Live Portraits at the Speak Out fundraiser for mental health education

It’s still surreal that I am being hired to draw portraits. The idea to draw at events came to me like a beacon of joy, but usually my ideas stay in notebooks—you know, where ideas live until the day we become magically bold enough to do something about them. This crazy plan was so exhilarating to me that I had to put it out there. I love talking and listening to people, I love trying to draw faces, I love making things fun, and I’ve been to so many parties where I wished there was a little extra something that offered people a moment of special attention and a break from small talk if they needed it.

Saturday was a particularly meaningful day for me because it was the first time I drew at an event where many of my friends were present—AND the event was for such a rad cause. Lauren Wilson started Speak Out to create education and resources around mental health. When she DMed me to see if I was free to draw at their second annual fundraiser, I was stoked. What she’s doing is so important, and she gave me the opportunity to join forces. She started Speak Out to see healing happen in communities. And believe it or not, that’s one of the reasons I started drawing portraits of strangers in public, before I even thought to start a business. I believe that physical presence and true listening have the power to heal and strengthen our spirits.


As I walked into the event space at Cup & Bar, a bunch of awesome women were arranging art for the auction, bringing in beautiful flowers and making sure everything was ready. At my own little table in the corner, I arranged my sign and my paper and pens. As soon as the first two women sat across from me, time began to fly by, face-by-face, conversation-by-conversation, until we had a little wall of portraits behind my table that represented a wide variety of conversations: about people’s interests and passions, philosophy and the Blazers.

speak out gallery

The depth and beauty within each person never ceases to amaze me. Take a complete stranger, talk to them for five minutes, and by the time I’m done with their portrait I always wish we had another hour. Humans are glorious. Their stories, their spirits—and quite often, their eyebrows. 

Do you have a crazy idea living in your notebook? What would happen if you told your community about it?

Karlee PattonComment