Portrait Connection

(Artwork above by Mary Medrano | Photography of artwork by Century Effects Photography & submitted by Portrait Connection)

Connecting Art with Children’s Health

If you ask a room full of people to explain the value of art, you may hear all different answers including the power of art to provide relaxation, story-telling, beauty, or peace. But, what about art as a prescription? In the field of medicine, the benefits of art are actually measurable. Scientists can now document improved health benefits when medicine is fused with art.

The founders of “Portrait Connection” knew nothing of this science, when dear friends found themselves facing shocking diagnoses for two children. What the founders did know, was that they wanted to make a meaningful difference for the family. So, they recruited the artistic talent within their own household to paint a joyful portrait of the children.

Everyone learned that the magic of brushstrokes committed to canvas with heart and caring, can transcend emotion, when the children’s mother said, “We hung the portrait where it is the first thing we see in the morning, and it gives us the strength to get through each daily challenge. This is a treasure!” This heartfelt response sparked the founding of Portrait Connection to bring the joy of art to families in medical upheaval.

Being an artist is about far more than simply having talent. The twelve extraordinary artists highlighted below have volunteered time and talent to capture the spirit and courage of local children living with inordinate challenges. While artists choose a career that is often undervalued and market limited, these paragons jumped, without hesitation, at a chance to help families in need.

In addition, special thanks go to Jenny Whelan of “Century Effect Photography” for photographing the portraits and to Layor Art + Supply for hosting an event on April 6th. Hopefully, the kindness that all these individuals, and many others, have shared, will manifest itself in greater recognition for the value of art in medicine, daily life, and local community. Learn more about Portrait Connection at www.portraitconnection.org

Below, each artist has explained what was special about painting a child facing medical challenges:

Sheila Dunn
Sheila’s belief in art’s absolute cultural significance was solidified while studying in Italy. In large, vibrant, figure paintings, Sheila explores the fluid relationship between figure and environment: how each continuously informs and affects the other. Favorites: teaching yoga and exploring the Northwest.
“I’m always amazed that every time I paint a stranger for a commission or special project like this, I end up feeling acquainted with them by the end. Actually, it’s more than that. It’s like his or her spirit ends up shining through the hues of the canvas. I have never met [the little girl], but I know she is a beautiful soul. And it is an immense privilege to capture that radiant spirit for her family.”

Kristen Eisenbraun
Kristen’s unique eye helps her capture the beauty and spirit of individual personalities. Kristen has been developing her skill since childhood and specializes in portraiture. She has painted around the world, and keeps a studio in South Carolina. Favorites: rambling adventures and rugged landscapes.
“A very special part of this project is watching a child’s personality come to life and knowing that it will become a lifelong treasure for the family.”

Karen Eland
Karen has always been a creator and her love of sketching in coffee shops helped her to discover the link between coffee and art. The rich color of espresso caught her eye, so she dipped her brush in. The results sparked a new art form, and now includes beer as a medium, too. Karen lives and explores in Bend.
“The light in my girl’s eyes and smile humbles me. Knowing she’s in pain and suffering at such a young age, yet looking deeply into her smiling face as I paint, I receive perspective and gratitude. I find myself praying for her to be well and able to grow up and share her joyful spirit with this world. I hope this light can come through my work and bless her family as well.”

Ella Eland
Ella, at 14 years of age, brings a youthful peer-to-peer quality to the Portrait Connection project. Self-taught during her young life in beautiful Breckenridge, CO, Ella brings her love of animals, drawing and craft to her painting. She likes to share her art on Instagram @artisteland.
“This has been so special! I have never had an opportunity like this, let alone one so special. Although I was (still am) nervous about making something perfect for them, I am so glad to be able to do something for people who deserve it so much!”

Winnie Givot
Winnie is passionate about watercolor and paints wherever she finds beauty, whether in a face, flower or mountain stream. She finds that watercolor is like a dance, and shares her passion with students. Winnie paints what resonates with her and understands how art feeds us, inspires, and brings us to a new level.
“It is wonderful to be able to share something with a family who has so much to struggle with, to be able to provide them with the support that my painting and Portrait Connection can provide. In the process of creating a portrait, I feel as if I come to know the person, even if I have never met them. Somehow their being comes through while I am painting.”

Travis Knight
Travis began his art in his parents’ studio at a young age and continued painting from life and studying the masters. He captures light, the acute likeness, and the soulful eyes in his personalized portraits. Travis lives in Bend, where he runs Travis Knight Art and creates timeless art.
“Knowing that this painting will evoke a positive feeling for this family makes me incredibly happy. They have to deal with daily challenges that can sometimes dim the light that we take for granted. So, hopefully this painting brings them some joy to help balance out that reality.”

Laurel Knight
Laurel’s talent includes still life, landscapes and impressionism, however realistic portraiture is her deepest love. Her wildlife portraits have been featured in print and television. Laurel lives in Bend, where she enjoys the beauty of the outdoors. At Art by Knight, she showcases art with flexible skills.
“I love being able to witness that innocence and awe of life that children have inherently. And children with special needs seem to shine even more with a lust for life that I wish we all could emulate! Being privileged and honored to paint this child’s portrait, has given me so much joy. Seeing her beautiful smile, is enchanting and her expressions in all her photos convey the happiness she shares. I hope to give back some of the joy that I have experienced in capturing her likeness in painting.”

Mary Medrano
Mary is a self-taught artist inspired by the landscape of Central Oregon. Her work has been showcased across the US and Italy. She lives with her husband in Bend, drawing inspiration from nature and birds. Favorites: hiking, kayaking, gardening, cross-country skiing and family and friends.
“Every time I begin painting on this canvas I think of Eileen and her family and imagine them enveloped in light and love. To be able to contribute to this project is truly amazing. If I can bring even a tiny bit of joy to this family by making this portrait of Eileen, well… it just doesn’t get any better than that. I feel grateful for the opportunity.”

Inga Ojala
Inga utilizes mixed mediums, including natural materials, to give her art depth and effect. Her work includes paintings, murals, and large-scale sculptures. She enjoys spending time in nature and lives in Summerville, OR where she creates art and teaches classes.
“I am blessed to be able to create a portrait of this beautiful child and put her spirit and personality into the portrait. I am so thankful for this opportunity!”

Katherine Taylor
Katherine’s painting style includes jewel colors, strong tonality, and a range of brushwork creating lively, textured art. Mood and lighting support her portraits and landscapes. The result is unique, and often described as “soulful and luminous.” Living in Central Oregon, she teaches and lectures.
“Painting this little girl has been very transformative for me. I’ve often painted portraits of people I’ve never met before, but this little girl was different; as I painted I began to know her spirit, and it was truly astounding. Many emotional moments came up as I attempted to capture her beautiful and unique essence on canvas. I feel I know her now in some special way, though I have yet to meet her.”

Kelly Thiel
Kelly lives with her family in Bend, where she teaches sculpture workshops and owns The Wilds, a co-working space. From an introductory pottery course, Kelly realized that clay was the perfect medium for her art – figurative sculpture. She also paints, finding that the two mediums complement each other well.
“The moment I saw the photos of my subject, I almost felt like I couldn’t breathe. I sat and looked at her for a long time, getting to know her face and her beautiful spirit. As I went through the process of creating her portrait, I fell in love. She always seems so happy in her photographs and I cannot wait to meet this amazing little girl. I hope sharing this sculpture with the family, may add just a little light and love to their lives during many challenges. As a mother to two girls, this project has more meaning to me than I can express. I am so honored to have been able to use my skills to bring this portrait to this family!”

Rodney Thompson
Rodney’s captures the essence of the subject in portraiture with a narrative visible in each brush stroke. His goal is to “bypass the brain and go straight for the heart by emphasizing the eyes, because they speak truthfully from the soul.” Rodney lives in Bend, where he works to tell a story through his art.
“It is a gift to be able to share my work for such a wonderful cause with hope that it might add the smallest bit of light to their days. I can’t fathom what challenges the family is facing on a daily basis. Imagining that has made creating this portrait a learning and humbling experience, one that I’m extremely grateful to be a part of.”

Brooke Walker-Knoblich
Brooke is a classically trained portrait artist who studied her BA under masters in France and Italy. Her art tells a subtle story and captures real-life encounters. Living in Portland, she enjoys painting the people and things that she knows. Brooke merges classical realism aesthetics with contemporary colors.
“This child’s portrait was a very powerful experience for me. I expected this would be difficult – dealing with the painful emotions evoked by a sick child and the pressure of this painting’s role in the family’s life. But the exact opposite was true. This child has so much joy and spirit that the painting came together almost effortlessly, like magic. I think his clear happiness is a reflection of how well loved he is by his family and so I wanted his portrait to reflect that. I can’t think of a more meaningful avenue for my life’s work than to create joyful, healing artwork for struggling families.”

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