Artist’s Portraits Reveal the Human Faces in Our Midst

I realized that bringing them to life in drawings was quite unique, seeming to have more joy in it than I’d ever experienced before. Walter was delighted. Nate always greets me now with a thankful smile. Donald, the very gentle one, spoke proudly and warmly when pondering his portrait.
"Nate."  Art by Curtis Burbick

“Nate.” Art by Curtis Burbick

 

by Curtis Burbick

“Spare change? Maybe on the way out?” This is a request I often hear voiced on the street scene in Berkeley, and this is what finally led me to begin producing pencil portraits after meeting these casual friends.

Any one of the trio of individuals I have portrayed might be found just outside the door of a coffee shop, asking for a little help.

It had been my habit at first to offer a hand to them by responding with a contribution and some small talk.

Now, since I love to draw, it occurred to me that I might try to capture in my sketch book the energy and experiences mapped on their faces, to capture that engaging look they always wore when our paths crossed.

So I asked each one if I could take their photographs and draw their portraits.

In an effort to get their agreement to this, I started showing them some other drawings I had done, and also assured them they would receive a copy of their portrait.

I was quickly warming to this new idea so much, that in getting a “yes, OK,” from Walter, I began snapping a few shots of him and then began rendering his picture. And when a first draft was completed, I approached Nate, and then finally Donald.

After a few months spent at drawing, I’d finished all three portraits, and realized how new and exciting this venture was.

The evolution of it initially began for me with the casual befriending of these three, and included observing their persuasive skills at conjuring funds often on cold mornings from passers-by.

This process culminated with the pleasure and joy of my bringing them to life in drawings on the pages of my sketchbook.

This all was quite unique, seeming to have more joy in it than I’d ever experienced before. I also noted it had taken more time than expected. (“Oh Vincent, I’ve always envied your facility to produce quick results.”)

"Donald."  Art by Curtis Burbick

“Donald.” Art by Curtis Burbick

 

"Walter."   Art by Curtis Burbick

“Walter.” Art by Curtis Burbick

 

And so? What were the conclusions and rewards?

Well, Walter was delighted and wanted a copy for an old friend. Nate always greets me now with a thankful smile. Donald, the very gentle one, spoke proudly and warmly when pondering the copies I gave him.

A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.