Comedian and artist Melissa Villaseñor shows the progress of her wolf drawing at the Oct. 19 virtual drawing event hosted by the SA. Photo credit: Madalyn Howitt

From her celebrated impressions of Owen Wilson and Lady Gaga to her whimsical musical talents, Saturday Night Live comedian Melissa Villaseñor is a creative force to be reckoned with.

Yet even she admits that finding inspiration to make art was difficult for her in the early months of the pandemic.

“When the lockdown hit it felt like, what’s the point?” she said.

Admitting that she struggled with feelings of loneliness during quarantine, Villaseñor spoke with Algonquin students at a virtual drawing event on Oct. 19 about how she eventually found the motivation to create art in the pandemic.

“Ultimately, I like healing people,” she said. “I’m always thinking of ways I can heal myself and others.”

In addition to the comedic and musical talents she is most known for, Villaseñor is also a talented visual artist, sharing many of her sketches on her art Instagram account.

The interactive event hosted by the Students’ Association allowed students to ask Villaseñor questions about her experiences on SNL, her favourite projects and what inspires her, while participants drew images of wolves along with the comedian.

“Drawing helps me calm down, which is really helpful these days,” she said.

In-between discussing her favourite celebrity encounters (“Meeting Tom Hanks was crazy”) and sharing the musical impressions she’s working on (currently singers Halsey and Brandon Flowers of The Killers), Villaseñor guided participants through a laid-back drawing session while sharing advice on being kind to oneself.

“The word I’ve been saying a lot is ‘gentle,'” she said. Be gentle to yourself and to others.”

Throughout the evening, Villaseñor shared her progress on screen and encouraged attendees to do the same. Students got creative with their illustrations, with one person drawing a monkey instead of a wolf and others using different tools to add colour to their creations.

“Doing things in little bits is more than enough,” said Villaseñor. “You have to make yourself smile.”

One way that Shantel Bell, a graduate of Algonquin’s illustration and concept arts program, makes herself smile these days is by drawing snapshots of her daily life.

“The first few weeks of the pandemic were a rollercoaster, but my creativity went up when I started drawing comics,” she said. “Illustration is a great way to find yourself.”

Her comics are inspired by the little moments that make her laugh. Through doing so, Bell said she is “learning not to be too hard on myself.”

Sarah Woronchak, another graduate of illustration and concepts arts, also channeled her creativity into illustrating comics during lockdown. She is currently participating in Inktober, a challenge to draw something everyday in October.

“Funny stories inspire me,” she said. “The pandemic has given me time for self-reflecting on personal experiences, which I appreciate.”

Finding the funny in everyday life has been a source of comfort for artists like Bell and Woronchak. For funny-lady Villaseñor, it’s also her advice for stretching creatively.

“Stick to the true you and embrace your weird side,” she said. It’s advice that has certainly worked well for Villaseñor.