During Armory Week, I was concerned about the coronavirus pandemic but went on Saturday to my friend’s group show. We talked about the wisdom of cancelling a trip to Big Sur the following week because California might be considered risky and it could be difficult to get a flight back. I knew I did not want to go to the piers for the Art Shows, mask or no mask. I had a friend in Milan who hadn’t been out at all except to get necessities, which made me wonder how that would play out in NYC.

During the first week of staying indoors, I made sketches of our cat. I began to use the extra bedroom as a studio. For nearly two years, I painted small pictures there, but this time I decided ahead of time to use dry media, so pastels and colored pencils would be it. I ordered three brands in small amounts to try out and struggled with paper textures, pastel mark-making — taking stock of the issues that come with a new medium. I set up a few familiar objects to draw at first, and then bought some tulips to add to it. Every year I paint flowers for a few weeks during the spring. Drawing or painting flowers is a nice break from whatever else I’m doing. It took center stage during this quarantine. I drew fruit on a plate with pastels, using a smaller format. Drawing food and fruit became slightly complicated by having to go to a grocery store more often than I wanted to. Sometimes I say to myself: “I wish this pastel were paint, it would be easier to get closer to the color I want.” Then I counter that with: “I love the texture, aren’t pastels more fun than paint?” I don’t know what it will feel like to go back to the studio. These drawings feel casual. The work in the studio feels riskier: it takes preparation, thought, planning, materials; it’s expensive to make, and takes much more time. My home studio makes for a more easeful approach.

The giant horizontal body seemed to be floating in black space, as if levitating. There was a profound stillness about it. I remember inspecting the body for a clue as to the cause of this stillness and my eyes lit on the spate of red about the mouth, which seemed such a tiny thing. Then, I imagined the charging bull. As a young adult I made frequent visits to the National Gallery of Art and found myself returning over and over again to Manet’s “The Dead Toreador,” astonished and humbled by its power and monumental scale. There’s no action in the painting, no brilliant hues, yet, I imagined that I heard and felt the shocked silence of an unseen audience.