For a comic subtitled, “A Life in Miniatures,” Sarah Goodridge led a rather “large” life. Only her paintings were small. Born in 1788, Sarah Goodridge grew up in poverty. Without any financial resources, she created her first artworks using a pin on birch bark. With passion and hard work, she became a highly sought-after painter of miniatures—often delicately rendered watercolor on ivory— and opened her own studio where she painted prominent members of Boston society.
Illustrator Susie O’Connor, a student at the Ringling College of Art and Design, creates a visual story that matches Goodridge’s aesthetics, beginning with the cover that features a portrait of the artist as a miniature in an oval frame. The cover also features four small miniatures of both a young Sarah and an older Sarah in the same shape, a motif that will carry throughout the comic.
The comic quickly shifts from rural life to cityscapes when Goodridge first moves in with her brother and his family on the outskirts of Boston. She continues to paint, more seriously and with better tools and supplies. In 1818 she is listed in the Boston directory as a miniature painter. She opens her own studio two years later, a huge accomplishment for anyone, but especially for a self-made woman at the beginning of the 19th century. Goodridge’s renown grows, as does the prominence of her patrons, which include painter Gilbert Stuart and Senator Daniel Webster.
I admire Susie’s illustrations for their beauty and ability to move the story forward. Her attention to detail is exemplary as fashion is one of her interests. The research board she created while making the comic is rich with examples of dress from the 19th century and other details that give the comic its command and its authenticity.
The comic captures the life of a 19th century artist as well as a twenty-first century illustrator. The comic ends with Goodridge’s triumphs but closes with one last image of a miniature painting in an oval frame. This time, Susie has added her own miniature portrait—a contemporary riff on a centuries’ old practice—that connects artist and illustrator through their “large” talents and vision.
This comic is part of a series Drawn to Art: Tales of Inspiring Women Artists that illuminates the stories of women artists in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Inspired by graphic novels, these short takes on artists’ lives were each drawn by a student-illustrator from the Ringling College of Art and Design.
We invite you to read the comic and share with your friends and young people in your life.