About 5 or so years ago, I participated in a Lenten study that focused on social issues. The key verse to the study was: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, 45, NIV) . Only the study changed one word… and that one word made ALL the difference. Instead of saying what we did “for” the least of these, the word was changed to what we did “to” the least of these. It was a great study that showed how society ignores, neglects, abuses, etc the poorest of the poor, the homeless, the addict, the child, the animal, etc.
At each session, the leader would lay out a handful of photos. As I looked at the photos each week, I was very moved by them. Then, I got to thinking that I’d like to do something with them. So, I asked the leader if I could have them after the study. They agreed. And so I toted them home and stared at them for a few days. Then, I thought that I’d like to art them up somehow. That led me back to my love of art.
At first, I was terrified. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t draw them. They were people. I couldn’t draw people! There was no way under the heavens that I could ever draw people. Then, I was out surfing youtube and came across tons of vids of people doing just that. It was inspiring, so I decided to give it a go.
The first one I drew was a homeless veteran. It took me 128 hours to complete the final portrait. I’m not even going to mention how many pages I cut out of my sketcher and pitched in the garbage. Suffice it to say that I had to purchase a new sketcher. I did this first one with only a #2HB pencil… one of those yellow automatic ones by Papermate. I love them for writing and always have one or more handy. I found them soft enough for blending, too. A plus!
Still, I was utterly frustrated. I couldn’t get the darks dark enough, nor the detail detailed enough. I was grumbling and unhappy, though Hubby and my online friends were impressed. So, Hubby suggests that I get an “engineer’s pencil”. He took me to the art store and explained to them what I needed. I came home with a nice little art “kit” to work with. Then, it was back out to youtube for more video watching and practice. The second portrait took 29 hours… and had much more detail. I was HOOKED!
Soon, I began to work my way down through the stack of photos. It’s been close to 5 years, now, and I’ve still got a few left. I’ve labeled them as my “Least” series. Not for sale, but I will share them with friends, always with the caviat of where the idea originated. I have to say that it has sparked many a convo about social injustices. It’s also inspired many a short fiction write, a long fiction write, and a couple of novels.
Who would have guessed that a simple little 4 week bible study would become such a deeply felt and inspirational part of my life. Now, I often go out to pixabay and surf pictures looking for faces, places, things that reach out to me and help me to tell a story through my art about life… the life that many try not to see or acknowledge. For those that do know my own life story, you know how deeply I do understand the harshness revealed in the faces, places, things that I chose to art up.
And so, to my present WIP… another homeless man…. He may be frowning, but I sense a hidden joy within. Perhaps he is watching children play, or a sport game. Maybe he’s just thankful to have survived the night. Either way, this picture calls to me to art it up, and so I am…
I have 2 hours into him so far. And I realized as I began to shade his ballcap that I had strayed from my typical modus operandi. Usually, I lay down a cloud of graphite and work out from there. Oops on my part… but not really. It’s causing me to really focus and concentrate even more on shading, and that is a good thing. At the moment, he’s “listening”…. something we all need to do, eh?
I’ve also just finished a quick little sketch from one of the Lenten photos… It brought me a chuckle. Reminded me of the saying “a monkey on your back”… and also the phrase “Not my Circus, not my Monkey” which appeared in a book I just read. I just simply enjoyed creating this monkey looking at itself in a car mirror. I hope you enjoy it as well.