Rock Portraiture by Kathy Sullivan, 2016-present
Format: colored pencil/marker on Strathmore paper
Notable Quote: “Music for me has always been a saving grace. It’s gotten me through a lot from childhood on. So to combine music and drawing was just a natural development. It’s definitely personal.” ~ Kathy Sullivan
My quick 2 cents: Kathy Sullivan brings light and life to the portraits of those we love most, creating vibrant images that will touch your heart. Buy it!
The full scoop: I discovered Kathy’s amazing artwork when she posted a drawing she did of my all-time favorite singer and bass player, Benjamin Orr of The Cars. His image was, of course, immediately recognizable to me, but it wasn’t like it was just ‘close enough’ for me to tell it was Ben. It was the way she brought to life the expression in his heavy-lidded eyes and the corner of his mouth, and how she perfected the texture of his hair, the detail in the microphone. She managed to harness the essence of Ben so completely that he jumped off the page. It was just that good, that real.
And that’s why Kathy’s art impacts people. By capturing that vibrant spark of life in a person who affects us so deeply, and then releasing it onto her canvas, she proves herself to be a kindred spirit with the ability to give us a treasured image more personal than a photograph; something softer, more tangible somehow. Something that goes straight to the heart.
A born-and-raised New Englander, Kathy’s desire to draw would emerge every few years as she made her way through adulthood, but she didn’t pursue it seriously until 2016. Her initial intentions were to just take commissions from people and draw whatever they wanted her to draw. But all that changed with the death of Chris Cornell on May 18, 2017. His passing impacted her deeply and she dealt with the loss by putting on his music and drawing him from one of her favorite photos.
That black and white pencil drawing would turn out to be pivotal for Kathy’s career. Drummer Justin Pacy used it on his promotional materials for the highly successful tribute show, All Night Thing. He also invited Kathy to bring her drawings to sell at the event, and her exposure and audience received a huge boost.
The act of drawing Chris was a healing exercise for Kathy, and the finished portrait opened up a platform for her to expand her audience, but ultimately – and even more telling – it gave Kathy an inspired sense of direction. She said in our recent interview for Standing Room Only, “I realized how many musicians we’ve lost that I wanted to pay tribute to. I’ve done many but there are still so many left to do! I think people really like to have a drawing of their favorite musicians that have passed, like having a small piece of them to hang onto.”
Kathy’s extensive portfolio captures icons like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Janis Joplin, BB King, Prince, Lemmy of Motorhead, Gregg Allman, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, Randy Rhoades, Amy Winehouse… the list goes on and on. She gets many requests for living artists as well, including James Hetfield, Steven Tyler, Brett Michael, Stevie Nicks and Deborah Harry.
In addition to following her own interests and emotions in choosing her subjects, Kathy also takes on commissions from people who request drawings of their loved ones, heroes and pets.
If you, too, are moved by the depth and honesty of Kathy’s art, visit her website: www.kathysullivandrawings.com, or find her on Etsy.com under her shop named Sullika. You can order prints of drawings she’s already done or request a unique piece just for you!
BONUS: Take a minute to watch this cool time-lapse video of Kathy creating her stunning portrait of Barry Gibb!