Back when I was figuring out that people who are not me, are real too, I started to make little drawings about parts of their lives. I would hear a personal story, see a moment of humanity, have a 3am conversation, and it would become a drawing. Usually put on small cards of paper, which I would then give to the person.
People often found these cards quite moving. My curiosity was peaked about their potential to make people feel seen, known, and like their story mattered in ways they weren’t able to see. This led to what I now call “Story Portraits.”
Making a Story Portrait begins with finding a subject. Someone agrees to commission me and so they tell me part of their story in detail. This could be a place of pain, confusion, unhealed wounds, fear, or positive feelings that are attached to a significant experience. Then I listen to what stands out to me in the story, and prayerfully draw it. The result is an image somewhat like an illustration in the storybook of that person’s life.
My intention in making a Story Portrait is not to give people answers, but to mark which elements are significant, reveal them, and let the subject piece together the story for themselves. Stepping into a difficult or important part of someone’s life is a responsibility I don’t take lightly. I hope to make it clear, that while I want God to speak through the art, it’s up to them to discern the message.
If you have an interest in having a Story Portrait made, I would be honored to speak with you about it! You can contact me here.
Below are a couple of finished Story Portraits:
“I thought very little of the moment captured here when it was happening. In fact, I was a little bit upset that it was occurring! It happened on a dark night in the woods. I don’t like anything remotely close to scary, either. Or bugs. Or, frankly, much of the outdoors. The best part of that moment for me was when it ended.
Receiving the piece you see here, though, meant much more to me. I would’ve never known how significant Gina thought the moment was had I not gotten to see it through this piece. Really, it’s kind of a treat to get to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. This piece doesn’t capture my perspective at all— and it was never supposed to. This piece allowed me to see the moment (and me) free of my thoughts/feelings. It’s hard to get that experience or accurately explain its value. I had no idea that the moment mattered at all to Gina, but now it matters to me, too. In seeing this as she did, I gained something special I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Plus, it looks nice.” -N
“When I looked at the art that Gina created, I saw a point of view that helped me understand my place in the bigger narrative of the whole story. It focused me to dig deeper into the situation that felt healthy and holy. The artwork allowed me to encapsulate that moment in a way that I couldn’t do for myself, which was a blessing for me.” -J