Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
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Professor, Alumnus Turn Moments from Online Meetings into Art

From Zoom boxed images to sketches

Above: A Zoom sketch by Leslie Gates.

Dr. Leslie Gates is an associate professor in art education at Millersville University and a 2003 alumna. And, like many others, she’s attended a lot of Zoom meetings over the past year. A lot of them.  

But Gates, ever the creative, took advantage of the time to turn still images from her many meetings into art via a series of sketches featuring her colleagues at their home offices.  

Above: Leslie Gates (left) and Eli Andrus (right).

She explains that as the pandemic wore on, she found herself worn out and fatigued from going from meeting to meeting online. Gates says she missed the human connection that comes from working alongside your friends and coworkers. One night, as she chatted with a friend from work – yes, via Zoom – she felt the urge to sketch. So, she did just that.  

The ongoing series of drawings, each framed in a little black boxare familiar site to those who’ve worked remotely over the past year. The sketches feature a solitary subject within, sometimes mid-thought, sometimes looking off screen.  

Above: Zoom drawings by Leslie Gates.

Students and alumni from Millersville University may recognize some familiar faces in Gates’ work. “The main technical challenge to what I am doing is really in the capturing of images – trying to find something that is clear, well composed and then translating the screenshot into a drawing.” 

Her efforts and attention to detail have certainly paid off. To date, she has made 32 drawings that capture a unique time in her work life. Gates’s Zoom drawings are also the subject of the article, Working in the Rectangle, featured in the December 2020 issue of Art Education Journal 

Gates is not the only artist who’s taking to creating during Zoom meetings. 2004 MU art education graduate Eli Andrus had a similar instinct 

Above: Zoom drawings by Eli Andrus.

Andrus now lives in Malvern, Pennsylvania and teaches art at the elementary level in the Downingtown Area School DistrictOutside of his teaching gig, he maintains a studio practice making, exhibiting and selling art. “There has been a steady stream of private commission work [recently],” he notes. 

During the pandemic, he has been drawing his subjects live during meetings using black and white gouache. “Gouache is essentially an opaque watercolor medium that captures fine detail, dries quickly, and is reworkable,” he explains. “Those characteristics make it a good medium for improvisational and direct work like sketching people in Zoom.” 

Andrus says he’s always sketched during meetings. “I find it helps me focus,” he says. “When everything switched to Zoom, it was a natural transition. However, the conceptual potential soon asserted itself and my Zoom portraits took on a life of their own apart from my typical sketching practice.”  

Gates and Andrus have both pondered what their work might mean to themselves and others in the future, as it captures a very unique time in history.  

Gates says she is grateful that she followed her instinct to create. “I think we will need time to process all we are losing, loving, and learning during the pandemic,” she says. “As the pandemic goes on, I become more convinced that documenting it in the moment feels like the right thing. I am using drawing to document something I know I don’t yet fully understand. The drawings feel like artifacts to me. I am starting to wonder what I will understand about these drawings in 10 or 20 years.  

Andrus echoes her sentiments. “I can only say it has been a cathartic exercise in processing and documenting a watershed moment in history. I suspect that that will be its long-term legacy.”  

To see more artwork by Dr. Leslie Gates, click here. 

To see more artwork by Eli Andrus, click here 

Do you want to become an art teacher? Check out our major in art education.  

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