Artist creates portraits of teens killed in shooting

"Actually, I did portraits in high school," laughed Richie McKinney of Princeton, KY, talking between sketching on a canvas. "It was a dollar a pop which was a lot of money in 1962."

Nashville, Tennessee (WSMV) — When a tragedy hits, the effects of it can be felt miles away. When something happened last week, a man felt a kinship to people he’d never met. He says a calling led him to use his art to give them something special.

“Actually, I did portraits in high school,” laughed Richie McKinney of Princeton, KY, talking between sketching 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. That’s according to McKinney, an artist.

“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 was a pastor for 14 years.

“I was in an automobile accident, and I had to retire,” he said.

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

After the shootings at Marshall County High last week, McKinney felt a calling.

“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, 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 kinds 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.

Saturday, Holt’s aunt, Tracy Tubbs, took the podium at a press conference.

“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.’ For Cope, ‘dignity.’