Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 7, 2018
Young artist connects with renowned Obama portraitist
Nine-year-old Jemima Fitzpatrick shows her portrait of actress Lupita Nyong’o, which grabbed the eye of Michelle Obama’s official portraitist.
by Anne Berleant
Social media creates connections between those who might otherwise never meet, and for Blue Hill Consolidated School fourth grader Jemima Fitzpatrick, this meant a one-on-one with a famous artist.
Jemima connected with Amy Sherald for a one-hour FaceTime session on May 21 after Sherald, who painted the official portrait of Michelle Obama that hangs in the Smithsonian Gallery, saw a portrait Jemima had drawn.
“We follow a lot of artists on Instagram, and sometimes when [Jemima] does something amazing, I send it to a couple people,” said her mother, Libby Edwardson.
One of those pieces was a portrait Jemima drew of actress Lupita Nyong’o, which found its way to Sherald.
“[Sherald] contacted me and was incredulous that she was 9,” Edwardson said. “The next day she had her assistant set up a FaceTime [session].”
Jemima spoke with Sherald for about an hour over the video-telephone application.
“I was super-duper excited and happy,” Jemima said. “But super nervous at the same time.”
One thing Jemima found out is that well-known artists can be like anyone else.
“She’s been so famous but she was a normal person,” Jemima said. Sherald described her own path as an artist to Jemima, who said: “First she started drawing, then she started painting, but her mother wanted her to do music.” Sherald returned to art in college and became mainly self-taught, Jemima said.
Jemima, who has been drawing since she was 3, said she gets encouragement and support at home. “I draw every day. When I was littler, my favorite thing to draw was My Little Pony. When I got older, it was anime. At this age, I do portraits. They’re really pretty and I was attracted to them.”
Jemima draws her portraits from reference pictures, and after first drawing white and Asian subjects, she now draws black people. “I thought they were really pretty and caught the light and shadow,” she said.
Jemima has ventured into oil painting—just a bit, she said—but noted that “the more I practice, the better I get.”
And, when her drawings are going well, she said, “I feel happy. I feel like I’m doing a good job and I feel good inside.”