Faces of Recovery: Izeda, Diana, Rosanna

I’m working on a new project called Faces of Recovery and will be posting about the project here from time to time. I’ll talk a little about what it takes to do reportage drawing like this: the process, the challenges, the craft. I will also collect and share all the stories without the art-making-commentary under the tab Faces of Recovery. This is an ongoing project and the stories, while incredible, are often difficult. I thought I’d mention that before you scroll down.

Here is a short writeup about the project:

Faces of Recovery

These are the faces and stories of recovery. Stories of resilience, hope and dignity. In this ongoing project I sit down with members of Recovery Cafe San Jose. These men and women share stories of their life while I draw them. Through this series of portraits I hope to help put a personal face to homelessness and addiction.
Many of us know of addiction and homelessness through statistics and reports. No names, no faces, no real people: the sort of knowledge that makes empathy, understanding and kinship difficult. Through these individual stories, I hope a different narrative emerges. One in which we feel a connection, one in which we will be astounded by the human spirit and it’s ability to overcome what seems unsurmountable. 
Drawing is my first language and I’ll share what I record in it. And hopefully you and I will learn and grow from the generosity of those sharing their story with us. 

This is Izzy. The very first person to volunteer to sit with me and tell her story. We sat together at the cafe early in the morning, before the doors opened for the day. I didn’t know how this was going to go, she didn’t either. But we just went with the process and talked for almost an hour. I drew, she told me her story. I took copious notes on the side and only wrote a very small fragment of what she told me on her sketch, as soon as it was done. All my notes are on paper, I record nothing electronically. I find that keeping the process low-tech makes it seem more like a conversation.

This is Diana. The stories I hear are beyond what I can wrap my head around. Drawing and taking notes as I go, I just stay with the process. I don’t work large: a quarter size sheet of a thick mix-media paper (Stillman and Birn Beta paper, in sheets, generously donated by them for the project) is what I use along my usual urban sketching kit: a couple of pens and my watercolors. Keeping it small helps us sit down together side b side or across a small table and after a while we both forget I’m drawing, which is a good thing.

This is Rosanna, the most soft-spoken of the three. I rarely ask a lot of questions. I find an open-ended “tell me your story” is all I need to say. 3_Rosanna.jpg

More stories and portraits in the Faces of Recovery series coming up soon. You can find out more about Recovery Cafe San Jose here.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in Activism, california, Close to home, Faces Of Recovery, people, Portrait, reportage and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Faces of Recovery: Izeda, Diana, Rosanna

  1. Rene Wojcik says:

    Great stories and sketches, Suhita. Keep them coming.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Barbara says:

    This is wonderful and important work you’re doing, Suhita ! Beautiful and moving.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a project! Wow. Powerful and beautifully done.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fascinating project Suhita. Beautiful and inspiring stories of survival, recovery and triumph captured in your expressive sketches.


  5. ഭരതൻ says:

    Very good project. Good attempt to voice the unvoiced . It sounds closer to #me too. These stories also provoke the unvoiced and marginalised to come up with their stories.! My wishes on your new project. Keep going

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lee Kline says:

    This is a wonderful and heartfelt project. I hope you publish it.


    • I’m hoping to be able to show the project in places it would not usually be seen, in corporate offices all over the Bay Area, for example… not sure how to get there, but for now, I’m recording stories.


  7. Love, love the sketches. What a beautiful project, to be able to honor these women and their stories in such an artistic way. Simply fabulous..

    Liked by 1 person

  8. miatagrrl says:

    Excellent reportage in such a personal and vulnerable yet powerful way. Your portraits tell so much more than photos would.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very deep, portraits, they tell so much. Its amazing the struggles we go through in life!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nancy Waldron says:

    Wow, Suhita. What an amazing project. You are a valuable member of your community. First the signs project and now this. Keep going, Your plan for the project will manifest itself and grow beyond your dreams.


  11. Caroline says:

    I love this, I have been turning over in my mind a similar idea, but I was not sure how to approach without causing offence or being seen to be patronising. The cafe idea is great as there is a security built in for both. Can I ask, do you first sketch in black (ink brush?) then add watercolour highlights? The stories are powerful, as are your portraits ❤️


  12. Bernadette says:

    This is such a wonderful project and paired with your sketches and words elevates the importance of listening. I imagine the time you give to these vulnerable women is a priceless gift to them. Your labor of love will reap great benefits. Thank you for opening my eyes to see beyond the stereotype of homelessness and addictions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bernadette, thank you for reading and being open to these stories. We all hold the same stereotypes, they’ve been perpetuated for a long time. Doing this project opens my eyes to the limitations of that stereotype. I hope it does just that for others too. Thanks again for listening. That really is what everyone I talk to and draw asks for.


    • Bernadette, the project pays richly both ways: the men and women I draw tell me they love seeing their portraits and stories told. And I learn so much from this. So happy to share it out in the world.


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