In April 2020, Marsha Schuld was isolated on her acreage and feeling anxious.
To deal with the feelings that came from the coronavirus pandemic, Schuld decided to start drawing. Each day she did a drawing — about anything that came to mind — on a four-inch by four-inch square.
"When I started this, I wasn't sure I'd be doing it for a month, never mind a year," Schuld said with a laugh. "I would have had a lot more paper in stock if it had."
Schuld is marking one year of daily pandemic art on April 12. Some days she painted, sketched, used pastels or embroidered. Looking at all the pieces now, it's a tapestry of the year that was.
"There's days where it's been bleak and black and grumpy. There's days where it's been joy and pleasure," she said. "There's been celebrations of life and death. There has been just everything."
The daily pieces were art therapy for Schuld. She said she is an over-thinker, which makes it tough at times to calm down.
"When I settle into doing a drawing or a painting or a sculpture or whatever, everything else shuts off. And so it's a wonderful little addiction that way, because if I want to shut the world out and the ugly, all I have to do is pick up a pen and a piece of paper," she said.
"It's absolutely helped me get through it. I wouldn't have come to this point in it without it."
Schuld started posting on her Facebook page 'Marsha Schuld: The Pandemic Drawings.' It was originally to keep her honest about doing a piece everyday.
"It really did not enter my mind that other people would find it important," she said. "One of the most eye-opening things for me is that it's not just important for me anymore, now it's important for a whole community of people and I'm humbled by that. It makes me happy that I'm able to actually make other people happy."
Schuld's page has a community of about 150 people following along with her daily drawings. She said people from across Canada and the world have sent her notes. She said it's nice to know on difficult days that other people are feeling the same way.
"Very early on, I had a bad day. I had a migraine. Nothing was going right. The world was shutting down further. And I just made kind of an angry scramble. And that was my drawing for the day. I had so many people reach out and say, 'I'm feeling that way too,'" she said. "It kind of stimulated me to be more open about what I was going through."
Schuld said that with the end of the pandemic surrounded by uncertainty, the daily pieces give people a little moment to look forward to.
"It's nice to be reminded that there's a little sparrow up my window or somebody I loved used to live in a place or this leaf is an interesting shape," Schuld said. "It distracts us from cyclical thinking."
Art beginners should start small and simple: Schuld
Another side effect of the project was other people finding ways to express themselves, Schuld said. She's heard from new artists doing weekly or daily pieces, and friends starting blogs or journals.
"It's creating a happy community, which it's really hard to find these days," she said. "I think for all of us, having something drop into your life that doesn't require your critical attention … that alone is helping us cope through a time when so much that is expected of us."
For people wanting to try their own art therapy practice, Schuld suggests a pencil or a crayon, and a sketchbook. She said not to expect perfection right away and just express yourself.
"The beauty of making art is you can make something interesting no matter how skilled or unskilled you think you are," she said.
Schuld hopes one day to exhibit the daily drawings all together in a gallery, showing the variety in the mediums, days and months. She's not sure how long she'll continue the project, but she's taking the lessons from it forward.
"This project has made me realize that you have to live in the now, you have to live in what's here and what you notice today," she said. "I just have to deal with today and tomorrow. And what comes in a week and a month and a year will come in a week and a month and a year."