Artist paints over 150 portraits of pandemic first responders

By Zoe Larson March 10, 2021
Seattle based artist, Jayashree Krishnan, has painted over 150 watercolor portraits of doctors, nurses, and first responders across the world since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jayashree Krishnan started by painting two portraits of her cousins who worked seven days a week at a Michigan hospital throughout the pandemic. It was then that Krishnan made it her mission to honor the front-line workers through her art.

The artist told CNN, “Art is wonderful because it gives you an outlet to deal with the anxiety that goes with this pandemic. For me, a year ago I was just painting landscapes and thinking that I needed to find meaning for my artwork. And then this sort of happened.”

Krishnan’s portraits capture the faces of people who have played an extraordinary role in guiding the country through this devastating pandemic. In most cases, Krishnan can only see her subject’s eyes because their faces are covered with masks and protective shields. She estimates that about half of the time painting a portrait is spent on the eyes alone.

“Each person’s set of eyes that I have painted so far, they tell their own story,” Krishnan told CNN. “My goal was to just capture that emotion.”

Krishnan is over a year into the project, and feels that it is important now, more than ever, to continue showing support and appreciation for the front-line workers who continue to save lives and offer support to those who have been affected by the virus.

The artist is now working on a book, which will include all of the portraits that she painted during the pandemic, along with stories she heard from her subjects during the process. The book can be pre-ordered on Krishnan’s website.

All of Krishnan’s portraits have been gifted to the individuals that she painted. There is only one that has not made it into the hands of the subject – a portrait of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Krishnan is hoping to find a way to get his portrait to him, as he has continued to be the face of the pandemic response team since the beginning.