What is it about?

The paintings discussed in this article are expressive portraits, melding traditional qualitative methods with a subjective, interior artistic process. I find creating visual imagery through painting as part of my research process provides new insights into participants’ feelings and perspectives. The portraits facilitate my reflections on their experiences, allowing me to express my own complex feelings and ideas as they develop and identify emergent themes. As the research process unfolds, painting becomes an avenue for me to explore and deepen my relationships with participants.

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Why is it important?

I was an artist and a teacher, not yet a researcher, and artmaking is how I made sense of the world. I read many studies about artmaking. They were about art, children’s drawings, or artmaking with different populations, but that was where the visual language ended. I had always considered art a second language, a way to deepen or say what words couldn’t express. I wondered, where did the visual fit in this text-heavy academic world? As a painter, portraiture fit the language I naturally spoke and shaped the way I looked at and understood the world around me.


As an art educator and researcher, my interest in art as therapeutic has led me to believe the act of visual storytelling has psychological and physical health benefits that writing alone can not express. I hold that creating art connected to personal experience within groups improves people's self-respect, has restorative value, develops creativity, and changes the way one views their life.

Linda Helmick
University of Missouri Columbia

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Expressive portraiture as research: Exploration, ideation and discovery, International Journal of Education through Art, September 2022, Intellect,
DOI: 10.1386/eta_00108_1.
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