This painting just sold. Went to print out the blog post for the buyer, and whaddya know–no blog. (How did I manage to skip this one, one of my favorites?) Well… here goes, the nick-of-time blog post:
There he sits, in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace (imperial summer residence of the former monarchs of Austria, no less). He is not waiting for anyone; he is not fidgeting, nor chewing gum; he is not listening to music, fiddling on a phone, picking at threads, nor pulling hangnails; he is not doing any of the infinite small things people do instead of being.
There he sits, in solitary splendor, enjoying the sights, smells, sounds, sensations of that particular moment in that place. Making a memory. Taking it in.
It occurred to me that this image is what we mean when we talk about “being in the moment,” or being “mindful.” And how hard that is, and how infrequently any of us actually manages it.
Worth noting. Worth painting. Worth being reminded–by good example. Enjoy the moments.
At our house, there was always some question about just when does someone leave boyhood or girlhood behind, and who decides when that is. Being a former editor, I always envision that step into man- or womanhood as the attainment of one’s capital letter: achieving upper case status and becoming He or She.
A while back, when they were 15 or 16, I did portrait series of both my children, spreading my wings by painting the same pose over and over in various ways. One of those ways was using the ancient method of painting the skin tones green first, then glazing over that with thin layers of flesh tones. Look at Byzantine or medieval paintings, in which the skin tones have worn away over the centuries, and the green underpainting is left—it seems to have been an era of Frog People, but rest assured, it was merely a technique to get lively flesh tones. I posted my favorite of these, my daughter painted in complementary colors–which also meant just the green undertones of the skin; one of my Facebook friends saw it and asked me to paint her son that way. She saw it as an indicator that we are all works in progress, ever unfinished, always becoming.
So, here is Owen, who is 16 and definitely on the road to getting both his capital H and man status, albeit no flesh tones. Someday, if he or his mother want me to, I would be happy to “flesh out” (so to speak) the portrait, but I hope they choose to keep it as it is. I love the concept of the unfinishedness that is the human condition, especially at the transition time of adolescence. So thank you, Jan, for adding that bit of insight into the painting process.
And thank you, Owen, for being a good model and politely putting up with my requests to tilt your head or smile just so to showcase those dimples of yours. Meanwhile, keep right on becoming. Call when your h becomes an H, will you?
All Annas have to be “Anna Banana,” don’t they? Truth is, I don’t even know this child, much less her pet names. But I admit I thought of her that way as I painted her portrait, so to me, she’s AB.
This painting was a gift for Anna’s mom. The magic of Facebook: I only know her there, from her photography; we have never even met. That seems so odd in some ways, but it feels perfectly normal. I spend time with her and her posts and pictures every day. But still, I never imagined that she would say, “Sure! Of course, help yourself!” when I gingerly asked if maybe she would give me permission to use some of her stunning spider web photos for reference for my Orbs and Arcs series. But say that she did, even though she is a pro and sells her photos from Stocksy, the online stock photo agency. (Please go look at her wonderful work here). Carolyn is Kindness itself, Generosity itself.
Such kindness should not go unnoticed. I helped myself to web images, and while I was at it, to photos of her adored daughter, and chose one I particularly liked. Et voilá.
I am so grateful for Carolyn’s generosity. Actually, let me just say here that I am very grateful for all the kindnesses you all show me–by reading my blog, commenting, supporting me, and becoming collectors. Many, many thanks, friends and supporters (whether I have met you or not!)
Last blog, I posted the approved sketch of these three ambling down the beach (right). As promised, here is a glimpse at the rest of the process, from underpainting (top left), to moving toward finish (top right) to finish, above. Sun, wind, and sea.
Nice memories. And just about the nicest gift I’ve heard of in a while: these kids’ mom has a biggish birthday coming up (I’ll never tell), and her friends and relatives got together and commissioned me to do this painting of her children at a favorite spot. How great is that?!
I hope she has a very happy birthday indeed. And I hope the family enjoys the painting for many generations. That’s what I love about portraits: they are a little gift to posterity, from now to then. And someday, maybe their great grandchildren will still make house room for it… maybe the one who inherited great, great aunt Piper’s huge brown eyes(?)