Studio art major and photorealistic illustrator Heather Rooney '15 has nearly 50 million views on her personal YouTube page, with more than 700,000 subscribers waiting to see who she will draw next. Some of her colored-pencil portraits, the creation of which she films and posts in three-to-five-minute time-lapse videos, have been recognized by their celebrity subjects including Jimmy Fallon, who reposted her drawing on his Tonight Show Tumblr with the comment, "This is too cool, Heather."
Rooney's latest project, The Golden Vision, is gaining nationwide attention on a very public platform. Her illustration of Golden State Warriors teammates Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the "core four" of the NBA's winningest team this season, is currently featured on ESPN's YouTube page.
"The project came about after I was contacted by a producer from ESPN who had been following my work since seeing a drawing I did of LeBron James last year," Rooney said. "I was commissioned to do an illustration and time-lapse video of four players from the Golden State Warriors for the upcoming NBA playoffs."
Rooney said the project took approximately two full weeks and several hours of drawing per day to complete.
"It was a big honor to be approached by ESPN, and I enjoy drawing sports figures, so this was a very fun project for me!" she said.
Though her work has the mark of a seasoned professional, Rooney didn't start drawing until she took an art course in high school and discovered she had a knack for it. As an artist, she is most interested in portraiture - she began by drawing photos of her family members, and then expanded to celebrities. Her YouTube channel began gaining popularity in March 2014, when she recreated Ellen Degeneres' 2014 Oscar selfie. Other popular videos on her channel include illustrations of Harry Potter, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and a tribute to the late Robin Williams.
"I draw celebrities who I feel are current and popular in the media, or who I think people would like to see," she said
Each of her portraits, which she draws from photos, takes about 30 hours to complete in five-to-six-hour sessions.
"It definitely takes a lot of hard work and dedication," she said.
The Naples, Florida, native fell in love with Boston while visiting colleges for her sister, and she was attracted to Emmanuel's small size and the community. Just a few weeks before graduation, Rooney just wrapped up her senior project, a series of self-portraits in various stages of make-up called "My True Self," which offers a social commentary on society's views of beauty and perfection.
"My photorealistic process and the time it takes to attain 'perfection' parallels the process of a woman striving to perfect her face," Rooney wrote in the description accompanying the time-lapse video. "At the center of this installation is a portrait of my face, unadorned. The larger scale of this portrait provides a hierarchy to what I believe to be a more honest depiction of my true self."