A digital art piece created by junior biology major Grace Noonan. Noonan used her time during the pandemic to brush up on her art skills. ART BY GRACE NOONAN

Grace Noonan always paints in color. Her drawings are crisp and vibrant, with her artistic affinity inspired by the likes of anime and Disney. 

Moving more into the digital art world, Noonan uses an array of brushes and techniques on her iPad to make her illustrations. Her favorite tool is the undo button — a tool she can not do without and a tool that 2020 could probably do with. 

“The whole first month was just me internally panicking,” Noonan said. “The feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen next is the worst feeling.”

Like many others, junior biology major Grace Noonan felt a lot of uncertainty at the start of the pandemic. Many people pivoted to new creative interests as a means to cope, or worked on perfecting ones they already had. For Noonan, a Long Island native, the lockdown gave her a chance to brush up on her art and try new styles she might not have considered until later in the future.

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“I think having quarantine and making me sit down on the couch for five hours a day really pushed me to try something different,” she said. 

Noonan credits her father as a big influence on her artistic endeavors. He does design work at an architectural firm and his critical eye has always been of help to improve her drawings, especially as a beginner.

“From a young age, he would teach me things about perspective,” she said. “He was a big inspiration for me to get started in art.”

Noonan began drawing when she was in the seventh grade. She started making pencil sketches of her favorite characters from online tutorials. When the animated Disney blockbuster “Frozen” came out a year later, she drew all things Frozen, using step-by-step drawing tutorials.

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It was not until high school that she started making digital art after briefly partaking in painting at one point. Now she uses pop culture icons like K-pop and BTS for her colorful and vibrant artwork.

While going through a pandemic, Noonan never wanted her drawings to lean into negative or sad depictions, even if that’s what she was feeling. That playful style of art she has always kept became even more important to her.

“Even though I was feeling those negative emotions, I use art as an escape,” Noonan said. “The long hours that I’m drawing, I’m in a different world.”

Noonan is also the president of the Stony Brook University Art Club, where she manages everything from emails to event spaces. Not all of their members are on campus, so the club has hosted many virtual art events like Bob Ross and Disney character painting sessions. 

Being in the club as a non art major has helped her de-stress from the academic pressures of being a biology student. Other than art, she cited her biology background as something that helped her through the pandemic. Though it was difficult to constantly be aware and know firsthand of the pandemic’s severity, being informed helped her keep friends and relatives updated. Her biology background granted her a deeper understanding of the scientific jargon associated with the virus.

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“It was twofold,” Noonan said. “I know the impact it can have but then also, I know when articles and data come out, I can somewhat explain it to my family and friends.”

Noonan is inspired by the connections that her mother has established with patients as a nurse practitioner. Her goal is to integrate her passion for art and love of helping others into her work within the medical field.

“If people are confused on what’s happening to them, I could be able to illustrate to them,” Noonan said. “I combine all those things to become the best doctor I can be.”

Noonan hopes that future art puts a spotlight on the good that people have done during the pandemic.

“People who do art about first responders, healthcare workers essential workers will show that in the face of this pandemic, a lot of us have come together,” Noonan said. “A lot of art is going to reflect how we overcame these obstacles.”

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