Painter’s Plight: Local artist Ann Marie Coolick talks COVID-19

Since the virus began its course in the U.S., this Arlington-based abstract artist has embraced an increase in local support and a change in her artistic style.

upstairs art studio with window in it
Ann Marie Coolick’s art studio, located in the attic of her home in Arlington. (Photo by Jess Feldman)

For the past fast five years, Arlington resident Ann Marie Coolick has been getting used to life as a full-time artist. Thanks to her attic-turned-studio, Coolick has found a balance of spending time with her husband and three boys, as well as working on about 20 different pieces of abstract art a month, which she creates entirely with paint knives. 

Yet now, as the coronavirus continues to alter daily life for Northern Virginia residents, things are different. Not only has Coolick’s routine changed, but so has her way of connecting with followers (80,000 of which can be found on her Instagram account), her sources of inspiration and her desire to create hope through artwork. 

Here’s Coolick’s take on it all, as part of a new series where we explore how living through the coronavirus pandemic has impacted local artists of the region.

Talk to me about what your day-to-day routine now looks like during the pandemic.

My routine has drastically changed since my kids (ages 6, 8 and 10) have been home. This is really the happiest they have ever been not having to go to “real” school, but it has been a challenge trying to manage my business while ensuring they are OK. When school let out about a month ago, all of a sudden I went from seven hours a day in the studio to one or two hours a day. Now, instead of checking emails and heading to the studio first thing in the morning, I’m at the table with the kids for three to five hours making sure they understand their schoolwork. It’s been tough, but I’m extremely thankful that with a home studio, I’m at least able to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

The biggest challenge has been trying to act as a teacher while trying to manage my own workload. We are very lucky the kids have a one-to-one device at their school and they are still learning new lessons, but they are young and aren’t able to work independently yet. I think all parents are struggling with this new reality and we’re no different here.

Do you feel as if your painting style has changed at all in the last month since the pandemic began?

Definitely. At first, I felt super motivated to get some larger projects done that I had been putting off. At some point I started to really notice the amount of fear circulating in the media and in other’s posts, and I felt that my worries were trivial compared to those whose businesses were shuttering and those on the front lines. My work has always been about joy, but even more so now, so I’m really trying to share work that gives people hope and helps them forget their struggles, even for just a moment.

Have you received requests for paintings?

Not surprisingly, but I really haven’t had any new commissions coming in since the stay-at-home order. Although people are not commissioning work, they are being incredibly supportive of my business in other ways. I think for those who are able to continue working from home, they are looking at their walls and noticing that they need some color and they want to support small businesses. I’ve seen a steady inflow of purchases on my website and I’m really in awe of the support from all across the U.S.

painting of New York city
Photo courtesy of Ann Marie Coolick
You are currently working on a beautiful painting of New York City. Can you tell me more about that?

When the pandemic began I felt really motivated to work on larger projects that I had been putting off. Last year on spring break I took a photo of the view from the Empire State Building toward One World Trade Center on a beautiful overcast day. had been meaning to paint it ever since, but the details were daunting. I divided the canvas into squares so I could conquer one little square at a time, and it forced me to paint every day. It’s now in a private collection in Utah.

Your Instagram has been full of cherry blossoms and other bright designs right now. Is there significance to this?

Definitely. One of my goals this year was to paint in person at the Tidal Basin, but sadly that couldn’t happen. This was the first year in a very long time that I haven’t gone into DC to see the blossoms. I know many of us from DC and Northern Virginia really missed that tradition, so I wanted to share my cherry blossom work to remind us that they will still be there next year.

How have you been staying positive?

We’ve been trying to stay really active. I’ve been going on morning jogs and my husband has a daily outdoor activity with the kids. One of them gets to pull a card from a pile … bocce, backyard baseball, soccer, frisbee, etc. We’re also getting takeout three to four times a week for either lunch or dinner. It feels good to treat ourselves while also supporting the local restaurants.

Lastly, what are you most looking forward to doing when the stay-at-home order ends?

I can’t wait to go see my family in Sandbridge. Just the little things will feel so good, like walking up to Pentagon Row to get ice cream with friends, or eating outside at a local restaurant with a glass of wine in the sunshine. We also really miss the Nats. With three boys who watch every single game, we are so ready for baseball again!

Interested in adding a little color to your walls? See more of Coolick’s original work for purchase here.

This piece is part of a new series where we explore what life now looks like in the coronavirus era for Northern Virginia artists. To read more in-depth interviews with NoVA notables, subscribe to our newsletters.

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