By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

FARGO – Kelsey Sargent approaches family portraits with a modern mindset.

The 28-year-old Minnesota State University Moorhead graduate uses her graphic design skills to create clean-lined cartoon-like portrait illustrations that incorporate elements of a family’s (or individual) life.

For instance, the image she created for friends Ashley and Justin Morken, owners of downtown Fargo craft boutique Unglued, includes their bulldog, Hamilton, and a globe, for their love of travel. The Morken portrait is one of the first Sargent crafted when she started illustrating in 2012. She wanted a unique gift for her friends and had seen illustrations online but noticed no one in Fargo was doing it.

After people saw the Morkens’ portrait and a few others, word spread, and Sargent started spending her spare time on her Mac in Adobe Illustrator fashioning portraits.

“I like anything crafty or artsy. Creating is something I love to do,” she says.

How would you define the style of your portraits?

I’m not that great with adjectives because I don’t want to be like “they’re this,” and they’re totally not. Modern would be a take on it. They’re not a caricature. They’re illustrations, creative, unique and whimsical. Whimsical – it defines a lot of great things.

What inspires you to create?

I was given these talents by something that’s greater than me, and it’s a desire I’ve always had. I love writing music. I love closing my eyes and feeling what’s around me. I like taking ordinary things and trying to see if I can do it my own way.

What’s your process when you’re creating a portrait?

At first it was a lot of research, like, ‘How do I incorporate everything they like into one illustration?’ Now I ask people what they want instead of coming up with my own vision.

Kelsey Sargent creates modern portraits using Adobe Illustrator. David Samson / The Forum

A fairly simple illustration with two people usually takes me a few days. I send out a questionnaire asking things like, ‘What defines you as an individual or couple?’

I use Adobe Illustrator and combine elements from different photos, like if I like their hair better in one photo and their outfit in another. Sometimes I look on Pinterest to see their style. I put a last name on them as well and incorporate some element that defines them, like a globe because they travel or books if they’re into books.

What’s the best part of creating portraits?

When I see somebody’s face when they receive it. or an email after they’ve received it. I put a lot of effort, time and thought into them. I go back and change things if they don’t feel right. It shows with the people who come back to me and say how much they love their illustration.

How does creativity fit into your day job?

I’m a quality lead at Integreon here in Fargo, and I work with a financial company creating graphics. It taps into my creativity, it keeps me going and it spurs me while I’m at work to go home and create.

How should people contact you if they want a portrait, and how much does it cost?

Email me at or message me on Facebook at

My base price is $60 for a couple, including the name and a few elements that they’d like to incorporate. It’s $10 per person or animal after that. Children younger than 1 are free because they’re more difficult to illustrate so it looks like them.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525