Mario Minichiello, an internationally reknowned illustrator and Assistant Dean and Professor of Design at the University of Newcastle's School of Creative Industries, was hit hard by COVID-19: it took the life of his father who lived in the UK. He also lost an uncle and friends to the virus.
"Weeping is a weird thing, it's not like crying," he says. "Your eyes literally weep, it pours out of you ... you get waves and waves of horrible upset and grief."
At my request, he provided an illustration of his vision of COVID-19, which appears on the cover of Weekender (view it in the photo gallery above). His interpretation: it will be a virus, maybe from birds, that wipes out humanity.
"Every day I leave my house at night I can see the bats," he says. "In the morning, I smell the bats ... Now, we can see it has tentacles... now, it has transmuted into these tentacles. It came from birds ... as we gaze upon the bird, we can no longer look at it without fear."
Liz Anelli, a respected illustrator with a strong reputation in children's books and large-scale social maps, didn't change her work habits, but she gave her subjects a lot of thought.
"I've been conscious to make things more of a fantasy general nature rather than a 'this has happened'. It feels dated to draw a picture of a load of kids doing something together.
"I have to work that out, how I treat the human element and the interaction, without making it look like it was made in 2020. But also subconsciously, realising that children are going through deep psychological issues, and making books that can help them, like develop their fantasy world, rather than the here and now. As a kid, I appreciated that daydreaming was a great place."
"My usual practice is to have multiple works on the go at any one time, and these projects are often worked on in various locations, so the imposition of lockdown posed a challenge to my regular routine. The kids were also off school, and access to grandparents and family was limited so I had to come up with a solution that allowed me to keep productive and also enjoy the extra home time.
"Instead of focusing on the restriction, I decided to use the time to explore new ideas, follow intuitions, and extend the sense of play that I was experiencing with my kids into my own work.
"I limited myself to A4 drawing paper and ink, scissors and some rice glue, and used the kitchen bench and sink as my new studio space.
"The collection forms a loose lockdown diary, exploring subject matter ranging from hulking harbour ship forms, post storm beach junk, textures and surfaces noted on daily walks and the shape and patina of rail cars. As life returns to a more recognisable shape, these drawings will inform and generate the work I make over the coming months ... even the darkest of clouds can have a silver lining."
"I had a show on in Sydney at Saint Cloche which closed on June 13. I was a bit anxious about how it would go as there was to be no opening night due to the lockdown and usually in times of peril, art is one of the luxuries that is jettisoned. The gallery and I made the 'brave' decision to go ahead and people have responded well to the work. I think part of the positive response is that the works are about the outdoors which many of were craving but there's also a willingness to support the arts where we can.
"The exhibition had an online launch which was a walk-through video with a voiceover talking about each work. People were directed to an online shop where they could make a purchase if they wanted or they could arrange a one-on-one client meeting in the gallery to see the work in person.
"Other than that, I have enjoyed the time in the studio which I think most artists would say. Making art is a fairly solitary occupation which can become more productive and experimental in a forced lockdown.
"As a family we took advantage of a daily walk up to the beach to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. We were four people working from home in our separate spaces in 'harmony' including me, my wife Robin who is a high school art teacher, Lucy (uni student) and Laura (Year 11 student)."
"I started this painting around the middle of March - just as 'lockdowns' and 'self-isolation' started to become the new rules across NSW.
"I really did not intend this picture [shown above] to be about COVID-19 at all. I thought I'd just paint a self-portrait standing in my studio surrounded by all my mess. In retrospect, my portrait sure looks anxious and worried.
"And I was.
"There was a genuine fear in the community in those first few weeks. How bad is this going to get? Will there be 16,000 deaths in Australia in the next six weeks as predicted?
"This painting is actually two self-portraits - separated by 54 years. The figure with the red flags is based on an old primary school photo of me singing Anchors Away at a school fete. My painting, which is now a finalist in this year's Kilgour Prize, is a carefree portrait of me when young next to an uneasy self-portrait over half a century later.
"But after the painting was finished, I had no real need to go to the studio. I became very distracted with world news of the coronavirus. I couldn't concentrate in the studio at all. So I took up gardening and going for very long walks for a month.
"I know a lot of artists /writers/musicians are supposed like isolation. But this time, it was not for me. I had two upcoming exhibitions in Melbourne and Sydney cancelled this year.
"Thankfully, both have been rescheduled for February 2021. I am now painting in the studio again."
The Archibald-Prize winning artist was busy when the pandemic struck preparing work from his Wickham home studio for his next show, anticipated to be a solo exhibit in Newcastle.
"I kind of feel like I'm living in permanent lockdown," he says. "The only real difference to me is being able to get out of the studio and socialise with people, as more of a relief from working. I found other ways of getting around it.
"I would do some work on a friend's farm, in the Barrington Tops, do some jobs to get my mind off painting, do some fencing, check water levels. Because some of the subjects of my next brief are boxing, I started training, just preparing myself mentally for the subject matter I'm working on - it's a mixture of boxing, women and birds."
"I guess when I find I'm on to something, like the subject of body of work, everything seems to connect. Nothing seems out of place. Although I am doing boxing and birds, spending time on a farm reintroduced me to birdwatching in a strange kind of way."
As for COVID-19, Milsom says, "I think in some ways, it does show how fragile we are. You can't take anything for granted."
"... So much mystery surrounded it. It boils down to fragility of human life.
"You can't defeat death in a sense, no matter what science is pulled out of the hat."