Bubbling - Reflections of a Pandemic

Featured: Bubbling #1, Oil on wood panel, 4’ diameter, $5,000.00

Over the pandemic, I struggled a lot until the spring of 2021, when I began to think about returning to working with the human figure. I had been dealing with many feelings around isolation, introspection and eventually renewal and I wanted to express this somehow in my work.

I have used the circle format off and on and I found myself drawn to it again to explore these feelings. I wanted to create images of naked figures encased inside spheres or bubbles that slightly obscure various body parts. In some of the images, it is not immediately apparent that there is a figure inside. I purposely wanted to create a mystery and duality for the viewer to explore.

I started with an image of myself (which is the one included in this post) and asked some friends and family members to volunteer an image of themselves for me to use as reference material. The participants were not directed by me in terms of what kind of attitude or position to take other than their bodies had to be able to fit into a 4’ circular format and they had to be nude.

It has been an interesting experience for me in my dealings with the participants as I asked them to contribute an image of themselves in a very vulnerable state without any indication of the outcome of the final image. It was important to me that each person relate their own psychological state with their pose without my input. I simply asked them to imagine what it would feel like to be inside a translucent sphere. Would they feel trapped, protected, safe or exposed? Would they want out or prefer to stay inside?

I chose bubbles because they are spheres that are translucent, colourful and full of air. They express a certain levity but also fragility in that they can pop at any moment and disintegrate into the atmosphere. However, if these spheres are perceived as marbles, then they might evoke solidity, entrapment and indestructability. Any interpretation is valid.

The scale is important as they are close to life size so that everyone viewing them can relate physically to the experience, imagining what it would be like to be the figure inside.  We all began our lives in this kind of environment and so it is embedded into our memory and experience in a very profound way.

The duality of the image causes the viewer to focus on either the outside of the sphere or the inside as they move across the image. We have spent a lot of time looking out of windows, into screens, into other people’s windows, at devices and probably at mirrors, more during the past few years than in our entire lives. This has caused some of us to have new or different experiences of how we look at ourselves both on the inside and the outside.

In some cases this has been a negative experience as we may have put ourselves under too much scrutiny while for others this may have created an experience of noticing details and nuances that they did not have time to notice previously.

As the pandemic dust settles and we re-emerge, we are left with the residual feelings and in some cases traumas that will stay with us for the foreseeable future. 

This work is not meant to be a bleak commentary which is why I have used bright colours. My hope is that you will feel invited to peer into the spheres, to reflect on the past few years, and that you will feel a connection that will resonate deeply within as you contemplate this stage in our shared human story. 

A Shift in Perspective March 2021

It’s coming up on a year to the day when all of our lives changed in ways that we could not have
imagined. It has also been almost a year since I last shared any news with you beyond my
Instagram posts. I have moved from periods of drought and frustration into slow but steady

While 2020 was a time of ups and downs and struggles for me, it was also a time of discovery
and learning to work in new ways. I’d like to share how I have been working; how the pandemic
has been affecting my process and what some of the outcomes have been. 

Last March I had just completed eight new circular pieces that I worked on quite intensely for
almost a month (see 2020 under Portfolio Tab). These pieces were part of an application
submission for the Toronto Outdoor Art Fair that is held every summer in Nathan Phillips
Square. I was feeling really positive and productive. When I received the news that my
application had not been accepted I was admittedly feeling less optimistic. But I was
determined to continue developing the themes in this work. 

I made regular trips to the local thrift store to buy colour-themed packages of objects that had
been curated by the staff. I liked the idea of working with objects that someone else had
chosen and I decided to focus on colour themes and compositional arrangements. I constructed
a box to place the objects in, creating small dioramas or still life ‘scenes’ with a narrative

When pandemic restrictions forced me to temporarily leave my studio space at Akin Dupont, I
moved some of my supplies and the object box to a shared studio in my backyard where I
created a small space to continue my work. Many of the objects found in this new studio
environment were neutral or white. While I usually use bright colours and a varied palette, I
found myself completing a painting that was entirely white-themed. The experience of working
with these white objects was very calming and I felt in control, which is exactly what I needed at
that time.

After completing the white piece, I prepped three other circular panels with metal grounds
(silver, copper and gold) and began to work on the silver piece.

And then my art was put on hold. For the next few months, I worked feverishly alongside my
husband Gerard and my brother Vince (the founders of Animation Portfolio Workshop) to
reinvent the family business, which was adversely affected by the pandemic. 

At the end of July, exhausted and eager to get out of the city for some peace and a change of
atmosphere, Gerard and I headed north to our cottage near Tobermory, Ontario. We walked
and biked and swam until I started to feel my energy returning and I felt that I could attempt to
step back into my art practice. In our bright living space, I worked on a small still life in pastel
and some contour drawings from objects I found lying around the cottage. I tried some figure drawing, working from online sources on my laptop, but soon realized that I preferred to work
from observation, in real space and time. Everything I worked on felt like an exercise, so I
accepted the fact that I just needed to keep a steady momentum going for my peace of mind. 

It wasn’t until we returned to the city just before Christmas that I was finally able to finish the
silver panel that I started in the spring. I moved on to the copper panel (depicted above) and I
began to relax and enjoy the process. The work flowed easily, and I painted without feeling
pressured. I was back in the saddle so to speak, but still not moving full speed ahead. 

While I am not yet back to regular studio hours, I am making art on a fairly consistent basis. My
expectations around timelines have shifted. After a year where I felt a real loss of control,
where nothing was consistent, where I had to learn to make art in new spaces and new ways, I
have become kinder to myself. I have learned not to put pressure on myself to ‘produce’ but
rather to explore, slow down and allow things to reveal themselves in the quiet moments of

Making art through this pandemic has been a time of discovery for me.
It has been slow and at times plodding, but also necessary and fruitful.
And as I work on each new piece, I can feel my colours coming back – literally – moving from
white through silvers and greys, warm coppers, and all the colours of the rainbow.

Update for the spring of 2020

Update for the spring of 2020

Current Body of Work in Progress

I am interested in objects as they are presented in a ‘still life’ or ‘natura morta’ meaning dead nature. Both of these descriptions fall short for me as I very much feel the energy, movement and a kind of life from objects. In fact, I choose my objects with this energy or personality in mind. 

I am using circles that I had cut for me about ten years ago for another project that never got off the ground and I have only used a few of them. They were calling to me from my basement storage area so I decided it was time to challenge myself with this format again.

The circle presents several obstacles, one of them being the fact that there is no top or bottom which makes it difficult to anchor your subject. 

On the other hand, they are really fun to compose in as there are no points, corners or restrictions to the fluid compositions that I wish to create. It is so much easier to control the direction of the eye of the viewer when things are inherently moving within a circular motion.

I have switched from acrylic to oil for these works as I am taking a more traditional approach to the paint application than my previous landscapes. I am also employing a much more rigid drawing technique to compose and create drawings to scale with more accuracy. 

The objects that I choose from thrift stores offer me the possibility of creating some intimate stories that are unexpected or facetious. There is no rhyme or reason for my choices of particular objects and their combined presentation, other than a purely aesthetic one.

The immediate appearance is that of a standard, ‘realistic’ rendering of several objects against a fabric backdrop. My hope is that the objects, colour schemes and lighting evoke another response based on my elevation of these apparently mundane objects.

I will continue to work on these circles and I have no doubt that as this project evolves, the appearance of the works will change to some extent and I will let them lead me where they may. I plan to use some mixed media as well in some of the pieces.

I may have to adjust my idea about using oil during my time away from my own studio but the very fact that circumstances outside of my control can change how I work is part of what makes this all a very fluid and organic process. I look forward to seeing how this will all unfold over the next few weeks. I hope you do too.

For now, if you could follow me on Instagram (b_peetsart) and sign up to my subscription list (the pop-up box that appears on my homepage) and pass along my website URL and social media pages to your friends and family, I would greatly appreciate the support. 

I wish to expand my social media presence and engage a wider range of followers. 


Using Format