What is this all about?
In a word: kindness. In more words, read on...
Who are you?
Like you and everyone else, I'm a lot of things. You can learn much more about me at https://www.ineffable-solutions.com/about. But, the part that is probably most interesting and relevant to you, here, and now is: I'm an artist who enjoys drawing.
I've been drawing, doodling, and cartooning since I was a kid. For decades, I've bored and entertained my family and friends with my fun, informal art. However, I've never been a "professional artist"; it has never been my full-time job. Instead, I spent 25 years in IT/QA, and am now a public speaker.
And then 2020 happened.
Since the pandemic began, my job has largely been on hold. Hopefully that changes soon, but in the meantime - to keep myself busy and sane - I've returned to my past passion: drawing.
Why do you draw strangers?
But either way, each drawing is always intended as a small gift - a random act of kindness to a total stranger.
But there are other reasons, too. In addition to keeping me busy and sane, I also draw strangers as practice ("...makes perfect") and for fun (I enjoy it).
Where do you find strangers?
For those that request it, I find a good photo candidate posted on RedditGetsDrawn [reddit.com].
For those that don't request it, read on...
What is the "Favorite Drawing of Me" project?
In January 2021, a friend posted their favorite photograph of themselves online. I saw it and decided to surprise them by drawing them. The entire experience and their positive reaction inspired me to start a small, personal project: I'd find totally random strangers on Twitter that publicly posted their self-described "favorite photo of themselves"...and I'd surprise them by drawing them - for them, for practice, for fun, and for free. But, soon after I started the project I discovered another reason to draw strangers: for perspective.
For each drawing, I'd always begin by searching Twitter for the phrase "favorite photo of me" (and dozens of variations). This returned many results with new photos posted every hour. Then, I'd start browsing - looking for photos of strangers that were interesting, funny, poignant, artistic... Anything that inspired me. And when I found one that seemed like a good candidate, I'd then learn a little bit about the stranger. I'd explore the strangers Twitter feed, I'd read the past few days/weeks/months of their posts and replies, I'd visit any websites they had linked, and I'd check out any other social media presence they had listed. All this was to 1) try and get a feel for the person to help inspire my drawing of them, and 2) to avoid drawing jerks. I hate jerks.
But, I soon realized that all this was also giving me a tiny peek into their lives. I was learning about interesting people all around the world! It gave me insight into what others thought and how they lived. It broadened my horizon. It allowed me to see and learn things that I might not have seen or learned otherwise. I read joyful Tweets, mundane ones, and heartbreaking ones. I discovered incredible introverts and insufferable narcissists. I read about cancer survivors and loss. And, it was all amazing.
In my experience, whether we know it or not, most of us live in bubbles - perceiving and caring mostly (or only!) for that which we are aware of or know. And that affects our behavior - how we think, act, and react. And this project - specifically "learning about a stranger" - helped me see outside of my own, various bubbles and into the bubbles of others. It helped give me a better sense of perspective, which in turn helped me improve my own communication skills, empathy, and many other important traits.
The entire project was innocently conceived, wholly wholesome, and simply intended as small, random acts of kindness for total strangers.
Unfortunately, that isn't how it was often received or perceived...
Between January and March 2021, I drew 100 strangers as part of my "Favorite Drawing of Me" project. Roughly half of the strangers I drew seemed surprised, grateful, flattered, and happy. And I was happy if they were happy! It was a real pleasure when I was able to bring a little joy to a complete stranger. Success!
But the other half...not so much. About 50% of the strangers I drew never acknowledged the drawing. Further, a few of the strangers - and even some uninvolved bystanders - were actually offended. I understand that "you can't please all the people all the time", and I can't control how people react. And, although I had no formal plan or set expectations for this little project, I was still disappointed with some of the reactions since I was merely trying to spread a little joy in a stressful time. A 50% success rate might be fine for some things. But for this project, a 50% "spreading joy rate" seemed low to me.
And so, I stopped.
I kinda get it, I suppose... Although, the fact that "learning a little about a stranger" and/or "gifting a stranger a surprise drawing of their favorite photo of themselves" is sometimes seen as creepy and met with skepticism - and sometimes even vitriol - makes me sad. IMHO, there's too little kindness in the world today. But, I'll find other ways to offer it.
How do you draw strangers?
Although I've primarily used pen and paper for most of my life, in 2020 I tried and switched to digital art.
Once I've selected a photo, I download and reference the photo on my PC and draw on my iPad. I use Sketches Pro by Tayasui (awesome app, awful support) and a stylus. Sometimes I begin with a simple line trace and add detail as I go, but other times I free-hand it all. It just depends...
Yes! If you're interested in checking out some of my other, "non-stranger based" artwork, you can view my full portfolio at https://www.ineffable-solutions.com/portfolio.
Also, I wrote and illustrated a children's book, "Hank and Stella in Something from Nothing" - an engaging story with cute characters that introduces children to a few, fundamental improv "rules" - principles and skills that are as useful on stage as they are at play and in life. The book is written in rhyme and has plenty of bright, fun illustrations so kids will laugh while they learn. So, if you've got (or teach!) little ones or enjoy improv, you might be interested. You can read it all for free at HankAndStellaBooks.com. I'm currently working on the sequel tentatively titled, "Hank and Stella in Another Way to Know" that intends to teach kids to think and act for themselves; to inspire exploration and get them excited about critical thinking.
Thanks for reading, and Cheers!