Artist Paints Veterans' Portraits in Vivid Strokes

Jim Galloway i i

Artist Sally Lincoln and Vietnam veteran Jim Galloway with the portait she painted of him. Shanna Lewis hide caption

itoggle caption Shanna Lewis
Jim Galloway

Artist Sally Lincoln and Vietnam veteran Jim Galloway with the portait she painted of him.

Shanna Lewis

Sally Lincoln doesn't think you need to be the queen of England or the Mona Lisa to have your portrait painted.

The portrait artist has been going to the Veteran's Administration Nursing Home and Care Unit in Denver to paint portraits of the residents and patients. Her work — done at no charge — has had an emotional impact on the veterans and the staff at the facility.

Jim Galloway, a 62-year-old Vietnam veteran, sits for two hours as Lincoln paints him in colorful strokes. Lincoln uses a small sketch book to sketch him in pencil before shifting to her easel. Galloway — balding, with glasses, blue eyes and a ruddy complexion — rests in his wheelchair under a blue, patterned blanket. When Lincoln is finished, Galloway says he's delighted with the portrait.

At first, it took a while for the vets to get comfortable with the idea of having their portraits painted. Now, recreation therapist Donna Lonergan says she has a list of vets who want their portraits painted. Lonergan says patients emerge from their beds to watch Lincoln work.

"She's a magnet, she draws people in, she draws in the residents, the doctors, the physicians, the nursing staff, the friends and family, the visitors — everybody is kind of captivated by her and what she's doing," Lonergan says.

Lincoln says she's addicted to her work and how it affects people.

"People look at the people I paint differently after I've painted them," Lincoln said. "And I think, to me, it seems that's the whole story of art — making people see things differently from the way they did before ... they're not people who would've ever thought of having a painting done of themselves."

Surrounded by the daily activity of the nursing home, Lincoln paints intently, interrupted occasionally by people passing by making comments and asking questions. Her portraits are alive with color — bright greens, blues and purples highlight the nuances of her subjects' faces and their expressions. Lincoln says painting portraits has a certain magic to it.

"It's something about the healing power of art. It's something to do with re-presenting people to themselves," Lincoln says.

Earl Steward III has his portrait hanging in his room above his bed. The 52-year-old former Air Force teletype maintenance technician is one of 50 veterans Lincoln has painted.

"I kind of wanted to know what the rest of the world looked and saw me as," Steward said. "And I could see some different things that I didn't see about myself, which was good and I appreciated that."

Lincoln isn't stopping at the Denver veteran's nursing home. She hopes to get permission to paint portraits of wounded vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the meantime, she's learning Arabic with the intention of someday going to Iraq to paint portraits of people there.

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