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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What is an #alloneline drawing?

I took an excellent online course with Von Glitschka awhile back, called the 21 Day Drawing Challenge. One of the prompts is to draw an image without lifting the pen. Just one intuitive, free-flowing line. It has been such a fun activity for me, and it really captures the something-from-nothing feeling that I can get when I create. If you ever feel stuck or concerned about perfection, I encourage you to try it.

Some of my recent all-one-line drawings are below. To see posts of other artist's #alloneline drawings, search the hashtag on Instagram. Cool stuff.

All-one-line drawing of a girl saying grace (image referenced from the Internet Archives), ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of a girl saying grace (image referenced from the Internet Archives), ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of a woman with headpiece, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of a woman with headpiece, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of ladies having coffee, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

All-one-line drawing of ladies having coffee, ink pen, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

What's been happening this year: Update 4 of 6

Update #4: The Historical Heroines coloring book!

This was hands down one of the coolest projects I've ever been a part of. I couldn't be more grateful to have been chosen as the illustrator.

Crowd-funded and quickly labeled as a "Project We Love" on Kickstarter, this coloring book was conceived by the brilliant, eco-conscious and science-minded author Elizabeth Lorayne.

As explained from her site, "The Historical Heroines Coloring Book: Pioneering Women in Science from the 18th and 19th Centuries was born out of a desire to inspire and empower children, teens, and adults with coloring pages celebrating 31 women in science who followed their passions and let their brilliance and hard work speak for themselves — making significant impacts in our world."

For several months, I was fortunate to spend my days researching, drawing and painting these various STEM heroines. I read their histories, their personal letters, their eulogies. Because of this project, I now study bugs as they crawl by, I pay attention to the leaves and their growth patterns on my walks, and I look at the sky with much more curiosity. Elizabeth's desire to inspire worked!

I'll update my blog soon with some excerpts of the completed book, but here are a few of the sketches I made along the way...

 

Portrait of Mary Somerville, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait of Mary Somerville, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait of Alice Ball, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait of Alice Ball, pencil, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait study of a young Beatrix Potter, watercolor, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm

Portrait study of a young Beatrix Potter, watercolor, Copyright 2017 Kendra Shedenhelm