While the World Is Still

“The road is mostly empty — just a stray dog and one other person wearing a funky homemade face mask,” says Richie Vios. “Most of the bars and saloons are closed; only essential establishments are open to the public, often with big warning signs reminding people to stay six feet apart and hand sanitizer all over the place. That’s the scenario where I live in South Texas. But just a month and a half ago, I was competing in the Lighthouse ArtCenter’s Plein Air Festival in Palm Beach, Florida. For me, the event marked the last days when the world felt normal. Shortly after, everything began to break loose. Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, and events I had scheduled into June began to cancel. Of most urgent concern, however, I had a 20-hour drive ahead of me from Florida to Texas. To break up the trip, I had a hostel reservation in New Orleans, where I was able to slip in some plein air painting.

As the city was going into lockdown, I took a quiet moment to capture the scene at St. Louis Cathedral.


“St. Louis Cathedral” (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)

“With the city already in the process of locking down, the famous landmarks and tourist spots were nearly desolate. I wanted to document history in this moment with my paintings of the Natchez Steamboat and St. Louis Cathedral, surreally absent the usual throngs of visitors.”

I found the French Quarter nearly empty as I ventured out to capture the moment at the Natchez Steamboat.
“Natchez Steamboat” (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)

“When I arrived at my studio in late March, I took a weeklong corona-cation (coronavirus quarantine + vacation), doing little but watching the scary news reports on tv and erasing one event after another from my big whiteboard calendar. With so much else out of my hands, I decided to do the one thing within my control — paint. Thus began my Covid-19 painting series.

“At this point, I’m imagining a series of 12 paintings total in the series. They will be exhibited online at my website www.vioswatercolor.com or if lockdown guidelines permit, a gallery show may be announced to view the pieces in person. Forty percent of the proceeds from this series will go to local Covid-19 victim aid.”

“Saving Lives” (watercolor, 16 x 20 in.)
As I watch the tragic events happening in the news, I want to record them for history through my watercolor paintings. I used a melancholy monochromatic color scheme to set the mood of this painting. I reserved vibrant pops of color for the patient, the mask of the nurses and doctors, and the bright zigzag of the vital signs monitor.
“Husband and Wife Frontliners” (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)
A nurse friend sent me pictures of a couple on the frontline of the pandemic. To create even more drama around the already moving and powerful subject, I exaggerated the lights on the acrylic masks shielding the pair from the virus.
“Nurses on the Frontline” (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)
Emergency room workers spring to action to saves lives. I used a yellow high-key color scheme to depict hope. Even though the patient is not visible in the painting, I know people can sympathize with those facing the deadliest pandemic we have encountered in this century.
“Food Frontliner” (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)
As I did my shopping, I realized that grocery store workers were putting their lives in peril to serve others just as much as our healthcare workers and first responders.
“The Law Enforcer” (watercolor, 11 x 14 in.)
After nearly two months in quarantine, people were beginning to experience lockdown fatigue. Eventually, some people began to break the government’s quarantine rules. I wanted to pay tribute to the law enforcers who are keeping us safe in the middle of this crises.
In addition to the Covid-19 series, I’m using this extended time in the studio to paint portraits and figurative pieces, something I rarely do as a dedicated plein air painter.

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  1. Fantastic tribute, really mesmerizing work. The husband and wife doctors painting is so very touching, brought tears to my eyes.

  2. This particular edition was very meaningful and thoughtful.I found all of the works brilliant,depicting what is happening right now in nearly every part of the world.I too loved the husband and wife painting. How moving! Thank you for sharing.


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