Artist, 15, imagines Mary Magdalene’s shock, hope at discovering empty tomb

Katy Olsen, 15, of Epiphany Parish in Normal and a freshman at Chesterton Academy of the Sacred Heart in Peoria, holds her drawing of Mary Magdalene's reaction at discovering Jesus' empty tomb. (Provided photo)

NORMAL — While artists throughout the centuries have depicted Jesus’ empty tomb, 15-year-old Katy Olsen flipped the perspective.

The result is a captivating study of the face of Mary Magdalene — the first on the scene the morning of the resurrection — at the moment of discovery.

“The emotion I hoped to show most was hope, but in a way that you couldn’t really put a finger on what you were seeing,” explains Katy of her pencil drawing, which is generating interest at the online shopping site Etsy. The sketch depicts Mary Magdalene with her left hand covering her mouth to illustrate a second, easily understood emotion — shock at the surprising scene.

“I thought that maybe she saw the tomb and felt hopeful because perhaps Jesus had risen as he said he would,” said Katy, the daughter of Tim and Molly Olsen and a member of Epiphany Parish in Normal. The eyes as sketched, however — with a touch of white paint added to make them glisten — hint at more.

“But then her conscience was clouded with the doubt and mistrust that came with our fall,” Katy explained to The Catholic Post, “thus making her question if the body had been stolen.” The eyes also bear a puffiness reflecting sadness lingering from the crucifixion.


Neither the impressive drawing nor its topic comes as a surprise to those who know the faith-filled teenager.

Mary Magdalene as sketched by Katy Olsen shows emotions ranging from shock to doubt to hope at discovering the tomb of Jesus is empty. (Provided photo)

“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil and never really stopped, thanks to my parents’ encouragement,” said Katy. She especially loves to depict faces.

“It’s fascinating just how many unique faces God has made, and I aspire to capture at least a glimpse of that beauty,” she said.

Katy credits Chesterton Academy of the Sacred Heart — a private, independent high school in Peoria where she is a freshman — and especially art teacher Mary Beth Knott for encouraging students to base their art on “faith and gratitude to our Creator.”

The Mary Magdalene portrait was not an assignment, but something Katy began during midterm exam study breaks. She had recently been learning more about Mary Magdalene and finds inspiration in “what she overcame with the help of God’s love and never-ending mercy.”

The teenager now looks up to Mary Magdalene as “a reminder of how our Lord will never give up on us.”


Katy’s mother posted the sketch online, and when people started asking for prints the Olsens made them available through an Etsy shop, found at Each print is signed and numbered by the artist, and is offered in three sizes at prices ranging from $10 to $25.

Any profit realized will be split between support for Chesterton Academy and Katy’s college savings.

SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
© Copyright 2024 - The Catholic Post || All Rights Reserved || Design by