground grow up around us –
We will not separate.
We will not give up.
We cannot be removed.
We cannot be washed away.
Our fight will never be extinguished.”
The imagery of water is also a nod to the movement’s unifying adage of “Be Water.” This cry is a concept that if the protesters are struck, even with great force, they can and must absorb the strike’s force and yet move fluidly around it, without deterred or swayed in their beliefs – the behavior of water when struck.
In order to also convey a sense that my characters have been standing in their chain for a very long time, I am making them appear as though they are covered in growths of algae and corals, as well as being almost calcified and even nearly turned to stone.
However, I did not want to make my characters appear hyper-realistic, like some recreation of a photograph. Consequently, I mimicked the organic look of colorful algal growths and sea corals with patterns of imagined colors and textures. The patterns on the five adult characters are abstractions of the Chinese characters representing the five demands of the protest movement, which protestors (literally) stand for. The little boy’s patterns are inspired by the flag of Hong Kong. These patterns also drew inspiration from the style of Gustav Klimt’s luxuriantly patterned portraits.
I have also included a less obvious sign to show how long my characters have been standing. The little boy and maternal figure stooping over him in the center of the painting are echoed to the left, in the young adult male holding the hand of the older woman – another son-mother relationship. This repetition conveys many questions: Are the two individuals on the left the very same son-mother pair, still standing in their same place for the same reasons, even after so many years? Or are they two different pairs? For how many generations has this chain been standing? For how many more will they – must they – stand?
In addition to the references to the protest’s values and demands, I also render further imagery specific to Hong Kong, such as blossom-like seaweeds which reference the petals of the flower on the flag which is recognized by the people of Hong Kong. Most prominently, I include an outline of Lion Rock, the mountain where protestors formed a human chain of history-making length. I am also including the image of a vivid red Spanish Dancer fish on the lower edge of the painting, which symbolizes communism, as well as sharks lurking in the background, representing the ever-present danger looming and threatening protestors’ lives.
I represent the world outside of China and Hong Kong with the largest living thing of all: a blue whale. The most distant creature from the foreground, it positions itself in proximity to the sharks, much as many countries maintain long-established business relationships with mainland China. Despite its size and strength, it chooses to drift in a passive and docile state, far removed from the center of conflict, to which it seems blind. This behavior informed my choice to paint the whale with no eyes of its own.
I connect the two leftmost figures through the sharing of an umbrella, rather than directly holding hands. This is of course a nod to the Umbrella Movement, but it is also a salute to the involvement of the youth of Hong Kong in the protest. In Hong Kong, it is socially frowned upon for young people to touch members of the opposite sex, so students have come up with a means to form human chains by holding onto opposite end of various objects. I have hidden all of the leftmost figure except for the edges of a generic school uniform, in respect of all of the students who risk everything with a courage and maturity which is beyond their years.
Despite my use of these specific references, I have intentionally allowed the imagery of the painting to be general enough so that it can relatable for many others in other countries, who have also had to fight for their rights, who are currently fighting, or who will in the future have to fight the same fight.
This was a key factor in my decision to portray the universal image of a human chain, instead of any of the countless real images of violence and cruelty being suffered in Hong Kong. While bringing this injustice and suffering to light is, of course, vital, I believe that this is most effectively accomplished through photography. I want to use painting to convey the following:
- The protestor’s hope for a better future, and
- The reserved but commanding power that can be produced through peaceful, non-violent means of protest.
Please take your time to process and enjoy Human Chain. If you or any others have any questions or would like to speak to me for any reason, please call or text me at (732) 991-9799 or email me at email@example.com. To view more of my work, please visit my website at michaelalozada.net.
I invite and encourage you to show my work to anyone whom you would like to share it with. All I ask is that you do not use any of my work to promote violence in any context, and that you credit the painter – Michaela Jane Lozada.
How much do you know about Filipino art? Not the art that natives and colonists made after the islands were conquered and converted – the art that sprung directly from the spirit of the people, before their islands were referred to as “the Philippines” (a title meant to honor King Philip of Spain).
I am half Filipino, half German, and I have access to a LOT of Germanic art. I have access to scores of family members here and in Germany who would love nothing more than to tell me all about their culture. Recently in considering this, I realized I knew nothing about the original art and cutlure of what are now called the Philippine islands. Neither does anybody I have asked. It’s not even mentioned in Rutgers University’s early world art history class. Assuming that people did exist in the early Philippine islands – and no one can dispute that they did – this is unacceptable to me.
I asked the experts – books and the Internet – and I found the information that was lacking. Among this information was one discovery of particular interest to me, called the “okir.” It one of the most integral forms of art to the islands’ original society, a recurring floral ornamental accent which seems intertwined with other patterns across the globe, suggesting in particular an Islamic influence. It was carved, painted, and drawn on everything from art to architecture, displayed as a symbol of the people’s pride in their culture and the pride of the artisans in their craftsmanship. Essentially, the okir was created and adopted by the native people as a proud display of the spirit of their society. The okir shines with the light of the passion, the pride, the patriotism of these people; however, it has been eclipsed from the view of most of the world.
“Lozadas” is my riposte to this repression. The faces you see are representatives of as many generations of my family as I could find. The pattern which is projected onto is a rendering of the okir. After studying occurances of the okir in surviving artifacts, I recreated a version of my own. I then used digital means to colorize the pattern, matching the exact color palettes of okir patterns found on the artifacts I’d studied.
Like the Philippines, my last name (“Lozada”) is of Spanish origin. It means “to light up” or “illuminate.” Please enjoy.
Sketch from a mass held in recognition of la Virgen de Quinche, a feast day of Mary which is especially beloved by Ecuadorians. This is a very special evening mass for the Hispanic community here in Newark. Painstaking effort is put into arranging a shrine of dolls and flowers and carrying the central doll of la Virgen into the building on the shoulders of four individuals, and in addition to me and the other core group of musicians of this cathedral, an authentic mariachi band performed during the mass.
Still only able to work in one spot, but there’s always another perspective to find.
I messed up today – tripped up a little on “lo bello que es tu amor” and sang “en la pan” (shoulda been “en el pan”). Como yo dijo a mi familia musica, siempre estoy tratando mi mejor. Estoy apriendo, no estoy completida.
Have I mentioned I’m writing a book?
Thank you to my dear friend Louis Henry Mitchell! I didn’t really follow your class as intended, but did you expect me to? As you said today, we must always be trying to continue to grow as artists.
From the late night mass for Dia de los Muertos – and/or “All Saint’s Day” – at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral of beautiful Newark, New Jersey. Can you please try to imagine how much it meant to me to add four photographs of my own Lozadas and Liebeskinds to the ofrenda of our beloved dead, placed at the alter with candles, there to stay for a whole month? I sang my heart to the world for all listening, in Spanish and English, and I listened with my hands onto the last page of this sketchbook.
Please understand – my perspective is the same with all of these recent church sketches because I am on duty singing. I am at a designated position in the upper narthex, sketching madly whenever I am able to share my hands and eyes with both drawing and singing.
They called me angel, said I gave them chills, but what more am I really than a bird in the rafters! God gave me my voice, and there’s much I have yet to learn.
Me ama esta mujer. Todos que la conoce se ama. Que Luchadora, que regala, que ama.
Estudio de cincos minutos, hecho hoy, durante nuestra misa.
I love this woman. Everyone who knows her does. What a fighter, what a gift, what love.
It’s a five-minute study, made today, during our mass.