I had a recent illustration request that gave me an occasion for reflecting on my faith.
Two families, and countless friends in our community, will be forever scarred by the tragedy of a young and loving couple who died as victims of a violent attack. Both the husband and wife had attended my daughters’ high school , and though I don’t know their families personally, several of my friends do. Many prayers have been offered amid our community; but we know we can only imagine the heart-rending sorrow the families must endure.
A friend wanted to convey her own words of comfort to the families, and she asked me to create a special illustration for a card. I was rather at a loss; what image could express hope in the face of such loss? My friend very much wanted the young couple to be portrayed in the image somehow, and she knew the family has a strong Catholic faith; but how could I draw something so very personal to this family?
My friend felt the image could be uplifting if it expressed how this couple would be welcomed by Christ. After some discussion, we settled on my drawing the couple in a landscape of sunlight and flowers, being beckoned by the Good Shepherd. I drew a rough colored pencil sketch first –
My friend approved, and I tightened up small sketches of the figures. I wanted the figures to be at a distance, the couple backlit so their features would be not be detailed, and the Shepherd turned so we only glimpse the side of His face. In the presence of such personal tragedy, and to give the grieving family ‘space,’ I felt we should not see the figures too distinctly.
I followed my rough sketch in transferring the drawing to illustration board, and painted it with acrylic paint washes, with some details added in with prisma pencil.
It was not an easy scene to paint, to mix both sadness and hope for these families. I thought about my parents and dear friends who have died. Believing in the afterlife lets you accept that there is a painful separation for the time being between you and someone who has died, but the pain becomes bearable when you know that you will be reunited. It is a conscious choice to believe this and it’s something that sustains me in my own loss of loved ones. It’s something I’ve never painted before, and it gave me much to think about as I worked, and a finer gratitude for what my faith beckons me to believe.