Painting Baby Navi
I spent a full day in the studio with Baby Navi Cameron, honoured by the request to forever capture her beauty for her family. Unfortunately, Navi left this world shortly after she came into it, just over three years ago.
Losing an infant must be a heart-wrenching, faith-shaking experience. I really can't imagine what it would feel like, especially as I write this on the morning of Ben's birthday - he turns 12 today. What if he didn't make it and this day was not a birthday celebration but a memorial.
I was overcome with emotion half-way through the process of painting Navi. Alone in my studio with the door wide open, the warm spring air cycling in, and the birds singing up in the trees, water invaded my eyes. I was thinking about Navi and her beautiful soul watching over her parents and her siblings. I was thinking of the baby my cousin Gordie and his wife lost and the impact that had on them and on my dad. Normally stoic and impenetrable, he was shaken to his core. We spoke about it on the phone last weekend, and the memories still have an effect over a decade later.
Often, when I start a painting, I don't know what I'm going to do in the background. In the case of Baby Navi, I was thinking of soft, downy, clouds through much of the process. Then, all of a sudden, this wash of warm green appeared in my mind and wouldn't let go. I have this strong memory of being very small and laying in the shade of our front yard, nestled in the soft grass, surrounded by family. It is a sensation that seems to connect perfectly with how Baby Navi is being cradled, adored and comforted by her family. It also represents life, and love that goes on forever.
Normally when I do a commission, I will send a few preview shots to the customer along the way. I didn't do that with Baby Navi. Instead, I asked Ryan (Dad) to come over and see it in person when it was done. I said a few words about my approach to the project and some of the choices I made, then turned the painting around. I wanted to make sure I got her right, that the finished portrait captured her spirit and honoured her memory.
The reaction in the seconds that followed the reveal is a precious memory to me. Ryan's face belied what he felt about the painting and his beautiful daughter. He and his wife Heather shared the painting and the photo that I used as a reference last night on Facebook. The response has been incredibly moving.