“It was a really big honour in my life,” said Shakkouri. “It was the first major viewing that I’ve done with my artwork.”
Jim Nicoletti, principal at Brother André, said that while the school has other religious portraits hung throughout the building, he felt it was necessary to have one of their namesake.
“Symbols are a very important part of the Catholic faith and whether you do them up in statues, portraits or photographs, symbols are very important for us — particularly for kids. That’s why it’s appropriate to do this for our anniversary and for the canonization.
“We can’t pay somebody to do it, let’s let our own kids do it,” said Nicoletti.
And that’s what they did.
Shakkouri, president of the school’s art council, was approached by the head of the art department to take on the task.
“I felt really honoured and really good to give back to my school community. They’ve given so much to me,” said Shakkouri. “And I just feel really happy that I’m able to honour 25 years of Brother André by doing the painting.”
In terms of time, she said her previous paintings normally took 60 to 70 hours to complete.
But she estimates that the Brother André painting took about 100 hours.
“It took a good two weeks of my life,” she said. “Everyday I was painting.”
During that time, her routine consisted of waking up, going to school and working on the portrait during her second period art class, then going home and painting until she went to sleep.
On the day of the unveiling, Shakkouri said she was nervous about showcasing her hard work.
“I was so nervous before the Mass because I wasn’t sure about people’s reactions and I was nervous to stand up beside my painting because I don’t like being in the spotlight.”
But once the portrait was revealed, Shakkouri only heard applause.
“I stood there for what felt like three minutes while everyone was clapping and I couldn’t stop smiling.
“What really touched me was that when I was up there and I unveiled it, my mother started to cry in the audience.”
She was also happy to see the familiar faces of both old and current teachers, along with her father and brother.
Someday, she wants to open up her own gallery. She said this experience has motivated her even more because it showed her how good it feels to have your work recognized.
“I’m really glad I did it,” said Shakkouri.
“To have (the painting) stored at Brother André is a big thing. I’m graduating this year so it means that a little part of me will be staying at Brother André. It’s really heartwarming.”