Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Sunday, January 8th, was a very special day for many reasons. I will tell you why in just a moment.

For 40 years I have been a professional artist, 32 years as a watercolorist and the past 8 years as an oil painter. During that time, I have done hundreds of shows and created hundreds of portraits. I love painting people. Many, many of these portraits have been commissions and it has been my highest honor to paint loved ones for a family.

In December I met with a couple, Valerie and Cam Gould, that loved portraits! Their home is filled with paintings and sketches of generations of their family members. They asked me to paint a portrait of their daughter, Christie. She is now 25, however, they wanted a portrait of her when she was three years old. Out came the albums of photos and we had a great time looking through images of the little tyke and settled on one image.

Like many commissions that dig back into the past, there are always challenges. Sometimes the photos are faded or damaged, or in black and white. The photo that we chose this time was a terrific image of her little smiling face, but it, too, had a sizable share of things that needed to be changed. For starters, the size of her entire body was less that 1 inch high, but the light wrapping around her face was priceless. When I tried to enlarge it to see her face, I realized that the photo became grainy and out of focus. (When this is the situation, I am so grateful for the years and years and thousands of sketches that I have done studying faces.) in the old photo, she was dressed in typical play clothes and sitting on bright colored inflated balloon bags. The setting and the clothes just didn't do her face justice, so using the inspiration of her little face and her body position, I set out to create a painting that would ooze with charm and innocence.

We found photos of her in a darling timeless dress and decided to have her seated on the old brick steps of her childhood home. By softening the background to colors found in nature, I created a portrait that let her darling face reach out to all of us.

Now, getting back to the big event of last Sunday. From the very beginning, my clients were very excited to host an unveiling party for this painting. Never before, in all the years of my painting and drawing commissions, have I ever been honored with an unveiling of my work at a client's home! I thought that perhaps a few of their friends and neighbors would stop by, a lovely thought and I was very pleased. This event was set for Sunday January 8th.

On the 8th, Sunday.... Howard and I arrived at the Gould's early in the afternoon to set up the painting and to my amazement, it wasn't going to be a small gathering....there were beautiful plates of food and candles set out all over! 60 friends and neighbors had been invited to this gala catered event. As the afternoon slipped into evening, more and more people arrived. It was a huge success! Everyone was thrilled to see the painting. What an honor to have my work presented in this way. It reminded me of the royal portraits through the centuries and how they were always presented at an unveiling for the court. I felt like a rock star!

A big huge thank you to the Gould's for trusting me with this awesome commission and for hosting that incredible unveiling! We all had a great time! Sunday was a great day of connecting with old and new friends.... and old and new memories.

Christie by Susan Blackwood
20 x 24 oil

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