Arts & Entertainment

The best art created by Washington Post readers during the pandemic

Color us impressed by your sharply tinted art in these trying times.

The Washington Post recently asked readers to share artwork that they have been creating during the pandemic, and received more than 650 submissions.

Art came from near (Washington and its surrounding states) and far (Germany and England, with a nod to Guatemala). The entrants spanned from tweens to artists in their 90s. And the choice of media included oil and acrylic, flowers, cinder blocks, a dryer sheet and hot glue.

The Post considered not only the quality and creativity of the art, but also the fascinating accompanying backstories. Enduring quarantines, some artists rendered what isolation and loneliness felt like, while others depicted longed-for social scenes from a pre-pandemic time.

Politics sometimes came into play — with one entrant cleverly adapting a stimulus check — and masks were a frequent feature. Some representational works transported us to a specific place, and some abstract works conveyed a distinct mood or state of mind. Some celebrated life, and some reflected a darkness or meditation on death.

Here are The Post’s favorites:

(Note: The artists’ words have been edited for length and clarity.)

"Social Distancing in The Mission" by Jennifer M. Potter, 45, San Francisco: "I drew this after picking up groceries one day. As I walked around the neighborhood, I was heartened to see how people and small businesses were adapting. Even though we can't socialize in the usual way, seeing everyone make an effort strengthens the sense of community I feel, and I wanted to share that feeling with others." (Jennifer M. Potter)

“Social Distancing in the Mission”

Jennifer M. Potter, 45, San Francisco

Created using the iProcreate app on an iPad

“I drew this after picking up groceries one day. As I walked around the neighborhood, I was heartened to see how people and small businesses were adapting. Even though we can’t socialize in the usual way, seeing everyone make an effort strengthens the sense of community I feel, and I wanted to share that feeling with others.”

"Distancing Bench" by Kimberly A. Kelzer, 62, Freeland. "I used to make furniture and was thinking about how we now have to keep our distance, even to socialize - what if you had a bench that made you sit 6' apart? I had some old beams in my yard, broken tape measure and the cinder blocks- didn't even need to leave home to build it! It is: 18"h x 108"L x 13"deep. Made of dyed black Fir. It also will allow you to sit closer once this has passed. I put it at the end of my drive way by the sidewalk where a lot of walkers and dogs pass everyday- I wanted to communicate with passersby that we can take care of each other by keeping our distance right now, but still sit, admire the view, chat even and keep 6" apart."

“Distancing Bench”

Kimberly A. Kelzer, 62, Freeland, Wash.

Dyed black fir wood, tape measure, cinder blocks

“I used to make furniture and was thinking about how we now have to keep our distance, even to socialize — what if you had a bench that made you sit six feet apart? I put it at the end of my driveway. I wanted to communicate with passersby that we can take care of each other by keeping our distance right now, but still sit, admire the view and chat, even.”

"Peaceful lord Buddha" by Gladsona Somalal, 37, Fulsom: "I started painting Buddha during lockdown period in order to cope with tension due to pandemic episode. Painting this abstract of Buddha helped me calm down as I was feeling as if serenity was flowing to me from him. I hope our world be filled with peace and well-being soon." (Gladsona Somalal)

“Peaceful Lord Buddha”

Gladsona Somalal, 37, Folsom, Calif.

Canvas and acrylic paint

“I started painting during [the] lockdown period to cope with tension due to [the] pandemic. Painting this abstract of Buddha helped me calm down, as I was feeling as if serenity was flowing to me from him. I hope our world [will] be filled with peace and well-being soon.”

"Creek" by Landry Dunand, 39, Takoma Park, Md.: "I used my old large-format camera, purchased many years ago in Thailand. Before the pandemic, I decided to revive it to shoot portraits. But with social distancing, I started shooting Landscape, which I never did before, but I found a sense of peace and satisfaction in shooting long exposure Landscape, taking an hour of setup, preparation, pouring plates, developing for each photograph. Sligo Creek is just down the hill from my house. It inspired the setting of the book “Bridge to Terabithia.” It is something of a magical place. I go there every day to run, walk or take photos and look at the nature changing constantly."

“Creek”

Landry Dunand, 39, Takoma Park, Md.

8-by-10-inch tintype, wet plate collodion

“I used my old large-format camera, purchased many years ago in Thailand. With social distancing, I found a sense of peace and satisfaction in shooting long-exposure landscape. I shot Sligo Creek just down the hill from my house. [It inspired the setting of the book “The Bridge to Terabithia.”] It is something of a magical place — I go there every day to run, walk or take photos and look at the nature changing constantly.”

"Doctor" by Lisa Goren, 60, Hyde Park: "A friend of mine is a doctor (and an artist) and at the beginning of the pandemic, she posted a photo of her looking so beaten up. I did this mixed media with used dryer sheets for the mask because I didn’t want to use anything that could actually make a mask. Since then, I’ve done about 10 others based on photos of health care workers injured/bruised by their masks. Most of the others are not black and white."

“Doctor”

Lisa Goren, 60, Hyde Park, Mass.

Watercolor, charcoal, dryer sheet

“A friend of mine is a doctor and an artist, and at the beginning of the pandemic, she posted a photo of her looking so beaten up. I used dryer sheets for the mask because I didn’t want to use anything that could actually make a mask. Since then, I’ve done about 10 others based on photos of health-care workers injured or bruised by their masks.”

"El Cadejo" by Mayra Schäfer, 67, Bad Reichenhall, Germany: "Being in lock down because of the coronavirus is an experience unlike anything I've lived through before. It is numbing, frightening, frustrating. It makes me feel vulnerable and powerless. I was planning to travel to my home country, Guatemala, at the end of March. But then the frontiers of the country, like that of many others around the world, were closed down. At first I was like paralyzed. I could only watch the news or read newspapers online, as if waiting for it all to be gone from one day to the other. I have lived most of my life away from my home country, visiting once a year. The fact that I cannot get there now nor I know when I'll be able to has ignited in me a kind of homesickness I did not know before. I just finished this painting. It is my interpretation of a scary, yet protective figure of the Guatemalan folklore (El Cadejo is a black dog with burning eyes that takes care of drunkards who have fallen asleep lying on the street). It was my way of "traveling" to Guatemala while being unable to do so. Looking at it now, it feels like an anchor." (Mayra Schäfer)

“El Cadejo”

Mayra Fernandez, 67, Bad Reichenhall, Germany.

Acrylic on canvas

“Being in lockdown because of the coronavirus is numbing, frightening, frustrating. It makes me feel vulnerable and powerless. I was planning to travel to my home country, Guatemala, at the end of March but then [borders were] closed. [This has] ignited a kind of homesickness I did not know before. This painting is my interpretation of a scary, yet protective figure of the Guatemalan folklore — ‘el cadejo’ is a black dog with burning eyes that takes care of drunkards who have fallen asleep lying on the street. It was my way of ‘traveling’ to Guatemala while being unable to do so. Looking at it now, it feels like an anchor.”

"L'eau de Bleach" by Bambi Ramsey, 45, Redding, Calif.: "I did this quick sketch after a couple of weeks of shelter from home. (Well before the suggestion to inject bleach, don't do it!). My husband is an essential worker so constant sanitizing of surfaces had left my skin and clothes scented with Clorox water, the family teasing that it was my new perfume."

“L’eau de Bleach”

Bambi Ramsey, 45, Redding, Calif.

Digital (Procreate app)

“I did this quick sketch after a couple of weeks of shelter from home. My husband is an essential worker, so constant sanitizing of surfaces left my skin and clothes scented with Clorox water — family [teased] that it was my new perfume.”

"Group Portrait" by Jacqueline Kudo, 50, New York City: "A group portrait-which one is the most important? If each one of us is light in the dark, isn’t it wonderful to see the other lights around us? It’s as mysterious as seeing the stars of the cosmos in the dark of night. This is the last painting of a long day of paintings started on location. These canvases were started as the first coronavirus cases began to appear in the country. I knew this day would be the last day I could paint outside for a long time. Coincidentally, that day was the supermoon and also a holy day on some religious calendars. It was amazing to see the supermoon setting in the morning. The thrilling moment is a good example of why so many painters love to paint on site. The paintings from this day are part of a series of views of lower Manhattan from across the East River and across the Hudson River. The paintings become mirror images of this view of the city, and each canvas is an investigation into reflection because of the water. This location is an area that is close to where I met an important teacher to me, and also an area that is relatively quiet and peaceful (despite the BQE). Because it was a special day, I worked on these paintings saying prayers and mantras and wishing for the best for the city. It all continues as I am finishing these paintings in lockdown."

“Group Portrait (work in progress)”

Jacqueline Kudo, 50, Brooklyn

Oil on canvas

“If each one of us is light in the dark, isn’t it wonderful to see the other lights around us? This is the last painting of a long day of paintings started on location [a series of views of Lower Manhattan from across the East River and across the Hudson River]. These canvases were started as the first coronavirus cases began to appear in the country. I knew this day would be the last day I could paint outside for a long time. Coincidentally, that day was the supermoon and also a holy day on some religious calendars. Because it was a special day, I worked on these paintings saying prayers and mantras and wishing for the best for the city. It all continues as I am finishing these paintings in lockdown.”

"Mask Series #3: Stimulus Check" by Jennifer Markowitz, 52, Raleigh, N.C.: "I'm a textile/fiber artist and have been trying to find the right creative response to this crisis. I sew everything by hand so didn't think masks I make should be wearable. So I'm working on a series of them as objects, each revealing a certain truth about our current times."

“Mask Series #3: ‘Stimulus Check’ ”

Jennifer Markowitz, 52, Raleigh, N.C.

Hand-embroidered on silk

“I’m a textile and fiber artist and have been trying to find the right creative response to this crisis. I sew everything by hand, so I didn’t think masks I make should be wearable. So I’m working on a series of them as objects, each revealing a certain truth about our times.”

"Endurance" by Jammie Holmes, 36, Dallas: "This painting is about endurance. Almost like no matter what you will go through in life sometimes beautiful things can come from it. You can see a cement flower pot with a green plant growing from it symbolizing growth from rough conditions. You can see the expressions of the faces of me and my brother that’s looking worn but yet still maintaining to do what’s normal to us. This painting is a symbol for my whole family. I like to show the inside and outside of and home or any type of setting. Two black men and a soft color wall paper background making things seem less intimidating. Sometimes I feel as a black man we have to always be on guard. Always ready to fight and survive." (Jammie Holmes)

“Endurance”

Jammie Holmes, 36, Dallas

Acrylic and oil pastels on canvas

“This painting is about endurance. Like no matter what you will go through in life, sometimes beautiful things can come from it. You can see a cement flower pot with a green plant growing from it, symbolizing growth from rough conditions. You can see the expressions of the faces of me and my brother — looking worn but yet still maintaining what’s normal to us. This painting is a symbol for my whole family. I like to show the inside and outside. Two black men and a soft color wallpaper background [make] things seem less intimidating. Sometimes I feel as a black man, we have to always be on guard — always ready to fight and survive.”

"A quiet place" by Silviya Georgieva-Sellvida, 39, London: "My artwork “A quiet place” collage is inspired and created during the lockdown in London. This is me, my kid, make a photo of me on the window when it was not possible to go out and basically this was our hope and connection with the word, nature, surroundings. After that, I was really inspired to make my vision of this lovely photo. I’m a visual artist and mum and it's really important to express my self, my feelings. A quiet place is a collage on canvas. I cut different textured paper and composed after that."

“A Quiet Place”

Silviya Georgieva-Sellvida, 39, London

Textured paper; collage on canvas

“My collage is inspired by, and created during, the lockdown in London. This is me. My kid [made] a photo of me in the window when it was not possible to go out, and basically this was our hope and connection with the world, nature, surroundings. After that, I was inspired to make my vision of this lovely photo. I’m a visual artist and a mum, and [it is] really important to express my feelings.”

"Hold Me" by Cheryl L. Zemke, 56, Riverview: "Considering life with Covid-19 and the future wearing masks and gloves when exposed to others led me to consider the restrictions they had a intimacy and our innate need for personal contact with others."

“Hold Me”

Cheryl L. Zemke, 56, Riverview, Mich.

Acrylic

“Considering life with covid-19 and the future [of] wearing masks and gloves when exposed to others led me to consider the restrictions. [I’m thinking of] an intimacy and our innate need for personal contact with others.”

"A world United" by Vasu Tolia, 69, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: "Medicine has always been my first passion and during these unprecedented, tumultuous times, it beckons me again as I watch helplessly from the sidelines now. Since my retirement as a physician, I've poured my creativity into art and poetry. So creating this kind of response came naturally to me."

“A World United”

Vasu Tolia, 69, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Mixed media on canvas

“Medicine has always been my first passion. And during these unprecedented, tumultuous times, it beckons me again as I watch helplessly from the sidelines now. Since my retirement as a physician, I’ve poured my creativity into art and poetry, so creating this kind of response came naturally to me.”

"Moody Little Guy" by Elizabeth Lana, 52, Pittsburgh: “I love to paint large. In the time of corona, I have a small home studio. Watching the long lines at the food bank, I wanted to help. I created an exchange [and donate the proceeds] to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Buyers make a direct donation and send me a screen shot of a receipt. All sales have been local, and they pick the paintings up off my porch.”

“Moody Little Guy”

Elizabeth Lana, 52, Pittsburgh

Acrylic on wood panel

“I love to paint large. In the time of corona, I have a small home studio. Watching the long lines at the food bank, I wanted to help. I created an exchange [and donate the proceeds] to the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Buyers make a direct donation and send me a screen shot of a receipt. All sales have been local, and they pick the paintings up off my porch.”

"Reviveresco tropicae (Resurge)" by Zuania Muñiz Meléndez, 34, San Juan, Puerto Rico: "Artist Statement: What I once was, ceased to be. The abrupt changes I have experienced since the end of 2017 caused by Hurricane María and the recent pandemic have destroyed my stability, my way of doing things and the way I relate to others. It is as if life has plowed my land and sown salt in the furrows. But from that same salt that sterilized me, that destroyed me, is where a new me arises. One never seen before, imagined, dreamed. Only possible from the chaos and scarcity that drive me to innovate and grow. I am not the only one, I am accompanied by thousands of people who are reborn in a totally unexpected way. We are new flowers that emerge with more strength, ready to face the new challenges that lie ahead. How did I created: I collected flowers from my yard and neighborhood. I selected the parts of the ones that I wanted to use to create the new flower. I used hot glue to get it together. I used a wire or a stick to hold it in place with the assistance of my husband at the moment of taking the photo. The salt at the bottom was created using a plastic bowl which was "painted" with white glue to adhere the salt, then it was filled with more salt creating the salt sculpture. Why did I created: I created to save my self from all that has happened to my self since 2017. We, Puerto Ricans, have suffered a lot since 2017. After the two hurricanes I lost my stable job and got depressed. A lot of people got emotionally sick with the earthquakes and now the pandemic. The new virus took my plans and my dream away. I was getting anxious and started meditating about my life. I challenge my self again to become stronger. That's where the idea came. I enjoyed the process. It kept me occupied and pushed out the negative thoughts with positive ones. What does it means to me: This project means a lot to me. It was created from the moment I decided to learn from this experience and think that since the beginning of the earth chaos has played an important part in creating new and amazing things. Destruction is part of life, it takes out what we used to know creating uncertainty and pain but at the end the result is even better. That is the history of the world. THIS IS THE TIME FOR NEW FLOWERS TO EMERGE FROM SALT."

Reviveresco tropicae (Resurge)

Zuania Muñiz Meléndez, 34, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Flowers, wire, hot and white glue, cardboard, plastic bowl and salt.

“The abrupt changes I have experienced since the end of 2017, caused by Hurricane María and the recent pandemic, have destroyed my stability — my way of doing things and the way I relate to others. It is as if life has plowed my land and sown salt in the furrows. But from that same salt that sterilized me, that destroyed me, is where a new me arises. One never seen before, imagined, dreamed — only possible from the chaos and scarcity that drives me to innovate and grow. We are new flowers that emerge with more strength, ready to face the new challenges that lie ahead.”

"Into The Void" by Dina D'Argo, 56, Springfield, Tenn.: "Into The Void symbolizes stepping into the unknown; the idea of life "after the pandemic" and the insecurity of not knowing what lies ahead. The veil symbolizes not only the unwillingness to accept reality, but also our cultural preoccupation with covering or uncovering one's face, and what it represents or says about who we are as a society. In a greater sense, this image is about the space between mortality and a spiritual state. It explores the idea of the afterlife; how little we know about it despite how much we theorize and ponder it, and how unprepared we are to face it. I created this piece to soothe my own restless mind; to prepare myself for the possibility that during this pandemic, I may lose a loved one or lose my own life. And to remind myself that life is fluid and ever-changing, and it is okay not to know what lies ahead."

“Into the Void”

Dina D’Argo, 56, Springfield, Tenn.

Acrylic on canvas

“ ‘Into the Void’ symbolizes stepping into the unknown — the idea of life ‘after the pandemic’ and the insecurity of not knowing what lies ahead. The veil symbolizes not only the unwillingness to accept reality, but also our cultural preoccupation with covering or uncovering one’s face, and what it represents or says about who we are as a society. In a greater sense, this image is about the space between mortality and a spiritual state. I created this piece to sooth my own restless mind — to prepare myself for the possibility that during this pandemic, I may lose a loved one or lose my own life. And to remind myself that life is fluid and ever-changing, and it is okay not to know what lies ahead.”

"Covid-19-Trash-Campbell's" by Mary L. Aro, 90, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.: "I was inspired to paint trash when a nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit liked one of my paintings of a crushed beer can. I gave her the painting. I painted another can and that led me to start more paintings of trash. My family and friends started to bring me pieces of trash found on their Covid walks in Detroit, Grosse Pointe, and along the river. They were excited to find other things and bring them to me. I don't go outside so they drop off the trash in my garage where I leave them for a few days before bringing them inside. I lay them out on the floor and choose which ones to paint. I've made about 20 of these paintings so far. The trash has very interesting abstract shapes. It's a challenge to paint them. At 90, I have a hard time with a shaky hand. I love the beautiful colors, the creased and wrinkled, dirty parts. The cans are luminous and shimmery. I think it's nice that my paintings involve other people--kind of a collaborate effort. Friends and family contribute and are excited to find these objects and it gives them some satisfaction in helping to create the art. It may help people to understand that beauty can be found anywhere." (Mary L. Aro)

“Covid-19 Trash Campbell’s”

Mary L. Aro, 90, Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.

Watercolor, graphite, colored pencil on paper

“I was inspired to paint trash when a nurse at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit liked one of my paintings of a crushed beer can. I gave her the painting. My family and friends started to bring me pieces of trash found on their covid walks. I don’t go outside, so they drop off the trash in my garage. The trash has very interesting abstract shapes. It’s a challenge to paint them. At 90, I have a hard time with a shaky hand. I love the beautiful colors, the creased and wrinkled, dirty parts. The cans are luminous and shimmery. I think it’s nice that my paintings involve other people — kind of a collaborative effort.”

"Covid-19 Diary Excerpt" by Natalie Dupille, 28, Seattle: "I am a cartoonist and illustrator and have been creating semiregular illustrated diary pages both for myself and my community. It's been helpful to process and acknowledge the wide range of emotions that comes from such an absurd situation - the silliness of partners/roommates, the uncertainty and fear, and the day-to-day moments."

“Covid-19 Diary Excerpt”

Natalie Dupille, 28, Seattle

Watercolor and ink on paper

“I have been creating semiregular illustrated diary pages both for myself and my community. It’s been helpful to process and acknowledge the wide range of emotions that comes from such an absurd situation — the silliness of partners/roommates, the uncertainty and fear, and the day-to-day moments.”

"Ode To Helen Rosner's Roast Chicken" by Agnes Barton-Sabo, 39, Corvallis, Ore.: "I've been having a hard time feeling creative in the usual ways I work, so as I cook from what's available in my pantry, I'm challenging myself to think of art projects to do with materials I already have around the house, like a few years' worth of The New Yorker. First I made a paper wig. Then I dialed it up a notch and I created a papier-mâché hat as an ode to New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner and her infamous viral post about drying chicken skin with a hair dryer before roasting. In an additional nod to Ms. Rosner's Beard Award-winning essay about chicken tenders, I made a "wig reveal" video, lifting up the hat to shower myself with papier-mâché chicken tenders. My quarantine crafting (and cooking!) style is over-the-top ridiculous, anything to make myself and friends on the internet involuntarily swear or snort laugh. I think any uplifting and joyful moments are so important right now, (and always), to help counteract the amount of negativity and stressful information we are constantly bombarded with. Some days I have to refine my To Do List to one item: Don't Get Sucked In To Despair. Making anything with my hands helps me feel like I can keep going, and also gives me something to focus on besides worrying, reading too much news, or falling into a social media scroll hole. After this outrageous hat I'm feeling pretty obsessed with papier-mâché again so I'm going to construct a fantasy dinner party since I can't have a real one right now."

“Ode to Helen Rosner’s Roast Chicken”

Agnes Barton-Sabo, 39, Corvallis, Ore.

Flour, water, masking tape, two issues of the New Yorker, acrylic paint

“As I cook from what’s available in my pantry, I’m challenging myself to think of art projects to do with materials I already have around the house — like a few years’ worth of the New Yorker. First I made a paper wig. Then I dialed it up a notch and I created a papier-mâché hat as an ode to New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner and her infamous viral post about drying chicken skin with a hair dryer before roasting. In an additional nod to Ms. Rosner’s Beard Award-winning essay about chicken tenders, I made a ‘wig reveal’ video, lifting up the hat to shower myself with papier-mâché chicken tenders. My quarantine crafting and cooking style is over-the-top ridiculous. I think any uplifting and joyful moments are so important right now to help counteract the amount of negativity and stressful information we are constantly bombarded with.”

"Corona Rises" by Tomás Serrano, 59, Lexington, Ky.: "I'm the cartoonist of an online newspaper in Spain, but I'm living in Kentucky. I saw the alarming news of the Covid cases increase in New York, and tried to capture the feeling in a drawing of everyday's dawn transforming the Sun into a virus that invades the streets."

“Corona Rises”

Tomás Serrano, 59, Lexington, Ky.

Digital after pencil and ink

“I’m the cartoonist of an online newspaper in Spain, but I’m living in Kentucky. I saw the alarming news of the covid cases increase in New York, and tried to capture the feeling in a drawing of every day’s dawn transforming the sun into a virus that invades the streets.”

The honorable mentions

Related stories

How artists are tweaking famous paintings for our coronavirus era

These women photographers have created a visual journal of their lives during the pandemic

Copy edited by Doug Norwood. Design by Beth Broadwater.

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