When the pandemic hit, these musicians returned to their art school roots

When the pandemic hit, these musicians returned to their art school roots

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, it came at a time when musician and new mom Jenn Grant needed a break.

“There’s no way that I ever would have had, like, a mat leave,” she said. “And I was pretty exhausted from touring a record with a new baby and experiencing postpartum [depression and anxiety].”

On top of that, Grant was pregnant with her second child.

And in those days of restrictions, Grant found herself doing something she hadn’t been doing much of in the previous decade and a half: painting.

Grant graduated with a bachelor of fine arts from NSCAD University in 2006. But as her music career took off, she struggled to include painting in her life, although she did paint the covers for some of her early albums.

A colourful painting by musician Jenn Grant is shown.
Jenn Grant’s painting, Peaceful Passage, is shown. (Submitted by Jenn Grant)

Grant said her NSCAD days helped her overcome her stage fright. While she’d been writing songs since she was a kid and felt drawn to a career in music, performing in public made her so nervous she wasn’t able to do it.

She said when she enrolled at NSCAD, she was more comfortable expressing herself through visual art.

A singer with red hair and black clothing performs on an acoustic guitar.
Jenn Grant performs live in the q studio in Toronto in 2019. (Vivian Rashotte/CBC)

“The artistic community at NSCAD was helping and supportive … and it sort of lended itself to me becoming more comfortable as a performer,” she said.

Working with an easel in her kitchen, Grant started painting again in 2020.

Painting has become such a part of her life that in the past year, she had a proper studio built at her Lake Echo, N.S., home.

“I just feel so, so fully content and joyful when I can get in there, which sometimes I’m in there every day, all day long and it’s wonderful,” she said.

Jenn Grant's painting of Palestinian journalist Hind Khoudary.
Jenn Grant’s painting of Palestinian journalist Hind Khoudary. (Lindsay Duncan)

Grant has an exhibit scheduled for March 2024 at The Prow Gallery in Halifax. And recently, she started painting portraits of Palestinian journalists to raise money for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. She said she’s raised almost $32,000 doing that.

“The real thing about it, I think, is just trying to bring awareness to what’s happening in Gaza,” she said.

Four people in a row pose for the camera in front of a white backdrop.
From left: Sloan members Chris Murphy, Jay Ferguson, Patrick Pentland and Andrew Scott circa 1996. (Catherine Stockhausen)

Musician Andrew Scott has done a similar pivot back to art.

“When the pandemic hit, it was such an opportunity for me to really, really lean in to this practice because my, quote, day job, was not on the table for a few years,” he said.

The Sloan drummer was three credits short of a degree from NSCAD when he dropped out in the early 1990s to pursue a career in music.

He moved from Halifax to Toronto in the mid-1990s.

As the group’s fame rose, art moved to the back burner for him. In 1997 or 1998, he started painting again, renting some studios.

But for the past two decades, he’s been doing art off and on in an unheated garage at his Toronto home.

A colourful painting shows Michael Jordan dribbling a basketball.
Andrew Scott’s painting of NBA legend Michael Jordan is called In the Paint. When Scott was deciding where to go for post-secondary education, he considered going to St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., where he hoped to play basketball, but decided on NSCAD instead. (Submitted by Andrew Scott)

Since the pandemic, he usually spends a few hours a day working on art in his studio. Using monochromatic phthalo blue and titanium white paint, he’s been busy creating original works, as well as doing commissions of people’s cats and dogs. He uses oil-based paints, which don’t freeze, a must for the unheated space.

Scott sells his work through his Instagram page, bypassing the gallery route.

A colourful painting shows a pink vehicle and has palm trees in the background.
Pink Monk with Palmtrees by Scott is shown. He sells his artwork through his Instagram page. (Submitted by Andrew Scott)

“I think that all the sales that I generate have more of an honest interaction to them because it’s just a prospective buyer and me, the maker, and it just starts with a conversation and there’s nothing intimidating about it,” said Scott.

Even when Scott hasn’t been making art, he’s soaked it up, visiting galleries when touring.

“I have nothing but time all day, every day,” he said. “Like, I only have to work at eight or nine at night. So the last thing I’m going to do is just sit around and watch the clock tick by. I’m going to go see art, if it’s available, in almost every place I go.”

A colourful painting by Andrew Scott shows a dog. It was commissioned by the pet owner.
Some of the paintings Scott has been doing are commissioned by individuals, looking for artwork of their cats and dogs. (Submitted by Andrew Scott)

When Scott left NSCAD, a professor suggested Scott mail postcards from the road, with the aim of granting some credits in exchange for this assignment. But Scott never mailed any.

Scott is planning to move back to Halifax within the next year. Asked if he has any intention to complete his degree, he said the school closes student files after 10 years, so without starting over, getting a degree won’t be simple.

“I don’t need it anymore,” he said. “It would be nice to show my mom, but she understands.”

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