Several months ago, I got this idea for a new painting project as I was browsing online. By means I can't recall, I found myself looking through a gallery of quite humorous mugshots. While I was scrolling through these rather amusing faces, I couldn't help but think what great paintings some of them would make.
I've always loved doing portraits of people with expressive faces. It doesn't matter whether it's happy, sad, or angry. As long as it shows personality. I love facial expressions that remind us of people in our own families, or our friends, or other acquaintances. I love how a certain facial expression can stir up our emotions. And depending on the face, a mugshot can be a great example of those expressive qualities.
How amazing is it that we can sense a very particular mood or emotion simply by looking at a picture of a facial expression? We can just know what the person is thinking or feeling in that moment by the way their brow furrows, by how their eyes look, or by the way they've positioned their mouth.
I have to admit, this series started out as an idea for something kind of amusing. It was just going to be something lighthearted where I'd use mugshots as the portrait references against some kind of fun, juxtaposed background. But something just wasn't right about it. Honestly, I almost scrapped the whole mugshot idea altogether. I thought it was beneath me and my purpose as an artist. It may have been entertaining for a while, but would have gotten old quickly. But most of all, God would have no glory in it.
So then it hit me... What if I took this in a whole different direction? Is it possible to see these individuals with the same eyes that God sees them? They are perhaps at their lowest point in life, and I certainly don't condone the crimes they've been charged with... Especially if a victim is directly involved. Guilty or not, they are in a place where their lives have been tarnished by something. They have sinned. And I believe that God has a message for each and every one of them.
I believe, in the words of my pastor, that God loves us just as we are, but He never intends for us to remain just as we are. Some of the subjects I've chosen for this series have been charged with some serious offenses... from assault to drug trafficking, and from prostitution to first degree murder. The challenge for me personally with this series is simply this: Can I see them as God sees them? If they are guilty of victimizing another person, can I sincerely pray for them to be transformed by God? It's so easy to look at their faces and read the charges they've been brought up on, and to decide at that point what I think of them. But what would God say to them if they were standing face to face with Him?
I know only three things about each of these individuals: The crimes they've been charged with, what their mugshots look like, and the fact that they are all the works of God's hand. I believe a drug addict can be convicted and transformed by God because I know one personally that has. I believe a prostitute can be convicted and transformed by God because I've heard testimony by those that have. I believe a murderer can be convicted and transformed by God because I've read about those that have.
Perhaps we're all familiar with such a testimony of someone who was once lost, and then was found. Each painting in this series is the "before" of what may one day, God willing, become an "after." But I make no attempt at sugarcoating their charges, or making their faces prettier. In some cases, the realism of the series presents itself as, quite literally, the ugly truth. Some will be a little funny, a little sad, or perhaps a little scary. I'm hoping that they will evoke different feelings for you, the viewer. You may be angered by some. You may feel empathy for others. You may pity others.
My hope for every painting in the series is that they may be visual prayers for the subjects, their victims if there were any, and for God's complete transformation in their lives. Prayers that they may one day be profoundly convicted.