Artist creates portraits of teens killed in school shooting

After tragedy struck at Marshall Co. High School and left two teens dead, a Kentucky artist felt a kinship with the v...

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 3:23 PM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 3:23 PM

After tragedy struck at Marshall Co. High School and left two teens dead, a Kentucky artist felt a kinship with the victims and families he'd never met and a calling to use his art to give them something special.

"Actually, I did portraits in high school," laughed Richie McKinney as he sketched on a canvas. "It was a dollar a pop, which was a lot of money in 1962."

A portrait can capture a certain feeling, a part of a personality seen on a subject's face, explains McKinney, an artist from Princeton, Ky.

"You cannot leave empathy out," he said working on a portrait. "I try to feel like I'm that person as I'm drawing the person out. I'm not going to get that likeness near as well unless I include feeling."

McKinney served as pastor for 14 years until he was in an automobile accident and decided to retire and work on his art full-time.

Through his art, McKinney says he's found a way he can minister again.

When a tragedy like the shooting in Marshall Co. hits, the effects of it can be felt miles away.

"Honestly, it just broke my heart as it did everybody's," he said. "God has a way of talking. He just said to do it. I don't know these people, but they must be pretty special people in God's eyes."

McKinney created portraits of the two teens killed in the shooting, Bailey Holt and Preston Cope.

"She had the look of kindness," he said about Holt's picture before turning his attention to Cope's. "I just know he could've done so much with his life if he had a chance. I guess it hit me harder because if it happened in Marshall County, it could've just as easily happened here. I felt a kinship with these two kids in some sort of spiritual way. I can't explain that in any rational or logical terms."

McKinney encouraged people to share the pictures all over Facebook and asked Kentucky State Police to take the original portraits from his home and hand deliver them to the families.

Holt's aunt Tracy Tubbs took the podium at a press conference on Saturday.

"No one knows this person, but he did this artwork of Bailey, and this is something we'll treasure forever," she said, holding up McKinney's work.

"That they took time to show that meant more to me than they'll ever know," said McKinney.

As for what McKinney captured on the faces of two young people: for Holt, he wrote, 'kindness,' and for Cope, 'dignity.'

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