Carmel Artist Launches Initiative To Memorialize Victims of Coronavirus Pandemic

April 28, 2020
Artist Michael Sinclair illustrates a portrait of a man who died from coronavirus.
Artist Michael Sinclair works on a portrait as part of his DiedFamous project. (Photo: Rebecca Cisneros)

In the midst of a global pandemic, people around the world are struggling to find ways to use their newfound time. As an artist, Michael Sinclair is using his to support families of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His Carmel-based organization, “DiedFamous,” is offering free handmade portraits of those who have lost their lives to the virus.

Inspired by small businesses making masks for health care workers, he wanted to use his skills to help out.

“When you’re an artist, you don’t feel that your talent is especially useful right now,” Sinclair said. “It could be if you give it the right purpose.”

Artist Michael Sinclair uses charcoal to draw a portrait.
(Photo: Rebecca Cisneros)

He posted an announcement on Reddit on March 31 asking artists to help him with the project. Sinclair expected two or three to join him, but the response he received was much greater.

About 60 artists from around the country, each with their own style and medium, have since reached out to Sinclair to join the project.

Sarah Landry, a digital artist, found DiedFamous after a friend shared Sinclair’s Reddit post with her. Since then, she’s already completed a portrait for a family that lost their father to COVID-19. She received several photos from the family, as well as a description of the man’s “funny” personality.

“I was thinking about what it could’ve been like in another life to have gotten to know him,” Landry said.

Artist Sara Landry works on a portrait of a man who died from Coronavirus.
Artist Sarah Landry works on a portrait of a man for the DiedFamous initiative. (Photo: Lisa Landry)

She also recalled being touched by a response to the portrait from one of the man’s daughters.

“[His daughter] commented on my Instagram post and I cried. It was so warm and almost overwhelming to see, but she was super supportive and grateful, and it was just amazing,” Landry said.

Sinclair invited families via social media to submit requests for memorials on the DiedFamous website. Once it’s confirmed that the memorial is for someone that passed away from COVID-19 complications, the portrait is completed for free.

Each artist has a different process for crafting the portraits. For Sinclair, a portrait can take anywhere from four to 20 hours to complete. Landry completed her portrait after about seven or eight hours of work.

Both artists added that the process of creating a memorial can be emotionally taxing.

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In 2014, Sinclair lost several of his friends. He decided to take his pain and turn it into art. After Daniel, one of Michael’s close friends, passed away, he created a charcoal portrait in his memory.

That portrait was the beginning of DiedFamous.

According to Sinclair, the goal of the organization is to bring comfort to families as they grieve. That need for comfort has only deepened in a world where families are often separated from their loved ones at the end of their lives.

“The most tragic end of a life is having to say goodbye to your dad or someone you love on an iPad,” Sinclair said. “I just thought a personal touch like this would bring some comfort to the situation.”

Artist Michael Sinclair works on a portrait alongside his son.
Sinclair works on a portrait alongside his son. (Photo: Rebecca Cisneros)

DiedFamous has only received a handful of requests for memorials of COVID-19 victims. Given its recent wave of support from artists around the country, Sinclair wants the organization to reach more people.

“Before, I would get like three memorial requests and I’d be overloaded, because it takes me a while to do it,” Sinclair said. “Now, I would need like 150 memorial requests to be at that overcapacity.”

In a time of crisis, Sinclair was able to bring together a team of talented strangers from across the country, all united by a common cause.

“Unfortunately, we can’t help save people, but we can help families grieve in a healthy way,” Landry said, “That means the world to me.”