Faces of Recovery: Beyond the Portraits

Faces of Recovery is an ongoing series of visual stories of people in recovery You can read every story recorded so far here.

But there are so many aspects of what Recovery Cafe is about that the portraits don’t cover. (Their mission statement says it all.) It is a safe space, a space to connect and to heal. A place you can come to for food, for quiet time, and to learn skills that help build back a meaningful and self-sufficient life. There are classes in knitting, journaling, meditation, communication, and nutrition, among other things.

I attended session 5 in a series of the Culinary and Nutrition Class, called “From Food Bank to Table” where participants worked with foods they’d typically bring home from Second Harvest Food Bank and used their imagination (no recipe provided!) to put together a nutritious dish.

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley provides food to anyone in need of groceries, prepared foods, or fresh produce and without access to them. You can learn more about them here. You can read more about and support the amazing work of Recovery Cafe here.


If you’re a sketcher interested in working on a reportage project, here are some process shots and thoughts on working on a single piece like this. A reportage practice is built on all that comes before the actual reportage: the cafe sketches, the portraits, the life drawing sessions: that’s when you can work on the craft of drawing, of quick capture, of color and composition. While working on the actual piece you are a journalist, focussing on the story and how to tell it best as it unfolds, often not knowing where it is going, and all that you practiced needs to be available to you without much thought.

When possible I try to get to the space before an event begins. Here, I step into the kitchen a couple of minutes before the class participants arrive so I can find myself a spot to stand, out of everyone’s way, and also to look closely at the table setup. There is fresh produce, some can, some spices and herbs.

It’s important to be to stand when I am drawing, with the participants moving around: Standing lets me shift my weight or move a step to the left or right to be able to see around the participants when they move. I hold both a pencil and a pen in my drawing hand, toggling between the two, taking notes and drawing as the events unfold. Snippets of conversation, and interesting facts all make it to my pencilled-in notes as do my own observations.

When I’ve got enough of the action drawn in to tell a coherent story I’ll switch to adding in color, if I think it helps the story.

I switch out the pen in my hand for a brush, but the pencil stays in my hand, because I’m still listening in and adding to the notes on my page.

This class lasted about half an hour, and this is as far as I got when the participants finished making their dishes. I added the rest of the notes and the sketch of one of the dishes prepared soon after. You can see the finished piece at the top of this post. I erased some of my notes but many of them just semi- disappeared under the paint and ink.

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.

2 Responses to Faces of Recovery: Beyond the Portraits

  1. Tina Koyama says:

    Fabulous reportage, Suhita!

    Liked by 1 person

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