With Mother’s Day only two days away, I would like to tell you a little bit about the story behind my 11” x 14” acrylic painting “Mom”, portraying my mother at the age of a young kindergarten girl. I painted this artwork for the Arteast exhibition “Rearview Mirror” in 2005. It is one of few paintings that I painted in black and white. I love colours and restricting my palette was rather hard for me.
The photograph I used as a reference was taken in the early 1940s. It was printed as a postcard for sending to relatives. My mother wore a nice dress with a small print, possibly flowers, white socks, ankle boots, and a big white bow in her hair. It must have been hard for her to sit still for the photo session at this young age. In another photo from the session, which I only saw later, you see that her fists are balled even though she is smiling at the camera.
My reference photo was rather sepia than black and white. I am not sure if the photo always looked like this or if the colour changed over the decades.
When I read the rules for the exhibition, I immediately wanted to paint my mother’s portrait because the exhibition theme “Rearview Mirror” resonated with me as a view into the past. The old fashioned portrait was just perfect. I also wanted to challenge myself as I had not painted many portraits before and always felt that “they were not my thing”.
As I have not seen many other photos of my mother as a child and did not have any others in my possession, I had to rely on this sole photograph. Usually, I like to have a couple of reference photos to take what is best out of them to create my painting. I found it quite difficult to get the right shades so that my mother looked natural even though I did not use a black from the tube. Pure black is rather cold and better suited for abstract or comic style paintings. I always mix different darks with Payne's Grey, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine and Cobalt Blue, sometimes adding Alizarin Crimson. At the end, I even added some Cadmium Red to add just a touch of colour, hardly enough to make it a pink.
I know my mom really likes the painting, and I am still happy with it after all these years. As for painting portraits, I still find them very challenging and after one failed attempt (not a bad painting but just not what the person expected) will stick to portraits of family members. I need to know the persons well to feel comfortable painting them, and to be able to capture their character.
For all of you who are mothers, I wish you a “Happy Mother’s Day”. If you are lucky like me to still have your own mother in your life , I hope you will be able to spend a couple of memorable hours together.
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