Monday, January 23, 2012

... no place like home

One of my favorite things to paint are homes. Now, if my family read this, they would say, "What??" Well .... okay - - to be honest, painting homes are the most challenging, which usually accompanies a little bit of stress and a little bit of procrastination ... BUT!! They are the ~MOST REWARDING~.
I love that people cherish their homes ... their childhood homes ... their parents' homes ... really, any place that holds special meaning, which usually comes from the warm memories contained within that structure.

I have this love affair with both of my grandparents' homes, as they have been the constant in my life - - never changing no matter how many times our family moved.

My one grandma is still in her home where we visit every other Sunday for supper, along with my dad and sister, and spend most, if not all, of our visit seated around the table where we solve the world's problems. :) We joke that a collective book should be written ... maybe someday.
This is her home that I captured in a children's illustration. Our little Cape Cod has had numerous renovations. My favorite was the buttercup yellow siding with black shutters - - I can still picture it when I close my eyes.

But, it is within those walls that I remember playing on the kitchen floor with my yellow toy telephone, taking pizza orders from imaginary customers ... watching Gram make homemade donuts and getting to shake the bag "real good" to ensure the sweetest donuts ever ... sitting on Gram's bed, as a teenager, listening to "Request & Dedication" on Sunday evenings, pining over a crush ... propping my daughter's bouncy seat on Gram's kitchen table to feed my new, baby girl ... washing dishes in the sink (because Gram doesn't need a dishwasher ... "she has us!") and watching from the paned windows as my son and dad play wiffle ball, just as we had as kids ... and sharing every Christmas Eve over Wagilia Dinner and breaking holy bread with Gram's blessing. See, this house is not just something that provides a shelter ... it is years of love & memories that bind those cinder blocks together ... that's the mortar that holds our family together.

And, I know what it feels like to have that home not be yours anymore to claim as a haven. When my other grandparents sold their home to move into a retirement village, I thought my heart would truly break in two.

I remember walking through the house after the movers took everything and having those childhood images flood my mind as I went from room to room - - a fire crackling in the living room on a winter's day, with a card table set up in the middle for a craft with Gram of sequins, straight pins and Styrofoam balls ... holiday dinners closing with family card games of PIG and spoons - the walls seemed to vibrate with laughter ... shoeing Pap from his bedroom to bunk with Gram, so that I could sleep in his cozy, twin bed, using the opened, paned window at the foot of the bed as an alarm with its cool breeze, warm sunlight and chirping birds ... taste-testing Pap's mashed potatoes on the back of our hand for enough salt and buttery goodness ... and spending hours on the back porch, swinging in between my grandparents and singing into the night by red-hued candlelight from Gram's cranberry glass globes.

My heart didn't break fully that day, but did so a few years later when my Pap passed away suddenly. I remember walking to the house, which was a long-winded trek from where I was living, and simply standing before it ... sobbing. That house still holds such a heartache for me that I've never painted it. Writing this now ... I am thinking that perhaps I need to do that.

I wonder if my customers feel as tied to the homes that they commission me to paint. I'd like to think so. But it is by my own heartfelt relationship to places that I love which draws me to capture that connection for others.

For the piece below, I was contacted by a lovely gal, Susan, who currently lives in Japan with her husband and children. She and her siblings, Tracy and Curt, wished to have their parents' home portrait painted as a gift for Christmas. What better gift than one that signifies "family."

Their wish was to have their parents' home painted for the winter holidays. I know that this home is completely different in architecture, but I visualized the home from Home Alone, and immediately wanted to capture a moonlit night ...

I painted the beginning layers of the night sky, and decided to go ahead with the sketch of the home before placing in the moon, as I did not want the moon obstructed from a peak of the roof.

Then, came the trees ...

... almost eerie at this stage. When I paint commissioned pieces, I usually send along progress photos, so that my customers can see how their painting is coming along. With this one, I confirmed with Susan (& Co.) that this was not a mistake - - I was not painting a Halloween portrait for them ...

(although, I was probably inspired to do so for all of the Halloween Candy that was laying around at the time!) ... it was just the beginning of layers.
With the initial background layer completed, I began to work on the brickwork.

When painting brick, it is all about texture and shading. I am not quite as timid when commissioned to paint brick as I was in the past ... there is always a learning curve and room to play to get it right.

Then, my favorite part of painting these home portraits ... embellishing, especially the winter homes. :)

And, after painting the foreground and covering it in snow ... Susan, Tracy & Curt's tribute to their family is complete.
"How beautiful! Thank you so much for everything! The progress pictures were a very personal, fun and unexpected touch! I can't wait to see it in person!"... "my parents absolutely LOVE their portrait!" - Susan W.

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

~Maya Angelou


Melissa Babyak said...

I love your houses! When I buy one, I want you to paint it. But you'll probably have to paint broken trash cans and port authority buses in front of mine. Maybe you can improvise and add landscaping and gardens instead. :P

Mom of AOCG said...

Thank you so much for the beautiful blog post! You brought me to tears! My parents love their portrait! It couldn't have been better! I sing your praises loud and wide!!!!!!! :) xo

Mom of AOCG said...

My Mom and Dad had trouble posting and asked me to post this.

We absolutely love the painting you did of our home. It is not the one our children grew up in and have memories, but our grandchildren have their memories of this home, Grandma's house. Thank you for doing a wonderful job of recreating it on canvas. Royce and Margie

Jen Kershner said...

You are so talented! What a gift! I can't imagine being able to paint like that. Or at all!