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An art piece titled, "Antisocial distancing." Art by Aaron Wescott.

PAWS FOR ART: Creating joy from home

The global pandemic has impacted all members of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in distinct ways. With the gloom of quarantine also comes inspiration for student artists, many of whom have ventured further into their creative talents and sought new projects, inspired by the current events. 

Aaron Wescott, an animation major, has been spending his off-campus semester at Trader Joe’s as an essential worker. Splitting his time between classes and work, Wescott has devoted the free time he collects to a new series of mini comics. Inspired by his own experience as an essential worker, Wescott comments on how art has provided him with an outlet during these trying times, “… I’ve come across some crazy characters since the pandemic started and giving them a place in my art helps me deal with the stresses that I get from real life.” Wescott’s project aims to visually voice his exposure to the changed behavior of the population. 

The heavy topic is beautifully contrasted with Wescott’s style, which is “very simplistic” and “cartoony,” as described by the artist. Typically featuring his friends, girlfriend and himself, Wescott’s art delivers an animated interpretation of events in his own life: “I like to draw things the way I imagine them, and the more they fester in my brain, the more creative I find myself being with what I draw.” 

Wescott uses Clip Studio Paint EX and Aseprite to create his digital art. His playful, nostalgic creations, abundant with color and often accompanied by humor, pair a lighthearted tone with the depicted images. The rounded features and recognizable facial expressions of the characters help translate Wescott’s reality into comics, even his reality as an essential worker. 

With his mini-comics showcasing his adventures social distancing while being a Trader Joe’s employee, Wescott hopes to brighten the days of viewers: “There is already so much news about the destruction that COVID-19 has caused, and while I want to raise people’s spirits, I do not want to misinform them or tell them to take anything less seriously.” Viewers follow Wescott’s cartoon character of himself through the ups and downs of his current life, including scenes of protest outside of his place of work, phone disinfecting and falling asleep in front of a computer screen. His comics document the environment in a memorable, enjoyable way, providing moments of distraction and relief from the rut of pandemic pessimism. 

A perfect representation of how art can serve as a coping mechanism as well as a method of healthy distraction, for both the artist and the viewer, Wescott’s comics bring some light to the redundancy quarantine has sustained. Readers are encouraged to keep up with Wescott’s mini-comics on his Instagram page, @ayeayerondrawn.