Much like the shoemaker's kids, the painter's mom goes without ...
Kim West: My mom is awesome. She is fun, smart, super generous, and she lives on the other side of the country from me. In attempts to close the distance gap, she sends my son packages on a near weekly basis: books, art supplies, toys, seasonal clothing, sweet drawings of sunsets she's made. You name it. She's just as benevolent with me and my husband ... although I must admit that since our kiddo arrived on the scene 6 years ago, packages for me or my husband tend to be usurped by those for the little man. Ah, well.
We try to match her: sending back drawings, mementos, photos. Lovely, thoughtful, and generally time-intensive handmade things for the biggies -- birthdays, holidays, and whatnot. The problem, or issue, is ... I have a business making portraits of kids. Modern, heirloom-quality graphite and gouache paintings. I make dozens of them a year for customers, and ... she wants one. Of her grandson. I haven't yet been able to do it. The one thing she's specifically asked for! What is my problem?
Painting a child's portrait is an interesting experience for me. I usually spend about an hour or so taking photographs (that I will reference when painting) and hanging out with the child -- getting to know their personality, their likes, the unique ways they sit or stand. My nutshell experience of them is ultimately encapsulated in their finished portrait. Somehow, there is an alchemy that takes place -- parents are always very excited and even surprised at how the finished portrait of their child is so much more "them" than even a photograph, especially after I spend a relatively short amount of time with the child.
Which gets me back to my problem. Painting my son, for my mom. I know infinitely more about him than I'm able to take from the hour of time spent with other portrait subjects ... I know everything about him! Figuring out how to edit all the amazingness that I've experienced in our 6 years together into that nutshell experience ... hmmmm.
This year, Mom turns 60. I'm determined that she's going to have an exquisitely wrapped, perfectly capturing portrait of my kiddo to open on her big day. Resolve made, I've now got to figure out how to make for her what is so natural to make for others. Wish me luck!
|Kim West is a mom, wife, and artist based in Los Angeles, CA. Aside from painting commissioned portraits of children, she exhibits her personal work at galleries, paints public murals whenever the opportunity presents, and spends an inordinate amount of time deciding between coffee, tea, and wine. You can see samples of her portraits at kimwestgarner.com, and work from her two most recent shows at kimwest.com.|