"Better Conversations, Better Cities"
Home > Arts & History > Arts > Karen Langley honors fallen soldiers and families with portraiture

Karen Langley honors fallen soldiers and families with portraiture

Karen Langley shared in a sense of loss after receiving a message recounting that a friend’s great-nephew had fallen in the line of patriotic duty. Expressing empathy in the only way she could think of, she offered to paint his portrait – as a gift to the family. Now, with fallen South Carolina heroes as subjects, she has painted more than 40.

Presentation of that inaugural portrait began an emotional road for this daughter of a military dad, wife of a military husband. Her son-in-law is in the military now. “I knew full well ….” Then she couldn’t finish the sentence. She knew such a loss could have been felt in her own family.

Working with Leslie Smith, attached to Survivors Outreach at Ft. Jackson, Langley receives the photograph from which she works and, initially, personal information as well. “I stopped taking on the personal information until I finished the portrait – I didn’t want to know while I was painting. I found that knowing all about the subject made it too emotional for me.”

As the number of portraits requested grew, Langley got help from the Blue Star Mothers. “They began supplying canvases and other painting materials for me and brought in refreshments for the presentations.”

Until the somber ceremony, portraits are draped in black velvet. “Nobody sees a hero’s portrait until the family receives it,” and Langley said the first 18, then a second 18 were presented together so the receiving families could share in supporting each other.

Families were invited to come to Village Artists in the Village of Sandhills, the gallery where I paint and showcase my work,” said Langley, noted for her oil on canvas wildlife paintings, pet portraits, and watercolor batiks.

Families received their portraits; Langley received their responses – always eliciting tears, all around. “We use a lot of tissue at these presentations.”


Karen Langley is the final artists of our #10artists10days campaign. We hope you’ve enjoyed this compilation. Special recognition to University of South Carolina Management Class 479 for managing the publishing and public relations for this campaign.

All ten artists’ work will be featured at Michael’s Cafe for a special exhibition for the upcoming First Thursday on Main. More info on that soon.

Like What You See?