Timeless Honor: Portraits of Essential Workers, Essential People

Artist Statement

As far back as I can recall, I’ve spent most of my free time either drawing or reading. I remember my sister and I used to pretend that pens could be toys, dolls, anything we could imagine when we weren’t drawing with them. I remember drawing simple figures— when I see them now, they remind me of potato people. 

Recently, I began drawing portraits of people who I care about, who I look up to, including family members and friends, often as a birthday surprise. I really love seeing the joy on their face when I present them with their likeness. 

During the pandemic I became aware of the incredible sacrifices and tireless dedication that essential workers were making on a daily basis, without breaks and without seeing their families. I created an Essential Workers Appreciation page to honor and showcase portraits of essential workers who I know personally or who have been referred to me to celebrate and recognize them for their dedication and service in their communities.

Now, I don’t play with my pens anymore, but I still have fun drawing, painting, sculpting and creating digital art and honoring those who I look up to and respect, spreading kindness and joy through my art.

Kaiya Van Brost is a sophomore at Vashon High School in WA. Since she was old enough to hold a pencil, she has spent her free time drawing and exploring different mediums of art — markers, watercolor, acrylic, graphite, charcoal, colored pencils, as well as digital art. This year she began making jewelry ranging from beading and wire wrapping to lost wax casting in silver and bronze and is also exploring doll making and sewing. In 2020, Kaiya was appointed graphic designer for a nonprofit organization supporting students in Kenya, called Girls to Girls. Kaiya started the Essential Workers Appreciation Project where she interviews essential workers and creates portraits to honor them. “When I draw, I feel freedom to express who I am.”