Meet Alicia!

Alicia is another one of the wonderful strangers I met in my neighborhood. Back on a beautiful Sunday in October my husband and I went for a walk and having reached the farthest point were sitting on our favorite bench. A family of three was walking towards us, probably returning from a church – all dressed up and looking very proper. The woman looked remarkably interesting, but even though I had my camera with me I felt too shy somehow to do something about it.

But I must have been still staring, because to my surprise the woman walked up to me and gave me her card. “You look like nice people,” she said, “here’s my number if you need your house cleaned or any other help.” At this point I had no excuse. “Would you let me take your picture for a portrait?” I asked and proceeded to explain this whole business of 40 portraits. The entire family was greatly entertained. “Mama – the art model!” the son was laughing. Alicia herself was so amused by this concept that she doubled over in laughter, my first shot showed a nice brick building behind her. But we all pulled ourselves together and managed to take a few more shots, now with Alicia in them.

Time and again during these months of collecting faces for portraits I have seen this happening. The amazing, wonderful, remarkable people I see cannot comprehend why anyone would want to do their portraits. Is it because they do not realize how beautiful they are? Is it because they are not movie stars, but instead clean houses or work in garages? At my vet’s clinic there is a receptionist who has eyes of St. Frances, but she declined a portrait. “Nobody wants my mug shot,” she told me with conviction. Well, I do! But I couldn’t persuade her.

Alicia and I had a hug and parted friends. I haven’t seen her since, except for this portrait, but I may still. We live in the same neighborhood.

#36 of 40. Graphite, Moleskine Cahier sketchbook

Share this:


  1. Reply
    Carol King December 8, 2010

    another wonderful story to go with a wonderful portrait! You have not only an artistic gift, but you can see the beauty in people who many not think of themselves as beautiful.

    • Reply
      Alex Zonis December 9, 2010

      Thank you, Carol! That chance meeting with Alicia made me think about these things. How strange our perceptions are: we all see the same person, yet all react so differently. The idea that his old mother was going to be photographed for art seemed preposterous to that young man. Her husband may have found her beautiful at some point, perhaps still does. My husband didn’t notice anything exceptional in her face until the portrait was finished, then he saw the character. Interesting how it works. Perhaps it is our job as artists to dig this beauty out, dust it off, clarify it for other people to see? Or am I being presumptuous?

  2. Reply
    Tom December 9, 2010


    I have been contemplating upon your ability to see beauty for a while now. It, beauty, is such an elusive concept; surely in the eye of the beholder, but I believe more so in the eye of the beholden. The story associated with this post brings out that point, for when your subject realizes how you see them they become beautiful.

    Alex have that gift, to see everyone as they are, a beautiful creation. And the god’s were not satisfied with giving you that gift, they also gave you the gift of prophesy so you can tell people how beautiful they are.

    And then you share that view with us, the mere folks who fight Hollywood’s plastic view of beauty. Please don’t stop at 40.

    Warm Regards from an admirer of you and your work down under.

    • Reply
      Alex Zonis December 9, 2010

      Thank you for your wonderful thoughtfulness, Tom! Although you made me sound a bit like an evangelist, a role that I am not ready for :). But I know what you meant, we talked about this before – people live into your listening, or in this case into your seeing.

      I am not stopping at 40, but I am planning a bit of a break when this project is finished. 40 portraits in 4 months have worn me out. I will take a little time to reassess and come up with new ideas.

  3. Reply
    Nicola (Pointypix) December 9, 2010

    Alex – wow!! I’ve just looked through the drawings right back to Eddie Sr which was the last I saw before our trip. These just keep getting better and better. I absolutely love the one of your daughter – the movement in her fabulous long curls! And Gabriel who reminds me a little of Robert De Niro. As for Sami – the likeness is exceptional and I have to ask is he really tall or are you really petite??
    You have such a lovely way with words – each time I read the background to your model it’s just like taking a leisurely stroll down the streets where you live – your descriptions just bring it all to life and make the reader feel like we actually know your friends, neighbours and even Alicia, the stranger!

    • Reply
      Alex Zonis December 9, 2010

      Welcome back, Nicola! Great to see you! I am tickled pink to hear you think the portraits are getting better – that was the whole point of taking up this project :D! Although by now the project and its people have taken on a life of their own. I will definitely miss it when it is finished. I like writing up descriptions, like a way for me to remember. Besides I think many of these encounters were interesting in a small snapshot way. Glad you are enjoying them.

      To answer your question – it’s both: Sami is indeed rather tall, and I am really petite, exactly 5 feet tall (150 cm).

  4. Reply
    lesliepaints December 10, 2010

    I’m a bit behind, Alex. This is spontaneous and “in the moment”. You are growing so fast in capturing revealing and interesting portraiture. I would say your sketchbook will be very interesting for anyone who picks it up and views it through this project. Wonderful.

    • Reply
      Alex Zonis December 11, 2010

      Thank you, Leslie! Hey, no need to explain, you have been following these development so diligently, it is amazing! I really appreciate – hugs!

  5. Reply
    lindahalcombfineart December 11, 2010

    Alex, I think it is because we are so self concious when having our pictures taken let alone when some one wants to draw our portrait. We are so focused on celebrity and fame that we have lost sight of integrity and character as elements of beauty. Your protrait is wonderful and all I can say is “You go girl!”

    • Reply
      Alex Zonis December 11, 2010

      I think you hit the nail on the head, Linda! Your comment rang true immediately. Tom mentioned the Hollywood plastic earlier on this thread, but you finalized it – “we have lost sight of integrity and character as elements of beauty.” That’s it! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social Network Widget by Acurax Small Business Website Designers