My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Picture Worth 97,000 Words

Okay, I have another wonderful obsession. Words. Mental pictures created from letters on a page.

Words construct worlds, break hearts, take you into deepest Africa, or into the mind of a deranged physicist bent on going back in time to kill the apostle Paul (Transgression, by Randy Ingermanson – it’s very good).

Words teach us math, history, science, or how to fold a dollar bill into a hammerhead shark (okay, you need pictures to go along with that one).

Words are magic! I love writing. I love reading – novels, magazines, the internet and mail. Oh yes, lovely mail. In fact snail mail brings me one of my favorite magazines each month: the National Geographic – not to be confused with the National Enquirer. Slight difference there.

The pictures NG chooses complement and enhance their articles. But several times now, I’ve found a photo that freezes everything. It captures my attention, my imagination, and I’m hungry to know the story.

One memorable one is the June 1985 picture of the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula.

I couldn’t get over this young girl’s eyes. They were scared, furious, and if she was a snake, you’d want to jump back ten feet, quick. I couldn’t wait to read the article. I wanted to draw her – capture a bit of that look. I grabbed my supplies and sat down to draw. While I did, my mind tried to fill the gaps in her story. I wanted to know everything. What I couldn’t find, my mind teased and turned, making things up. Words streamed through like a stiff April breeze. I loved it!

Then it happened again. June of 1997. (June is a very good month!)

Anyone who knows me knows I have this thing for anything tropical. Another wonderful obsession. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it soon. But back to the subject.

I had tucked this one away, then rediscovered it a bit ago. This cover is another show-stopper. A girl, the epitome of a Tahitian beauty, looks back over her shoulder. She’s in shadow, except for a pencil-thin silhouette along her features. Behind is a hint of a blue-gray cloud. Maybe a storm’s coming. Why is she looking back? Why is her body turned so sharply? It couldn’t be comfortable standing like that. Is she turning away from something? Is she afraid of the past? Does she have regrets? (Sorry. My curious mind can be a scary place.)

I flip to the article. Her name is Heiata Roomataroa (can anyone pronounce that?). And that’s all. It’s an article about pearls. It’s good – I like pearls, especially black ones. But the human story isn’t there and I want to know more. So I make it up. And I draw her picture. I can’t show it, because I drew it too close to the original. I don’t want to infringe on copyrights, so I won’t post it here. But come to my house anytime and I’ll show you.

So what is the story? A Polynesian beauty turns from the past, but can’t completely break away? What if she’s abducted, forced into modern-day slavery, has a life that’s far from her dreams? She’ll need a last-gasp chance to make it right. What if, while in a coma, her soul goes to a metaphysical purgatory where she’ll find a way to fix things? (I know. It’s called ‘proteinated-chocolate high from too many peanut M&M’s’.) What if she meets a guy? I start writing and the story takes me into another dimension. It’s crazy and oh, so fun. I explore. I laugh. I sigh. I make funny faces while trying to describe their expressions. I even cry. This is my fifth novel and it never gets dull.

One picture made 97,000 words come out of the ozone. It’s a miracle! I’m ready to do it all over again. Soooooo . . . where’s my next issue of National Geographic? Darn, I forget. It won’t be June.

Enough about that. Have you seen a picture that grabbed you by the throat?


  1. Great post. You need to show us your drawings. Seriously! Because you rock.


  2. Wow, I still remember the cover of that Nat'l Geo with the Afghan girl. I couldn't wrap my head around the unreal colors of her eyes, let alone the hostility. Wow.
    Did you know they ended up doing a follow up article on her and it was near to impossible to verify it was her? They needed some sort of forensic ophthalmologist to prove it was her because she had no other identification.
    Anyway, great post, lovely blog!

  3. Leisha,
    Thanks so much and I'm working on it. Taryn is my computer wizard. We'll see what he comes up with. He's making me a gallery and he's designed everything on my site so far.

    I haven't been able to get her off my mind since I saw that first issue. I was so glad when they found her and were able to prove it. Isn't technology amazing?
    Thanks so much!

  4. heiata roomataroa
    I saw her also on the cover. I personally think she is the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on. I was in Bora Bora on vacation last summer and found myself wondering if someone knew her. I know she is oldernow but I would love to meet her , and sit down and talk over dinner.
    I think she has amazing features.
    Leave a comment in response if you know any story behind the pic.

  5. Great artwork. If you can draw a picture of Heiata Roomataroa I would love to see it.

  6. scaribbean, thanks for coming! Yes, the photos of Heiata Roomataroa are amazing and I've tried to search more on her, with no luck. It's too bad you couldn't find her on your vacation. Yes, I did draw her picture and won first place with it in the professional division of an art contest. If you'd like to see it, contact me through e-mail.


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