The four-week project has come to a close, bringing mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety. The sense of accomplishment won’t come until the clients give their approval. It will be a long night as I anticipate their reaction tomorrow. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Is it possible for this painting to strike that one emotion that will freeze the moment as they gaze back in time.
This request was very unique. Three teenagers, one boy and two girls, approached me two months ago about painting an anniversary gift for their mother.
“We want you to paint a family portrait,” the eldest boy had said as he handed me five photographs.
I looked them over carefully then smiled back, “I think I can manage that.”
Then the youngest, a beautiful young girl, maybe 13-years-old, handed me another photograph. “Can you add this one as well?”
In the picture was a little boy. I am guessing he was about 3 years old when the photo was taken. “Is this your little brother?”
“He was,” answered the eldest boy. “He died 10 years ago, but we were hoping you could paint him looking the age he would have been this year. He was Hannah’s twin.” Then he pointed at his youngest sister.
Finally the middle child chimed in, “our Dad passed away this year. Mom wanted to get a final family picture before he died, but the cancer got him too fast.”
I could see the pain in these teens’ eyes. All three of their faces dropped as if they had just lost their father that day. What could I say? I was at a loss for words. So I waited it out, allowing the silence to pass the time.
After a couple minutes of the siblings comforting each other, the boy broke the silence. “This will be our mom’s first wedding anniversary without our dad, and we want to do something special for her. Do you think you can paint this for us?”
“Yes, of course,” I responded.
Now, weeks later, it is finished. I think it is the best painting I have ever done, and definitely the most challenging. It is when I work the hardest that I am most nervous. I have had several mixed reactions in the past. Some people love my work, others ask for a refund. I can always tell by the look on their face when they first see the painting … that initial reaction always gives it away.
There are clues. First, the breath. The client’s deep breath is a sign that they are stunned. That’s a good thing. Next there is the hand going up the their mouth, as if they are trying to hide their reaction. That is even better. Finally, a tear. If they shed a tear I know I accomplished complete satisfaction.
The day is finally here, and the kids arrive excited. Their faces are a far cry from the sorrow they displayed at our previous meeting. No, this time they are happy, especially the youngest one. She can hardly contain her excitement as I bring out the covered painting.
“You ready?” I ask.
All three nod eagerly with anticipation.
As I pull the sheet from the canvas all three of them take the breath. I study their faces as both of the girls put their hands to their mouths. The boy stood motionless behind them.
Their father is in the center. His smile is one of complete contentment as his beautiful family surrounds him. To his right is his son whom he joined in Heaven. The young boy smiled with pure joy as he clung to his dad’s arm. To the father’s left is their mother with soft golden hair and bright blue eyes. To her right is their youngest daughter with light freckles on her nose. In front of the parents sit the oldest kids, the boy below the father and the girl below the mother.
I used warm colors throughout, setting the father and son apart with a faint glow. Their skin was warmer looking. It was as if there are two families now, the father and son who are united in Heaven, and the rest of the family still together on Earth. But in the painting they are joined together, not as two families, but as one. Together … and at peace.
After a few minutes … and several tears … the children speak up, “thank you.”
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