WESTERVILLE, Ohio — Nicholas Hill subscribed to newspapers for the longest time and always had a love for them because they expose people to a range of ideas from around the world.

In 2020, he turned that love for the hard copies and the element of the unknown into a project. It’s a project that brings those who were hidden in the background of the pandemic to the forefront.

What You Need To Know

  • Nicholas Hill is a Guggenheim Fellow and professor emeritus at Otterbein University

  • Hill highlights issues of the pandemic using newspaper headlines and pictures of people in the background

  • So far, Hill has created more than 4,800 portraits, some of which have been placed in The Pandemic Portraits Catalog

  • To learn more, click here

For the last two years, Hill pulled headlines from above the fold and pictures from newspapers related to the pandemic. Unsure of what he’d initially do with them, Hill drew the many faces of the people who died during the pandemic by using India ink and a bamboo brush.


While it used to take him 20 minutes, he cut his time down to five minutes after learning a crucial fact about the pandemic.

“I read that an American was dying — this was early in the pandemic — one American was dying every five minutes,” he said. Knowing that information gave an immediacy and urgency to the work he was doing.

For Hill, “It’s not a routine, It’s a ritual, and the reason I use that word is that it’s a contemplative time. It’s a time to pause and think while taking action.”

After drawing so many and allowing a few to see his work, Hill agreed that the body of work would be good to share with others, giving them the opportunity to spend time in reflection alone. They now get to do that by grabbing a copy of The Pandemic Portraits, which is a sample collection of his work.

Janice Glowski, museum and galleries director at Otterbein University, said the project compared to other pandemic artwork "is the only one that I know of that is truly interfacing with the actual news of the time, that’s actually on a day-by-day basis.”

Glowski helped pull the work together for the catalog. At the same time, Hill’s work was put on display at Otterbein University and then in Key West, Fla. His work has also been recognized in Chile. While Hill is not finished with drawing pandemic portraits, he said until the headlines and stories disappear from the newspaper, he’ll continue drawing.