July: Memories

One reason why many people are attracted to certain artwork, especially a realistic painting, is because it evokes pleasant memories. An artist friend once told me that he paints dead people - my immediate mental image of him over an open casket didn't sit quite right! He went on to explain that after a death the survivors would provide him with photos of their loved one for my friend to paint a portrait. My friend has a great talent for capturing the person in a way which provides great comfort to the loved ones.

I shy away from doing portraits (see my post about my "character" paintings), but I've had the opportunity to provide happy connections to the past by doing custom paintings of other things: special places, important events, beloved pets, and other subjects dear to the heart. I did a painting of a private airplane for a wife as a surprise gift for her husband, the pilot/owner. I've painted many home portraits, both for current residents as well as for those with childhood memories of where they grew up or visited. A special couple has had me do many commissioned paintings of beautiful wildlife they photographed on their African safaris. Going through my files I realize I've done more commissioned 'memory paintings' over the years than I can show here, so this post highlights just a few examples and these links provide stories of others.

One of my first commissions was from a couple who were part of a flying club with whom we were traveling. We were taking a long weekend trip from Florida to one of the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas. Our destination, Hope Town, was a favorite place which the couple had visited previously, and its harbor has a distinctive lighthouse they asked me to paint for them. It was my first visit to the quaint village of Hope Town, but I jumped at the chance to do the painting, particularly because I'd have the opportunity to take lots of my own referencer photos while there. Often, out of necessity, I work from photos provided for me to paint from. Some are better than others, but I've had challenges when scenes are not photographed in the best lighting, or important details are not in focus, or the photographer's point of view is not the from the best location. My resulting painting "Hope Town Harbor Light" has brought years of enjoyment to the couple I painted it for - who long ago became dear friends of mine and have purchased many more of my paintings.

A notable home I painted was the farmhouse where sweet Miss Shirley had grown up. Her parents were deceased and the home was no longer lived in, but family members often returned for gatherings and the house came alive again. I had actually visited the farm a few years before Shirley asked me to do a painting of the farmhouse, so I had a good feeling about all the happy times attached to it. When I do a house portrait, it is fun to add special personal details, like the owner's dog or a tree with initials carved. Shirley provided me with photographs and specifics about the flowers she'd like to see growing, the old building behind the house, the porch chairs, and other details. Shirley and her husband Frank have built their own retirement home on another part of the farmland and hung my painting in a place of honor over their fireplace mantle. Sadly, the farmhouse painting became even more precious a few years later, when the building burned to the ground from an electrical fire, fortunately with no one present.


Wedding anniversaries have prompted the commission of a few of my paintings. One couple, celebrating 25 years, had been married in a rose garden at a state park. They asked me to paint the setting, and, with their feedback, I added pink and blue to the two adirondack chairs in the foreground. When floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew destroyed most of their home last fall, they let me know how happy they were that the painting was not damaged, since it gives them great pleasure.

For information on my commissioned paintings, including tips on providing reference photos, please visit my website.