Nancy Roman

Worrying About My Heroes

I need hero protection.

To get me through this pandemic and these divisive insane times, I have been painting a series of portraits of people I admire.

I call them my Hero Portraits.

My first few portraits were relatively easy picks. They are people for whom my belief is so strong, my confidence in their goodness so unshakeable, whose moral center is my own aspiration.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Jimmy Carter. Jane Goodall. Eleanor Roosevelt. Albert Einstein. Malala Yousafzai. John Lewis. President Obama. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Amelia Earhart, The Dalai Lama. Rosa Parks. Anne Frank.

I have also added portraits of people I believe have given to the world in ways that are perhaps not historic, but nevertheless important:
Mother Teresa, Billie Jean King, Danny Thomas, Michelle Obama, Greta Thunberg, Helen Keller. And a Covid-19 nurse whose family and friends wanted to recognize the significant contributions and the enormous bravery of everyday people in traumatic times.

That’s twenty.

My favorite portraits are not necessarily the people I admire most, but rather the portraits that captured what I wanted to capture.

The power of Dr. King:

The shy but confident audacity of Rosa Parks:

With Anne Frank, I wanted to emphasize how young and innocent she was. So many of the old photographs look dark and tragic, but to me, Anne was, above all, a hopeful little girl.

And I want to continue.

There are a couple of people on my list that I am sure of: Mahatma Gandhi, Marie Curie, and Muhammad Ali will be coming up next.

But then it gets complicated.

Do I add people I admire but have grave flaws? Do I add folks that are not particular favorites of mine, but have enriched the world? How about my childhood heroes? What about artists and writers?

Some who might fall into this category are John and Robert Kennedy, Princess Diana, Mark Twain – and even Jimmy Stewart and Audrey Hepburn. There are more – Winston Churchill and FDR come to mind.

But here is my biggest fear: That my choices will disappoint me.

When I was a kid, I adored the Kennedys. As I grew up, I learned that Jack and Bobby were far from perfect. But didn’t they leave the world a better place, despite their personal failings?

In choosing contemporary heroes – Greta Thunberg is probably the youngest of my current-day heroes – I run the risk that they won’t live up to the world’s expectations. To my expectations, to be honest.

I worry that my heroes will be exposed as frauds, or they will be seduced by fame and money. They may have a dark side of which I am unaware.

They may hurt me.

Ah, but isn’t that the risk we all take in loving people – whether we love them as heroes or friends?

To view human beings as heroes is a terrible, wonderful risk.

All I can do love them now, and if they disappoint me in the future,
take comfort in the knowledge that I loved them for a time. That for a while, they gave me hope.


*I have set up a tab in the menu at top where you can see all my portraits.


  1. Christine Cooper

    Love this Nancy. One of your best.


  2. Beautiful Potraits Nancy! I wish I could draw and paint like this. Can you share any tool/tips for a novice?


    • Thank you. Here are the 3 things I would say to beginners in watercolor: 1. Don’t be afraid to go bold with your colors. Watercolor dries much lighter than you think. 2. If you are painting from a photo, it can be a help to print the photo in black and white as well as color. The B&W photo can make the shadows stand out for you. 3. Paint a lot. Practice gets you there.


  3. These are so good. So good. I love your talent


    • Thanks, Dawn. I love the landscapes and florals that other painters do, but my fascination has always been Faces.


      • I think faces are hard. I have considered trying to do them but have been intimidated. I think, studying how other people do them is helping me to consider at least trying. I have a high school friend (we both played clarinet) who is painting now, I don’t remember her doing that when we were kids. She is phenominal too, like you. She’s working in oil, I think yours are water color, right? I think both would be really difficult. But the outcomes are so beautiful! What do you do with yours? Do you have them hanging somewhere or have you given them away as gifts?


        • Thanks, Dawn. Yes they are watercolors. I paint mostly on commission – customers give me a photo and I will paint the portrait from that. Mostly dogs, by the way, but I am doing more and more humans. This series (the hero portraits) I have painted mostly for myself, with the exception of the Covid nurse, which was commissioned. I intend to have a small showing when conditions permit it, and then the paintings will be for sale. As far as painting faces, you need to get the proportions and the planes right, by practice, practice, and more practice. Really worth it though – faces are endlessly fascinating.


  4. You have such great talent


  5. Pat

    You aren’t just talented. You are amazingly talented!!!


  6. Wonderful work, Nancy, and your words certainly say a lot, as well!


  7. Beautifully rendered portraits, Nancy. You’ve got a great talent. As for who you should paint (or not), I’d say – paint portraits of ANYONE who has influenced you positively. Forget about what other people might think of them (now or in the future) and be true to your own feelings about their “heroism”. In other words, paint from your heart (not your head!)


    • Thanks Margo. I just today added Hillary Clinton. I was almost afraid to – she has been so vilified. But I admire her and that’s really the criteria, isn’t it? (I’ll add her portrait to the gallery page)


  8. A lady of hidden talents. The portraits are wonderful


  9. dragon

    Heroes tend to have feet of clay. I frequently feel that it is difficult to be heroic if one doesn’t have flaws, imperfections that they rise above. Thus making them more heroic. To be mundane, the difference between early Superman and early Marvel heroes … Supes is perfect. Capt. America, rises above … and is a little stiff and formal. Thanks for sharing.


    • thank you. Real heroes are not like perfect superheroes. They are human and flawed, but as you say, they rise above. And make the world a better place.


  10. Paula

    Wow, you’re GOOD!


  11. One of the things that bothers me the most about the crazy times we live in is our mistaken assumption that we can only admire flawless people. Because no one is flawless, some are just better at hiding their flaws than others. I believe no one deserves to be idolized, and I also believe that for many people, the good they did outweighed the bad.


    • I realized after I hit “post comment” that this sounded a little bit harsh. What I meant was, go ahead and paint whoever you think of as a hero….because heroes are in the eye of the beholder, I believe.


      • I read it exactly the way you intended – that heroes have flaws but they can be our heroes nevertheless. thanks.


  12. You are turning out to be really good at this! I’m glad you are sharing your work.


  13. sdereski

    your paintings are incredible! I found that you have captured the essence of the individuals as the world at large recognizes them. Truly beautiful. Do you sell your paintings?


    • Thank you! I paint mostly on commission, but I painted these hero portrait just to cheer myself up. I plan on having a show when the Covid danger has passed, and then they will be for sale. (except for the Covid nurse, which I have already sold)


  14. Pam

    Nancy, I love your beautiful water color paintings of heroes! We have many of the same ones. My #1 hero is a little known American orator, attorney, politician, philosopher,and Civil War veteran, Robert G. Ingersoll. I absolutely love him! He is my ideal person. If you’re interested, you can check him out on Wikipedia or Wikiquote @



    • I will definitely check him out. I was a History minor in College, but I am not familiar with Ingersoll. (of course, college was a very very long time ago)


      • Pam

        Nancy, Ingersoll is not well known probably because he was an agnostic in a time period that was intolerant, but his beautiful words always move me.


  15. You have very nice paintings. Very talented.


  16. vc

    Your talent is impressive. I was never able to manage, let alone master, watercolor. You are a magician. I studied art in college, printmaking and oil painting, then gave it up to support my husband thru grad school (women did that then) and never returned to my art till 2007 at the age of 66 and discovered digital painting. Astonishing. You’re welcome to visit my work at victoriachames – dot- com. Whatever the future holds for you Nancy, don’t give up your art. Humanity needs what you give.


  17. gail

    Your portraits are wonderful and show so much emotion! Thank you for sharing these.


  18. They say we should never meet our heroes as they can never be what we believe they are.
    The only one of mine I ever saw in person did not disappoint, but that could have been my reaction. I had the opportunity at a conference in New York to hear Maya Angelou speak. From the second she stepped on stage I started to cry. I continued to cry throughout. The woman touched my soul. I tried to concentrate on what she was saying and then finally just let myself cry because I “knew” I could purchase a copy of her talk afterward as I had done with previous speakers. When I went to order it I was told it wouldn’t be available. I told the person how I had fallen apart and wanted to hear properly what she said. I was told that Maya never allows herself to be taped like that because she believes it has to be experienced with each individual audience. How could I, the blubbering idiot, argue with that.
    Your work is amazing, Nancy. I thank you for sharing it.


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