Why I Make Art

A human person is an embodied soul – an apparently contradictory combination of spirit and body. Our lives are finite, yet our souls are eternal.

As an artist, I address this tension by focusing on memory and unity. I seek to remember loved ones and represent the human form primarily in photography and charcoal drawings.

Images are crucial to memory, because they evoke associations and clarify the past. Every piece of art I create holds a fragment of time in its colors and shapes.

Photographs are unique in that they record an instant of detail and activity. The shutter snatches from time and space the precise shape of my mother’s face, the sweater I wore in 7th grade, the collection of friends gathered in my living room at 2 a.m. These moments are precious to me as a person, because they have touched my everlasting soul with their passing.

As an artist, I strive to record not just the flat data but the life that animated it. I wrestle with lighting, timing, catching a laugh in an unguarded moment, recording the scene without disrupting it. Much of my photography occupies the space between environmental portraits and photojournalism, in which I observe the momentous events of familiar lives.

Despite the mechanical nature of cameras, photography allows for a range of expression and interpretation comparable with charcoal drawings. In the field of portraiture, I look to the work of Yousuf Karsh for inspiration. An internationally recognized film photographer of the 20th century, he excelled in representing his subjects as essentially human while drawing out their unique personal traits.

In charcoal drawings, I balance my attempts to simplify the patterns of light and shadow with an attention to the fine details that distinguish a likeness: the glint of light on the lower eyelid, the slope of the upper lip. I enjoy strong contrast lighting because it cloaks much of the face in shadow while spotlighting certain key features.

This combination of specifics and abstractions points back to the paradoxical nature of human beings, who are both earthly and divine. I aspire to unify these qualities. My prayer is that my work ultimately reflects the beauty of beings created in the image of God.

Author: Kittie Helmick

Kittie Helmick studied Comparative Literature and Critical Translation at the University of Oxford, after serving with the Peace Corps in South Africa. Her desire to speak truth in grace led her to found Salt and Iron: Seasoned Writing and its predecessor GoodTrueBeautiful. She has also published critiques of pop culture on The Critic, The Federalist, and Patheos.

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