This is a vector portrait of my daughter Marika Joy Warden who was an aspiring young writer before she died of complications from cancer. It looks simple. But it took me forever to draw. Every shadow and highlight was painstakingly plotted out with a computer mouse-operated “pen tool” in the Adobe Acrobat Illustrator program.
Vector art is based on complex computer-generated mathematical equations that keep track of the relationships between every point, line, and shape in a composition. Every detail has to be traced out individually into a new shape. So highly detailed work is too time-consuming or impossible to create. Hence, vector portraits look like cartoon caricatures.
Six years ago, other than emailing, I had little use for computers. Technologically challenged, I would never have attempted anything like this. But when Marika died, one of the ways I found to cope with my grief was to “invite her into my life.” So I explored some of the things she loved that were foreign to me, and tried to adopt them in order to become more like her. She wrote, so I wrote. Writing led to blogging, which led to Facebook and wanting to illustrate what I wrote using photography, which led me to Photoshop. It should have stopped there; I was living the life Marika would have loved, spending hours on social media sites, writing and photographing. But the Marika-In-Me somehow got me to enroll in a Computer Graphics course at Tompkins-Cortland Community College. Since January I’ve been subjecting myself to weekly cranial electroshocking in a small class of talented techie guys and our very patient instructor, Christine Shanks. And the Illustrator program which makes learning Japanese look easy.
It was so difficult, my head hurt. Close to tears and tearing my hair out, I begged for help at every step of the way on this vector portrait project. But I kept going because it was to be for Marika’s birthday. Also, I believe challenging oneself can be healing. And as I worked I saw her eyes. The hazel eyes I love and miss. Even converted into strange shapes, points and vectors, they were still her eyes. They stared back at me, smiling, all the while. Like they were touching me from heaven.
Happy birthday Marika. Wherever you are. Thanks for making me a bigger person.
Does anyone else do something they’re proud of or maybe terrified of, to honor a dead loved one? What were you doing when you last wondered, what am I doing here?