Mariah's Story

This illustration ran with a story that was published on February 11th in the East Bay Times/Mercury News newspaper and website. Longtime colleagues Matthias Gafni and David DeBolt reported on this one, and they did a terrific job. You can read it online right here.

Open in a new window for a much larger image.

I worry when I'm tasked with creating illustrations for stories that are controversial or sad – it's too easy to offend; it's too easy to hit a bad note. I fear I might hurt the feelings of those who the story will impact if the people involved are victims of misfortune or tragedy, but there was no way out this time. The direction was suggested by the editors and after a teary reading of the first draft, the drawing began to take shape.

I found a picture of my daughter taken a couple of years ago when she was Mariah's age – there are so many of her on my phone – and used her body for reference. I drew a likeness of Mariah from the photos included with the story and merged it with the figure drawing. It was a sad process. I didn't like doing it at all.

The first pass of the drawing was initially in sepia and a bit of pink but, as you might imagine, it seemed awfully brown. I tried to find a way to bring in more color without softening the mood, and above is the final result. I'm glad it came out as rough and "unfinished" as it did and I'm pretty comfortable with its attitude. I'm happy with how it turned out, but looking at it does not make me happy.

I wasn't sure I was going to post this; it has been waiting in draft mode since, well, since a few days before publication. I didn't want to take the time to write about it. There's been too much bad news about little kids lately, but here it is. It's not comfortable but in light of the events of this week – more kids lost to gunfire in school – I thought I should show a little courage, a little courage for the kids that have been failed.

The end.