Akron artist John Sokol has been looking at pictures of Barack Obama lately. After studying the photos, he made an image of the presidential candidate.
Sokol, 60, calls the pieces word portraits, because they combine words the subject of the drawing has written with a sketch of the subject.
In more than three decades, he has made 150 word portraits of writers, but only one of a politician, Obama — who happens to also be a writer.
Q: How did you get started doing the word portraits?
A: I always have the same answer. I did the first one of James Joyce. New Year's Day 1977. My answer to how I got started is I love to read. I love to write. I love to draw. So I combined all three.
Q: What is the first step in doing one?
A: I choose an image that I can translate into the drawing. I have to get deep shadows and high highlights. I am looking for the right image. And choosing the work that is most indicative of the one I like best. I do writers I like and enjoy. I almost always start with the forehead. It is the center of the beginning of the creativity of the author . . . I work to the eyes because if I
don't get the eyes I have to start over. I've done many drawings three and four times. They don't work all the time. One loop of an L or a G into an eyeball throws it off. If I don't get the eyes first, there is no sense doing it. Then I choose the passage.
Q: Do you start with a sketch of the person?
A: Often I work from three or four. I try to get the essence so I look at a number of different images.
Q: What is your favorite piece you have done?
A: I could never choose.
Q: Can you talk about the Obama piece?
A: I had a show of paintings and drawings in Pittsburgh at the Green Building Gallery on Penn Avenue. At the end of the show, the curator decided to have an artist-for-Obama fundraiser, so I did some research and I thought his ''A More Perfect Union'' speech on race in Philadelphia was a wonderful speech and I thought it was perfect text to use. I did a lot of research of the endless images of Obama.
Q: How long did it take you?
A: The average they take in hours is about 18 hours. But of course I don't do it all at once. I would get writer's cramp. Two hours here, three hours there. It gets too intense. It takes about a week.
Image and text by Ohio.com, USA