Artist draws portraits of marginalized people to inspire unity and love
All images courtesy of Tyler Feder.
On the day after the election, illustrator Tyler Feder of Chicago woke up feeling heartbroken and scared. Like many who voted against Donald Trump, she feared what his presidency would mean for women, Muslims, immigrants and others about whom he had lobbed insults and invectives throughout his campaign.
Faced with his win, Feder also felt numb, she told ivoh in an email this week.
But she managed to move anyway. Picking up a pencil that said “write from your heart,” she scribbled a question: “Hey marginalized people, Can I draw you today?”
Within hours, the selfies came pouring in.
The task for Feder, who is herself a Jewish woman living with mental illness, was clear: to make marginalized people feel valued after months of hearing the opposite message from Trump.
“I needed to channel (my) emotions into something productive,” said Feder. “As someone who struggles with an anxiety disorder, making phone calls or marching in a protest weren’t options for me, but extending kindness to people who were hurting, using art, was something that worked.”
Feder spent the morning and afternoon drawing with her Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet and a design program called Acorn. Although she usually listens to a podcast or watches TV while illustrating, on this day she worked in silence.
“The whole process was really emotional for me,” she said. “I choked up every time I scrolled through the tag and saw all of these beautiful faces. One portrait, of a young woman of color with her little sister was especially emotional because the sister was so young. The thought that this kid, still in braces, gets to grow up in this dangerous political climate was really hard to process.”
One by one, Feder posted the watercolor-like portraits to Instagram. Some of the illustrations were accented by small hearts, while in others, energetic lines radiated out from the faces. In the captions, she tagged the subjects with affirmative descriptors such as “bright light,” “the glowing,” and “the brilliant.” She also sent free, high-resolution copies to the subjects.
By nightfall last Wednesday, Feder had created 20 portraits and received 550 requests through #drawmetyler. Since then, she has done 35 more portraits, fitting them in among a busy freelance schedule.
“I’ve been trying to represent a good variety of people and not to do two similar-looking people in a row. I also seek out people who are marginalized on more than one level, like women of color who are also LGBTQ+,” she said.
In response to her artwork, Feder received a flood of positive comments and gratitude, from the participants themselves as well as other viewers.
One participant, for example, commented: “Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to do this while as a country, we’ve been pulled into different directions and so many people have been hurting. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face as well as so many others.”
Such responses, in turn, have lifted Feder’s spirit. “One young woman reached out to me privately and asked me if I could draw her partner, if drawing the two of them was too much work. I was so honored to be able to help her comfort someone she clearly cared about so deeply, and I drew them both,” she said.
Sending a message through illustration is not new for Feder. Her “Pussies against Trump” design appears on T-shirts at feministapparel.com, and her Instagram feed in recent months included celebratory drawings of Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as Michelle Obama. But the portraits she made in the past week do more than express a political belief. They showcase how social media can be used to unite, rather than divide.
That’s a power Feder has seen from the other side. “Even on my worst anxiety days, when I have trouble leaving my apartment, I have friends I’ve met on tumblr and li.st cheering me on,” she said. “I only hope that this project can offer other people that same comfort.”
Feder is working on more portraits and hopes to compile them into a different piece to sell for a yet-to-be-determined charity. “I pour a lot of love into my artwork, and I hope that my portrait subjects, and those who are following the project, are able to feel that love,” she said.
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