Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘When people look at a drawing or painting and they’re overwhelmed, you think: How can art be so powerful?’

Smithtown

“I’ve been an artist for over 20 years. My first influence was my kindergarten teacher. She was so enthused about art. It’s a shame because sometimes all the art and music programs are off to the wayside; those are the programs that are cut. My art teacher in high school taught us how to draw upside down. Upside down drawing is drawing from the right side of your brain to make your brain slow down.

“When people give me a reference photo of their face, I have it next to me and I put it upside down and draw the preliminary lines from the right side of my brain. When I’m almost done with it, I bring it right side up and I look at the shapes and the shadings, but the bulk of the time it’s upside down. The past few years, I draw faces merged together, like a person from 50 years ago and now. I merge the two faces and see how they changed: it’s the same eye, it’s the same nose, but it’s 50 years difference. I drew my grandmother’s cousin, Sister Teresa; I decided to show her journey from her college days to when she became a nun. She is now up for sainthood.

My favorite thing to draw is the most difficult thing: faces.

“I also drew one of Billy Joel’s band members who lives on Long Island, Mike DelGuidice. I drew his face merged with Billy Joel’s face and Mike loved it. My mom is elderly with a fake hip and I’m doing more for her these days. So now I do my drawing at night. I lock my door for a few hours. I don’t have a formal studio; people always ask me and I’m like, ‘No, it’s on the floor in my room!’ During the day when I’m running around, I have something to look forward to. I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to get through this?’ But then when I focus on the picture, I completely forget what happened during the day.

“My favorite thing to draw is the most difficult thing: faces. It’s not like you’re doing a landscape and a tree is out of place; so what? A face has to be accurate. It’s funny when people tell me, ‘Oh, that’s not me,’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, it is!’ When people look at a drawing or painting and they’re overwhelmed, you think: How can art be so powerful? It’s only lines. It’s only shapes. But it’s what people see. It’s what speaks to them.”

‘Kody didn’t come to us an Instagram star. It kind of evolved because we started going to Doodle Romps.’

Smithtown

“We got Kody in the summer of 2013. I refer to him as my firstborn. He’s my fur baby. This was the first dog that I had as an adult living on my own with my husband, and my husband never had a dog growing up. We worked together good as a team. And he has become such a dog person. He’s obsessed with him as much as I am.

“Kody sleeps in bed with us. He eats first. Kody didn’t come to us an Instagram star. It kind of evolved because we started going to Doodle Romps, mostly Long Island based at first. We would meet people that were also very much into their Doodles and loved their dogs as much as we loved Kody. It was a great way just to network and meet people.

“And Instagram was a good way to keep the connection going after the meetup. Then it kind of expanded into New York City. And that turned into birthday parties for dogs. Before I knew it, I was going to a dog birthday party every weekend. Then we started getting invited to other creative dog things like Bark Mitzvahs.

I have a job that doesn’t afford me a creative outlet. A lot of the things I’ve done with him, especially with Instagram, have been expressing myself creatively.

“As we were going around, we were meeting businesses that loved Kody. They wanted him to do modeling for them and Kody evolved into this natural in front of the camera. He would just sit there, smile, and wait for the right shot. He kind of became a trained model, which is funny. Kody modeled for a company called Brooklinen and had his photo all over the subways. We just had something recently with Target that we did. One year, we entered the Fort Greene Halloween Dog Costume Contest, which is kind of a big deal. It’s onstage…hundreds of people. I made him Oscar the Grouch and he won first place. It was incredible. He got such a roaring response from the crowd. That was a really memorable moment with Kody.

“I have a job that doesn’t afford me a creative outlet. A lot of the things I’ve done with him, especially with Instagram, have been expressing myself creatively. It brought me such joy to have an idea and then put it together with the right clothes, props, and lighting. We have a lot of fun doing it. Kody has a lot of fun doing it. And then it’s great when people love it!”

‘I have a newfound respect for servicemen because we don’t know half the stuff they do and how dangerous it is.’

Smithtown

“My husband and I grew up modestly and we didn’t have anything handed to us. We felt like our son Andrew had to learn the value of a dollar. We told him he had to pay for college, so he went and got an ROTC scholarship. That meant the Navy paid for school, but he owed them four years of his life. He ended up being a pilot, so he owed them eight years of his life. That’s how he ended up in Mali. He was a pilot stationed in Jacksonville when the U.N. came in asking for volunteers. They needed a pilot to help them out. He volunteered. Mali does not have the best social and economic areas, and it is dangerous. He even needed a guide to help him find drinkable water.

“It wasn’t until I went to the 2017 JINSA Grateful Nation Award ceremony that I understood the danger he was in. The award is given for heroism and is presented annually to six young heroes recognized for having distinguished themselves through superior conduct in the war on terrorism. Honorees are chosen by their selective service and represent each of the five branches of the military. Everyone at the awards dinner was white, so I was proud of my son and proud to see someone Asian American get accolades for doing something really important and selfless. It took place in Washington, D.C., and it was very impressive and intimidating.

He makes me want to do my job better than I do. We all make mistakes, and every time I make one, I try to emulate him and think about how he does something.

“I have a newfound respect for servicemen because we don’t know half the stuff they do and how dangerous it is. If I had known more about what my son was doing, I probably wouldn’t have been able to sleep every night. Ever since he was 6, he loved flying. He memorized every plane. He is like a dog with a bone. When he likes something, he studies it. The funny thing is, after he learned to fly and was really good at it, he didn’t want to do it anymore.

“When he was leaving the Navy, he could have gotten a really good job flying, but he wanted to go back to school and become a businessperson. He just earned his MBA at Columbia and is working more than 100 hours each week, but he actually likes it. He makes me want to do my job better than I do. We all make mistakes, and every time I make one, I try to emulate him and think about how he does something.”