Pandemic Portraits

Local Artist Embraces New Project

Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by Tawnie Clarke

For most of her life, Beth Kyle identified herself as a closet artist.

“I’ve always done art,” Beth explains. “As far back as I can remember. Anyone that knows me from my childhood knows that I always had a pencil in my hand. But, I kept a lot of my art a secret. I just didn’t have the confidence in my talents. And when I would show off my work and people would like it, I would usually just give it to them instead of charging them anything. I got a lot of flak from friends and family for that! But, I just didn’t have the confidence in myself.”

However, as she matured, Beth eventually found the strength to proudly display her talents.

“Eventually, I decided that my art was worth something,” Beth states. “I decided to value myself as an artist if I wanted to make it. So, I started to sell my work. Very cheaply, mind you. I think I sold my first portrait for $50!”

From there, Beth began the long process of becoming a professional artist while working as a full-time personal support worker.

“From there, I just started to evolve,” Beth explains. “I did a lot of researching because I’m mostly self-taught. I read a lot of books. I did a lot of tutorials. I looked into different types of equipment. If there was anything that I couldn’t figure out myself, I asked fellow artists.
I actually snuck into different groups online and sent a private message to certain people, saying, ‘How did you achieve this look?’”

Beth credits her husband, Damien, with giving her the boost she needed to pursue her passion.

“I met this wonderful man 16 years ago,” Beth states. “He’s been my support. We’ve been married 14 years. He’s been my backbone. Anything I’ve ever wanted to do, he’s been, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s get going!’ He really, really showed me that I had more worth than I truly thought I did. I owe him a lot of credit. He always says, ‘It wasn’t me! It was you!’ But, you can’t put a price on a good sidekick!”

And art, Beth explains, is not just about passion projects.

“I’m always painting,” Beth states. “If I’m cooking dinner, I’m sitting at my breakfast bar with a pad of paper. Art is my solitude. And especially working as a personal support worker, since I have my art, then my anxiety and depression doesn’t get the better of me. There’s so much anxiety out there! I’m very lucky that I have my art to fall back on during these times. I don’t know where I would be today without it. It just helps me get through the stresses of life.”

After a number of years, Beth’s artistic skills skyrocketed. As a result, she and her husband, Damien, decided to build her a studio so she could pass along her knowledge.

“Well, let me put it this way,” Beth smirks. “I decided I wanted my own studio. So when we had made the decision to build a house a couple of years ago we created a lower-level studio. I wanted a space where I could teach.”

Unfortunately, Beth was only able to administer a couple of lessons before COVID-19 halted her momentum.

“We had to shut things down,” Beth states. “That was kind of sad. As I said
before, there’s something incredibly soothing about creating art. I didn’t have a great start in life. I had some bumps and some difficult hills to climb. And art was my
solitude throughout all that. It gave me a place to express those feelings.”

However, rather than sitting on her laurels, Beth quickly discovered an exciting
new project to occupy her time. Thanks, ultimately, to her husband and sidekick.

“During the beginning of the pandemic, me and my husband were sitting at the breakfast table,” Beth recalls. “My husband is a truck driver, so we’re both front-line workers. At the time, we were very unsure about what was happening. Everything was so scary. So, he was just sitting at the table in deep, deep thought.”

That morning, Beth decided to snap a photo of her husband, which she then used to sketch a portrait of him. And that portrait ended up becoming the first of many in a new series.

“That portrait became one of my most successful pieces,” Beth explains. “I chalk it up to having a really good muse. After that, I did a self-portrait. And then it just sort of took off from there!”

Previously, Beth was volunteering with seniors in the community. So, she started asking them if they would be willing to model for her.

“I would say, ‘Could I try you?’ ‘Could I paint you?’” Beth states. “I just felt so bad for them. Thanks to the pandemic, many of them were feeling forgotten or left out.
I wanted to do something that could lift them up. So, I took a few of them on.”

Beth’s new project, Pandemic Portraits, ended up becoming a roaring success. So much so that she is currently compiling her best portraits into a book.

“I want to put all my COVID art together,” Beth explains. “Just as an act of remembrance, to memorialize everything that happened in 2020 and 2021.”

Beth is still compiling new photos for her book.

“I’ve joined Windsor Frontline Healthcare Workers and a couple other Facebook groups,” Beth states. “I asked if anyone had a good reference photo that I could paint or draw. And I can’t even tell you how many submissions I got. There has to be close to 6,000 by now! People have sent me photos of themselves working in a COVID ward or a relative who passed away. Just all kinds of different stories.”

And thus far, the reaction Beth’s work has gotten has been phenomenal.

“I’ve gotten amazing feedback,” Beth states. “People are just so thrilled about it. I’ve had so many people message me. I’ve been hearing stories about how they’ve lost parents and grandparents in long-term care. It’s heartbreaking. I wish I could do a piece for everyone!”

What is most special about this project, Beth stresses, it how it tells the stories of actual people in Windsor and Essex County.

“I don’t want to just paint our healthcare workers,” Beth states. “I want to paint everybody. Coffee shop employees. Police and firemen. We’re all in this together. It’s hard to say that the frontline workers are just the ones that work in hospitals. I think everyone who’s struggling right now deserves to have their story told.”

More information about Beth’s art is available at
Additionally, she can be found on Facebook (@Beth.Kyle.Artist) and Instagram (@bethkyleart).

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