BRIDGEWATER – After seeing a photo of people wearing masks leaving a cruise ship in Japan at the start of the pandemic, Bridgewater artist Pamela Sztybel decided to create a drawing based on the scene.
“I liked the photo, it struck me visually,” she said. When she was done, she uploaded it and made another one the next day.
Sztybel recently completed a year-long anniversary compilation of daily cartoons – sometimes several in a day – on the news. She plans to put her more than 400 drawings, which can be viewed on Instagram and Facebook, in a book.
“It started on a whim, to draw a little sketch of the news every day for a year,” she said, adding that she had more time to work on it during the lockdown. “I challenged myself in a sketchbook.
Each drawing took about two to five hours to create.
“I had a lot of quirks before this,” said Sztybel, who also has a home in Manhattan. Due to the pandemic, she said she had to close her Manhattan studio and now lives year round in Bridgewater.
Her whim, however, turned into a yearlong project. While her first drawings are based on current affairs photographs, the others are illustrations or cartoons based on the words of the headlines she was reading.
Like the rest of the world, she said she was heavily affected by the coronavirus, and her drawings reflected that.
“I knew something bad was going on and I was wondering where we would be in a year,” she said.
Besides the pandemic, Sztybel’s drawings focus on politics, the presidential election and climate change. They reflect both national and international issues.
“It turned into a fun side project,” she said. “I drew everything that came to me that day.”
Szytbel, 64, who lives with her husband Eliot Stein, is a graduate of the New York Academy of Art and practices art full time. His work has been shown across the United States.
All the titles of his drawings are taken directly from various sources of information.
“I would pull the headlines from those sources and do a picture that had to do with them,” she said, adding that she had a lot of material. “… There was always something bizarre or shocking about the news,” she said.
She started to be followed daily on social media, with people saying they looked forward to seeing her design of the day. She currently has over 4,000 followers on Instagram.
“I realized early on that even though the subject was so painful, the drawings made them feel better. It was very gratifying, “she said.” I gave them a way to comment on something that shocked them. “
In the fall, as the presidential election heated up, many of his daily cartoons reflected the electoral anxiety that pervaded the country.
“When it was decided on November 7th that (Joe) Biden had won, I was in my car and had already done a drawing in the morning, but I started getting a lot of messages saying, ‘You have to make another one for today. ‘ When I replied that I was not at home, a guy texted me to stop me. … I went home and did the other drawing.
But Szytbel’s project did not come without challenges. She had to learn to draw in an extremely miniature form, like an oval desk with everything on the desk “smaller than a fingernail,” she said.
To accomplish this task, she used a very fine mechanical pencil for drawing and watercolor brushes for painting.
She said many of her drawings also reflect her love of animals and has drawn at least 100 different species of animals during the year.
“They are very useful for making a lighter point here and there than using human figures,” she said.
Having something to do every day, “a routine”, was helpful during a difficult time, she said, “when the world felt like it was falling apart.”
The comments Szytbel received on her work throughout the year were “so heartwarming,” she said. “I felt good to have touched so many people and made someone smile for a second during a difficult time.”