Longing in Prayer

Longing in Prayer
encaustic mixed media
11×14 inches

There is a longing in prayer, don’t you think? A longing for connection, for understanding, for solace.

I took the original image of this bird sitting on a beach post many years ago. I was 17 years old, my senior year in high school. At my school the seniors had a month or so to find an independent project that they wanted to work on during that time and then do a final project or presentation on it. I really can’t remember what other people did now, but it was often an internship at an office of some sort. But myself and three of my friends did something a little different. We decided to go hiking and camping! We had to somehow tie it into some kind of educational opportunity. For example, my friend Jen did topographical maps and mapped out our whole trip in the Appalachians.

I decided to take that opportunity to “learn” photography (still learning) and my final project was to create artist books out of the experience. Yes, I’ve been making artist books for a long time!

I took this little bird photo on Assateague Island, a little island off the coast of Maryland where the wild ponies roam. We chose to camp here to test out our gear before we headed into the mountains. Which was a good thing, because we forgot to waterproof one side of our tent, which was my side and it happened to rain that night….It was a miserable night for me which is why I remember it so well! But when morning came after a sleepless night, I was anxious to get up. I arose before anyone else and with camera in hand, went for a walk and caught this moment.

She has appeared over and over in my work through the years. I see a quietness, a loneliness, expectation, but also acceptance in this image- which is why I can’t seem to tear myself away from it.


Thank you for all the comments on the school portrait project. I have received several messages from people saying that they want to do it with their kids, which is awesome! Here’s what I did with them, if it helps:

The first thing that I had the teacher do before I went in was to have the kids write “I am ___” statements, which really helped me with trying to coax some of the drawings out. With the first group of kids, I was really good with giving guidance in their drawings. Just ideas and suggestions. But honestly by the 3rd group, I was like, “draw whatever you want! Anything at all! Just draw!!!” Which was better anyway. They did the drawings/scribbles/marks with oil pastel and I showed them how to make their drawings “pop” with watercolor washes.

I studied their paintings before I went in again for their poses. So I had an idea for some of them of what their poses should be like. But in general it was a free for all. We talked about emotions and trying to capture emotions with their faces. But again, I was dealing with 3-5 year olds who sometimes would just stare at me in shyness or with a “what is this woman talking about” stare.

At home on my computer, I played around with the levels on photoshop so that the contrasts were much stronger- helped to better integrate them with their colorful paintings and make the portraits more graphic, like the original inspiration. I cut them out and glued them on top of the paintings myself. Older kids could definitely do that part.

Their teacher had them fill out phrases like “My favorite color is ____”, “I like to eat ______”, “My favorite thing to do with my family is _______”, etc. After the kids did those, she combined them with their I AM statements to make poems. I printed them out, cut them into strips and had the kids glue their poem strips anyway they wanted.

Enjoy! And if you do the project, let me know, I would love to see them. One of my relatives who is going to do the project with her daughters suggested it be an annual project. I liked that idea and think I will do it with my kids. It would be a fun way to see how they change and grow- artwise, physically, and verbally.

Noah, standing in front of his class’ wall


  1. Beautiful painting and story. And even more beautiful the time and energy you put into your child’s class. Those pictures are priceless and I’m sure will be cherished by their parents!

  2. Hi Brigette – would love you to take part in my collaboration – there is information on my blog but I could also email it to you – thank you for such an interesting post – and I love the image of ‘Longing in Prayer’ it says it all!

  3. Wonderful story about this sweet little bird…and camping at Assateague Island…very brave with the resident mosquitto’s being like bombers….what a great adventure!

    Your kids work is fabo…love the idea and the description…and I’m with you…the braids hanging down and down are simply terrific!

  4. Yes, Bridgette, there is longing in prayer. Your camping experience sounds similar to mine when our kids were tiny. That was the last time I went camping! Your bird is lovely.

  5. I love the self portraits. I teach 8th grade and we have a big promotion for them at the end of the year. I think I am going to try this out with them and of course they can do almost all of the work! 🙂
    Thanks for the idea.

  6. I saw this on Pinterest and wanted to say how much I loved it! Thanks so much for the great idea- we’ll definitely be doing this several times over the years! 🙂

  7. LOve the self portraits and want to do this with my 1st graders. How did you make their drawings “pop” with watercolor washes. What is the process of the watercolor wash.

  8. I’m so happy to actually have the story about how these children’s pictures came about and the directions to go with them! I saw one of the pictures, (probably on pinterest,) and used it as a model to make them with my students the first week of school. I just took sideways pictures of everyone with their mouths open like they were shouting and arranged the poem/words to come out of their mouths. We put them on a watercolor/mixed media background. They were awesome for back to school night. Now, with your directions, I can really make them better for next year. Thank you so much for sharing this. Also, I love the bird picture!

    1. Thank you so much Leslie for visiting and sharing your experience! I love hearing how others brought this project into their classrooms or homes.

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