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Motherhood & Mark-Making: A Conversation with Allyson Darakjian

The rise of COVID-19 has caused significant loss of income as well as other challenges for artists worldwide. This post is part of a series of interviews with artists affected by the COVID quarantine.

What kind of art do you make, and how did you first understand yourself as an artist?
For a long time my medium of choice is whatever I have laying around…scraps of paper, pens, tape, stickers, old cardboard boxes, plywood or 2×4’s…sooo I guess, mixed media? I love collage but more recently I have reignited my love of the basic pen and paper. I have understood myself as an artist from as early as I can remember. Obviously, my view of what that means has changed dramatically over the years, from first understanding myself as someone who could draw things well as a child to a creative person responsible for cultivating and using their creative mind to expose new truth of things in beautiful, challenging and interesting ways. 

Hammock, mixed media on wood, 2013.

How has motherhood changed your art practice or identity as an artist?
Since having a baby last summer, I haven’t had the luxury of losing myself in hours of studio time or leaving out big messes to work on pieces over a large amount of time so I’ve been drawn back to the simplicity and ease of the basic ballpoint pen and paper. My most recent work has been blind contour drawings and portraits of friends, family, and everyday objects. Blind contour drawing is a form of mark-making that requires looking at something or someone while drawing them without lifting the pen, or looking at the paper. It is less about representing something realistically but really being with something, studying it, and trying to capture a tiny bit of truth of the thing you are looking at. It has been a good practice in presence and has helped me to pause my anxious mind and really look at something. I think this practice has also challenged me to let go of my urge to infuse TOO much meaning into my work, which has been a battle in my creative process. Blind contour drawings help me to refine the quality of my line and reminds me of the lack of control I have in life, which, I feel, is a direct reflection of my own processing of becoming a mother – learning to be present, trusting my instincts and releasing control.

How has COVID-19 changed your art practice?
I feel like I should have more time to work on my art, but again, with a baby, this is not the case! Blind contour drawings are fast and easy for me to make repeatedly. It feels like a release of energy. Often times, the images I create can be pretty weird looking and comical, and amidst the fear and seriousness in this time, it has been nice to smile at silly drawings. The weight of fear of all the unknown is heavy on my heart and mind these days and I keep seeking humor to cope with all the intensity. I think blind contour drawings are a reflection of that desire. It’s also something that is easy to gift to someone else and I have enjoyed asking loved ones for “selfies” to make images from. I hope that the portraits I am drawing brings just a tiny bit of levity to people’s lives.

Allyson’s Sketchbook with blind contour drawings.

Do you have any advice for other artists who are struggling either emotionally or financially during this time? 
One day at a time. Show up and make marks. Trust your instincts artistically. Use what you have. These are all truths I am holding on to as an artist right now for my own mental health. Financially, invest in some art! Make a trade! I love doing artist trades and gifting work for work. I have also heard of artists pledging to buy art with their own art proceeds which I think is a great practice (if possible). I’m hoping to begin that process myself and pledge to buy art with a portion of the funds I receive from my own art sales during this time.

Allyson Darakjian is a mixed-media artist living in Fresno, CA. A theme that appears often in her work is the idea of the forgotten. She uses old book pages, photographs, magazine clippings, and vintage packaging – their significance re-imagined. She writes, “My most recent work has been blind contour drawings and portraits of friends, family, and everyday objects. Blind contour drawing is a form of mark-making that requires looking at something or someone while drawing them without lifting the pen, or looking at the paper. It is less about representing something realistically but really being with something, studying it, and trying to capture a tiny bit of truth of the thing you are seeing. Blind contour drawings help me to refine the quality of my line and reminds me of the lack of control I have in life, which, I feel, is a direct reflection of my own processing of becoming a mother – learning to be present, trusting my instincts and releasing control.” See more of Allyson’s work here, and follow her on Instagram here.


Support Allyson and other artists who need support as a result of COVID-19 by purchasing our Artist Relief Tee.

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