The portraits of Sarah

Sarah Walsh—an artist from Kansas City in the US—illustrated the book HerStory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World. Here, she tells us about this project.

How long did it take you to make 50 portraits?
“I was on a fast-track schedule. It took me six months to illustrate them all. I had to do a lot of research. The designer of the book made a layout and we would discuss the portraits together. We wanted to showcase what the heart of every woman was.”

Was it a difficult job to draw these women?
“Yes, painting real humans is difficult and these women were all very important and historical. I wanted to do it right and I was so afraid to do things wrong. That part drove me nuts. I had to change the color of Queen Elizabeth I’s dress, because the shade of blue I used didn’t exist in that time. I looked at pictures on the Internet, but there is only so much research you can do. But this project was also a lot of fun to do. Drawing all these women with their cool clothes and beautiful colors. The style of this book is more conservative to what I normally do. I like to do different things, and this was definitely a stretch for me.”

Whose story made a big impression on you?
“When I was reading all the stories at my kitchen table I couldn’t believe some of them. Some stories are famous but some of them were new to me. I was surprised how amazing these women were. Not only did they survive their situation, but they also thrived and helped other people. Like Harriet Tubman, she risked her life saving other people. I felt quite shaken when I drew her, because I thought about how she might have been feeling. I gave her a look of determination and fear at the same time. But it is so hard to draw people’s faces. There are so many ways that you can mess it up.”

Do you illustrate a lot of books?
“Yes. I’ve been doing this work for almost twenty years now, so I am pretty fast. The work does take its toll on my body, though. That is why I do yoga once a week and I try to stretch as much as possible. I also go to massages and a chiropractor to keep it all together. Doing yoga has made me aware more of my body and how it is feeling. So, when I am doing these large book jobs, I take a lot of breaks. But the projects are so fun, so it comes easy most of the time.”

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