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