Creating Marking Lives COVID-19

By Elizabeth Awalt | March 7, 2021

In December 2020, after nine months of COVID-19 deaths, I woke to the unsettling statistic that 270,000 people in the U.S. had died. The lives lost were simply numbers on the front page. The virus was impossible to ignore, but at the same time, somehow unmarked.

I’m an artist who has been painting for forty years. While my practice focuses on nature, I turn to making art to heal in difficult times.

In order to combat my own numbing to this tragedy I started creating paintings with 1,000 marks, each mark representing a life lost. I discovered that this painting process was meditative and healing, so I shared the idea with other artists on social media. To my delight, they sent me wonderfully varied images to post, along with expressions of gratitude for the opportunity to honor the many victims of COVID. Marking Lives COVID-19 was launched and to date 83 artists have created 139 pieces, including over 200,000 marks honoring those lost to the pandemic.


Marking Covid Lives Collection


I hope people of all ages, states and communities in the U.S. create work for the project until we reach a number of marks representing the number of lives lost in our country. Once this goal is achieved I plan to present an exhibition of all the work created online or live, with sales donated to a COVID relief organization. The exhibition will mark this moment we are all sharing and will be a memorial to the COVID-19 tragedy in America, serving the same function as the AIDS Memorial Quilt did years ago.

How To:

Who Can Participate?  Anyone!

Directions: Most people start with a piece of paper but some have used fabric, collage, pom poms, seeds, whatever you love to work with. Make a mark with a brush, pencil, marker, finger, crayon, stick, needle and thread or any tool you would like. Use paint, ink, watercolor, pastel, pencil or any material you have. Make a minimum of 1,000 marks on your page. Some have made many more, just try to keep track of how many you make. 

Post a photo of your work to your social channels using #markinglivescovid19 and #eawalt and invite others to participate. Include the size, materials and number of marks.

Selected Art from the Project


Phyllis Ewen- “Getting Darker”, 9”x12”, graph paper, sharpie, 3,500 marks, 2020


Stacey McCarthy- So Much Depends 12312020-01012021, 11×14, gouache on paper, 2,800 marks, 2021


Stacey Piwinski- “1021 Pom Poms “, 38”x31”, pom poms, 1021 marks, 2021


Elizabeth Awalt- “Going Viral”, 30”x22”, ink on paper, 4,000 marks, 2020


Deborah Weisberg- “Enumeration”, 15”x12”, black hot glue on paper, (2-sided, front) 2020


Deborah Weisberg- “Enumeration”, 15”x12”, black hot glue on paper, (2-sided, back) 2020


Copyright © 2021 Elizabeth Awalt
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  1. sabra lee on March 9, 2021 at 9:13 am

    I’ve followed Phyllis Ewen’s CoVid series the entire time of this virus. Her work is very powerful, with some joy in more recent pieces. I’m so glad that her work is in the Pandemic Lens.

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