Portraits and stories from the nursing home

My grandmother spent her last few years in a nursing home, and after my visits with her, I would always wish I'd listened more (wisdom! stories! life lessons! history!). Even though I cared immensely and wanted to make fulfilling conversation with her and her friends, I felt nervous about what to say and unsure how to interact. This really bothered me, and I've been ruminating since on how to be more present and at ease in similar situations.

Recently, it occurred to me that art might be my gateway.

After contacting the nearby nursing home, I arranged to go in for an hour every couple of weeks to draw quick portraits of any residents that would like to sit for me. For now, I'm choosing the all-one-line technique (drawing without lifting my pen), as it is not only fast (5–10 minutes per portrait), it does not allow for fussing over mistakes. The process forces me to stay present and allow for whatever happens to happen. It also gives me a chance to look — truly look — at the face of each person, and listen as she or he tells me stories of falling in love, past careers, and children raised.

Here are some of the people I've had the chance to work with...

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Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Although I'm a little late on posting this, I read Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman for book club in February, and I found it incredibly inspiring. I think it about daily.

I never studied Van Gogh in college, and I really only knew that he was mentally ill, cut off his own ear and was friends with Gauguin. But the story that Ms. Heiligman has weaved together through the letters between him and his brother told of a kind, thoughtful and extremely hard-working artist. He was dedicated to becoming a better and better draftsman and painter, and he consistently sought his brother's feedback on how he could improve. I was surprised to learn that he struggled with color (as do I), and he worked diligently to develop and modernize his palette. I was so impressed.

This book has much to offer — it's a passionate tale and also educational and inspirational. I highly recommend!

The portrait below was my take on Vincent shortly after I finished the book.

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Illustration Friday, "Nose"

For this week's Illustration Friday's challenge, "Nose," I used my watercolor paintings as my collage material. It was my first time doing so, and I really liked incorporating both of my techniques into one. I definitely plan to explore this further.

I call this piece Portrait of a Woman with Flowers.

Illustration Friday, "Hat"

This week's Illustration Friday topic was "Hat."

I first sketched a bird with an actual hat. Then I thought of the Eurasian hoopoe that I recently drew for a client, and the cool crown/hat that it already has. 

Using the scans of vintage drawings, I assembled this black and white bird with a hoopoe-style headdress. I also added a vignette effect to give it a slightly creepy, noir-esque tone.

Illustration Friday again!

I really enjoyed creating this piece for last week's Illustration Friday's challenge, and I was stoked that I was able to submit again this week. This week's theme: "Tropical." 

I haven't worked with birds lately (possibly my favorite subject ever), so I decided to focus on tropical birds. I looked through various images, and considered a flamingo collage, but then I found a beautiful shot of a toucan. Below is my collage inspired by that photo...

Busy October, gallery shows and more to come!

It has been a very long time since I've updated my blog, and I hope you're still catching my posts on Facebook and Instagram!

The month of October was a very busy and exciting time for me. I had a good deal of illustration work come in, AND I had my first group gallery show since college. In fact, I had TWO gallery shows in October — one opened in Iowa on the 16th and the other opened in NYC on the 24th. 

I'll update more about the illustration jobs soon, as well as details on an upcoming solo show, but here is a shot of the watercolor and collage work that was at the show in Cedar Rapids ("Rabbit," "Meeting the Wolf" and "Crow"). 

As always, your questions and comments are most welcome!

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