Pandemic Social Distancing Artwork

Writing about artwork during a global pandemic really isn’t something I expected to be doing at all. Yet here we are in an escalating health and financial crisis and I’ll probably be sharing some art over the next few weeks. I have lots of thoughts on this situation, but I’ll try to keep them somewhat organized. My wife and I are fortunate enough be able to telework for the most part, so we find ourselves mostly self-quarantined and practicing social distancing to “flatten the curve.” If you’re not familiar with the term, basically the idea is to slow and spread out exposure to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed with patients.

20200319 Flattening the curve
A handy example of “flattening the curve” I saw on CNBC, which they got from the CDC.

This is really important to our health care resources (like hospital beds and equipment), but also to health care workers. It’s easy to forget that even if COVID-19 cases surge drastically, we’ll still continue to see people with other unrelated health problems needing access to emergency rooms, doctors, nurses, etc. There’s a ripple effect to other vital areas too; I would consider everyone involved in the food supply chain to now be an emergency worker. We have to shield workers in grocery stores and everyone else in the chain as best we can.

It also seems in some respects we’re losing the information war to people defiantly ignoring public health best practices. Folks complaining about overreaction have flooded the conversation with reasons not to follow health expert recommendations. I’d rather we look back later and say, “we overreacted” than we don’t do enough and end up with a preventable tragedy. Yes, the usual seasonal influenza is responsible for more illness and death…right now. But the death rate for COVID-19 coronavirus is much higher. If the same amount of people in the U.S. get coronavirus as typically get the flu annually (about 26 million), we’re talking about 442,000 deaths at the most recent U.S. rate.

covid 19 death rate countries with deaths and more than 1000 cases
Death rates by country vary quite a bit. From a Business Insider article, originally Johns Hopkins data.

All that is just to say it’s worth following the experts’ advice to the best extent we all can. Let’s flatten the curve and knock this out. The last thing I want to cover is to list a few resources that I’ve found helpful.

Anyhow, back to the artwork portion of this write-up after that long discussion. Hopefully it wasn’t too “rant-like” and was only “rant-adjacent.” Since I’m going to be around the house quite a bit in the near term, I’ll probably be drawing more than I have lately. I have a few ideas that have been sitting on the backburner for a while, plus I’m sure to lean on Unsplash for some inspiration at times. I’m only a couple days into this, and I actually have one portrait already. This one is just a lady sitting around. Not exactly a match to the rest of this post, but it felt appropriate because a lot of people are just sitting around now.

Here’s the final version:

There was actually an additional complication I wasn’t anticipating; we’re moving soon, so my wife and I have been packing the house. I left my all-star team of Prismacolors out (Warm Grays, French Grays, Light Peach, White, Blush Pink, Slate Gray, a few random blues, oranges, and browns), but had everything else packed away already. I wasn’t expecting a pandemic, so I just wasn’t ready for a few weeks of drawing. I had to improvise a bit, and will probably have to unpack some supplies.

Overall though, I’m pretty satisfied with the final result here. The portrait seems pretty natural looking, and I managed to work out some effective color substitution. I’m not 100% sure the sweater looks like a fuzzy sweater should, but that’s a small thing in the overall picture. I wish I could remember where the inspiration for this came from though. I thought it was an Unsplash photo, but I can’t find the original. I usually save them in a folder on the site, but I don’t have this one. If I figure that out, I’ll update this post.

I also want to mention that I think I’m finally getting the hang of photographing finished artwork. It’s taken me a long time, but the key for me is apparently laying it out in natural (but not direct) sunlight. Many of my old drawings have sort of a yellow hue in the photographs that doesn’t look great. Maybe during this social distancing coronavirus situation I should take some time to re-shoot the old ones that I still have.

As usual, here’s a progression .gif:

I hope you enjoyed this very unorthodox artwork write-up. Definitely not like any I’ve done before. As I mentioned, I’ll probably have more art to share than usual (assuming I don’t find something else that steals my interest) over the next few weeks. I’m not sure I have all that much to write about to go along with it, but I’ll share what I have regardless.


  • Whew…boy did we ever not “flatten the curve.” It’s weird to look at this post a year and half later. Weird, and honestly pretty dang sad.

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  • If you’re a video game fan there are a ton of games on sale right now.

    First, GOG has a ton of free games available for download:

    Also, if you haven’t played Witcher 3: Wild Hunt yet and want to check it out, it’s on sale both on Steam and GOG for 70% off. So you can pick your favorite game distributor and go for it!


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  • I’m going to also use the comments section of this post to share some free stuff to do during downtime at home. First up, a list from NPR of stuff that’s free now that wasn’t before:

    • Education
      Want to feed your brain with something other than constant coronavirus updates? The eight Ivy League schools are offering hundreds of online courses to the public for free.

      Dhawal Shah, founder of the online course aggregator Class Central, compiled a list of more than 400 classes that are available in subjects as varied as Machine Learning for Data Science and Analytics from Columbia University; HOPE: Human Odyssey to Political Existentialism from Princeton University; The Science of Well-Being from Yale; and Gamification from the University of Pennsylvania.

      The educational publishing company Scholastic announced it has a digital learning hub for free that’s intended to “support virtual learning plans.” It says the curriculum covers English language arts, STEM, social studies and social-emotional learning.

    • Fitness

      Not interested in stimulating your brain? How about your body? Many gym chains across the country have shuttered but are offering online classes for free.

      Peloton is offering new users a 90-day trial on its app. This news comes as the company announced the closing of its showrooms until at least March 29. It added that this week it began producing content from its new studios in New York, “but it will be entirely closed to the public until further notice.”

      Golds Gym is offering free access to its app, Goldsamp, until the end of May, where more than 600 audio and video workouts along with DJ mixes get you ready to work up a sweat. Planet Fitness is offering “Home Work-Ins” streamed live at 7 p.m. ET daily on its Facebook page.

      If you are looking for something to offer strength and maybe a little stress relief, there are some paid yoga sites that are now providing some online classes for free, including Core Power Yoga and Down Dog.

    • Classic sports streaming

      With all the major sports leagues shut down, some of the leagues are dropping their subscription fees to their paid streaming services. While sports fans may not be able to get their live-action fix, at least they can relive (or perhaps experience for the first time) some classic games and rivalries.

      Starting Friday, the National Hockey League is making all games played during the suspended 2019-2020 regular season available to stream on demand. Additionally the league launched “NHL Pause Binge” on its website and YouTube channel, allowing fans to view documentaries and “full-length classic NHL games dating from the 1950s to present day.”

      The NBA and NFL are providing similar offerings through NBA League Pass and NFL Game Pass.

      If it’s sports history you crave, PBS announced that it is making the 1994 Ken Burns documentary Baseball available to be streamed for free.

  • The piece really comes together between the last two gif shots! Thanks for explaining the curve thing/ graph, too—I think that will help explain it to someone reading that didn’t quite get it before

    • I think so too, I definitely felt like her face was a bit smudgy and didn’t really have much definition until the end. Also, I’m glad you found the graphs useful – there’s an overload of information out right now about this, so I tried to stick to the high points. Anyhow, I hope you are doing well!

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