Learning Computer Graphics – For Healing

Robin botie of Ithaca, New York, uses Adobe Acrobat Illustrator and Photoshop to create a vector portrait of her daughter Marika Warden who died of leukemia.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?



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8 thoughts on “Learning Computer Graphics – For Healing

  1. Elaine Mansfield

    You know I love it because I already shared it. It reveals both Marika and you. Thank you.

    At the moment, I’m trying to write a few daring things, but sometimes simply letting myself be without any goals is the most daring and difficult thing I can do. I’m not good at it.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yes, thanks for sharing, Elaine. You really think it “reveals” me? It was really Marika’s courage and daring that kept me going. Letting myself “be” without goals is definitely terrifying. Yes, most “daring and difficult.” Not good at it either. But, yow, does it feel good when we dip a toe into trying. I’m wondering about what daring things you might be writing. At this age we ought to be able to be adventurous in our writing. Honest. Unafraid. Don’t say, “Not good at it.” We simply need to get our feet wet and then practice (with one eye on our safety as practicing being daring could be dangerous to one’s health). Wishing you luck.

  2. Lynne Taetzsch

    Good for you, Robin–what a challenge!

    After my husband Adrian died, I took up the piano. It was also an opportunity to share the experiences with my granddaughter since I took her to lessons anyway. So at 70 I started piano lessons for the first time. It was very hard for me, easy for my granddaughter. But the important thing was the sharing and even playing duets together eventually.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I love that, Lynne. Taking up piano at 70, to share with your granddaughter. Oh to be able to duet with a granddaughter. Looks like you got a grip on the important things. I still regret all the times Marika wanted to duet with me, play chopsticks, sing with me – and I quit as soon as I could, being too busy, too clueless about the important thing. Cheers!

  3. Monica

    Last Fall I traveled to Italy solo. It is unlikely I would have ever done that had it not been for my departed daughter’s fearlessness. I also wanted to experience the life she wanted. That travel experience has had a direct impact on decisions for what’s next for me.

    Robin, I love your vector image and am amazed at how you’ve captured her spirit.

    1. Robin Botie Post author

      It’s amazing where we can go when we allow our daughters to lead us, Monica. Even day-to-ordinary-day I grow and am expanded by the ways Marika lived and would have approached the situation at hand. Sounds like Lena was fearless too. It’s so exquisitely powerful that we can draw on our daughters’ strengths.
      I’m going to try simplifying the shapes of the vector portrait to see how much I can erase without losing the essence of my daughter. Kind of the opposite of what I’ve been doing the past years, building up as much as I can of Marika inside myself so I can capture as much as possible of her essence.

  4. Annette Corth

    Wow, Robin! I love it!

    Great shapes and colors! It has much greater impact than a regular photo. Here’s one image more than worthy of being printed and framed. Kudos for hanging in there with the tech side of the process. I’m proud of you.


    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Still trembling remembering how lost I was doing this. Not done with it yet though. Thinking I can improve on it this week as I try to come back to it and make the colors and shapes more – well, less “in-your-face bold. Just don’t expect that I’m ever going to try this vector portrait thing again on you, Annette. But thanks for appreciating it. Guess I can stop hyperventilating now finally.


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