NAHS goes global with its orphan portraits

The orphan portraits drawn by junior Thea Hennessy (far right and far left) and junior Megan McPhillips (center). The project helps the artists to gain confidence in their realistic drawing abilities. 
Submitted by Mrs. Kelly McBrien

By Kaitlyn Resline       

Student Life Editor

A few members of the National Art Honor Society wait patiently in the room of Art 2, talking among themselves. Ms. Kelly McBrien, the NAHS adviser, lets each student pick a photo of an orphan they want to draw. Scanning their photos, the students begin to work on their portraits, which will share their gifts and talents with children from around the world.

The project is part of The Memory Project, a national movement founded by Ben Schumaker in 2004. It gives high school artists the opportunity create portraits of the orphans that will then be delivered to the children.

Different artists go about drawing the orphans in various ways. The only given information besides the photo are the child’s age, name, and favorite color. 

“I sketch the orphan and then add shading and lighting with normal graphite pencils,” junior NAHS member Megan McPhillips said. “Then add a bit of the child’s favorite color into the portrait.”

Thea Hennessy, another junior NAHS member goes about the process in a different way. She likes to use her realistic drawing skills to match the picture as closely as possible, but the process often varies. 

“As for the medium I use, I tend to experiment with that,” Hennessy said. “So far I have done digital process, colored pencils, watercolor, graphite, and I’ve recently did a pen and ink one.”  

The project produces many benefits, including creating a unique drawing that maintains the integrity of the photo. However, the greatest benefit is seeing the kids’ reactions in videos.

“All the kids look so happy and love looking at the backs where a picture of the artist is to see who drew them from miles away,” said McPhillips. “Art goes beyond language, and many of these children don’t speak any English, but still get excited and understand what they’re looking at.”

Mrs. McBrien explained it as the NAHS’ way of being involved in something bigger than themselves and the school. Usually, the NAHS projects relate to the school or local community only, but this project has a worldwide impact. 

“It’s kind of like the layers of an onion,” said Mrs. McBrien. “The NAHS looks at themselves as the core group, the next ring is the school, then it’s county, state, and global. This is their global initiative.” 

Hennessy and McPhillips both noted the sense of accomplishment they felt after finishing the portraits. They liked how the project allowed them to bring joy to kids all over the world. 

“The main reason why I do this project is for the kids,” said Hennessy. “We often try to give the portraits to orphanages that are in areas that need a reason to smile.”

McPhillips talked about how the portraits serve as keepsakes, something for the kids to keep for as long as they wish. The project has a personal value to it. 

“A lot of these kids don’t have much, but they still find joy in, what seems to a lot of us, the little things,” said McPhillips. “That is something I will always respect.”

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