Maple Grove Artist’s Portrait Challenge Becomes Gallery Exhibition

by | May 2019

Maple Grove illustrator and animator Sydney Lindgren.

Photo: Joan Wasche

Illustrator Sydney Lindgren tackles an artistic challenge.

It started as a personal dare and ended up a gallery show.

When Maple Grove illustrator/animator Sydney Lindgren decided to up her game and complete portrait drawings of 22 women in her choir, she didn’t realize the scope of what she was undertaking. She snapped photographs of the women and began drawing and painting. “I knew I would be able to hold myself more accountable to chipping away at the project if I posted a portrait every day,” she says.

Illustrator: Sydney Lindgren

The streak lasted for 12 days. “I don’t think it crossed my mind what number I was on, except keeping track of how many I had left to finish,” she says.

The remaining 10 portraits were completed over three months, mostly in graphite but also in colored pencils, gouache and watercolor paint, ink and digital painting. “I had never done so many portraits so quickly, and I noticed it got easier with nearly every subsequent piece in the series,” Lindgren says. Her efforts paid off, and the fruits of her artistic labor were displayed in a gallery at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul.

In contrast to those efforts, Lindgren worked on a portrait in oil of her father, which took over 50 hours to complete. “The portrait series … was more nerve-wracking because I felt more pressure to get it right the first time. I love portraits,” she explains, “but sometimes they can be a bit finicky.”

Illustrator: Sydney Lindgren

Lindgren’s penchant for portraiture and art emerged at a young age—a very young age. She was reminded of this after she stumbled upon a drawing she did at the age of 5. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was written at the top of the page. Below was a person wearing a beret and a white shirt, covered in colored spots with the words “an artist” written below. Lindgren had no recollection of the drawing, but her 5-year-old self had a solid trajectory in mind.

Being an artist has also led Lindgren to a love for animation, especially 2D cell and 3D animation. “Anastasia has been, and will probably remain, one of my favorite animated movies,” she says. “I love the narrative, the aesthetic, the themes, the music and even how it doesn’t shy away from being genuinely scary.”

Lindgren will soon finish digitally painting a color script for the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Rose Elf. “Like Anastasia, it’s not necessarily a story for young audiences, but its themes are intriguing, and I hope to do it justice,” she says.

Fairy tales and female characters also pervade the coloring books Lindgren is interested in self-publishing. As a student at the University of Northwestern, she completed an internship with a local company Neighbor Animation; the same kind of small-studio she’d like to continue doing work with in the area. “I love animation,” Lindgren says, “but I know I’ll be coming back to portraits for the rest of my life, even if it never becomes a job.”

Lindgren Likes

Favorite art medium
It’s a three-way tie between watercolor, oil paint and colored pencils.

Least favorite animation
The Triplets of Bellville = It is a very well-done film, but I found the level of caricature to be a little over the top at points—still a good movie, just not my favorite.

Favorite animator
Ryan Woodward = Thought of You is a masterpiece I would encourage everyone to watch. It’s on YouTube, and it is an utterly gorgeous three minutes of dramatized dance. Seriously, it’s fantastic!

View Lindgren’s work at, including pages from her coloring book.


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