The last thing I expected to hear when I came home on Thursday, finding Heather curled up in bed having a late afternoon nap, was that her grandma had died. It still doesn't seem real, to be honest.
As the news settled in, an image popped into my head of a photo I had taken during our last visit a couple of years ago in Winnipeg. I knew immediately that I needed to use it to paint Mary's portrait. Friday night, I sketched her out and brushed in the background. On Saturday, I set to work on helping her emerge from the canvas.
There is an added level of elusiveness in trying to bring to life subjects to which we are intimately acquainted. I experienced that when I did a watercolour portrait of my father a few years ago. Mary took some time to emerge from the strokes of colour and roughed in facial features.
"I don't see her yet." said Heather when she popped into the studio to see the progress, before the details of the eyes and mouth were done.
Every face is different, in terms of what reveals the inner soul, the vibration of the person. Sometimes it is the curve of the cheek or a furrowed line in the forehead; other times it is the shape of the hair or the structure of the teeth. I don't know what it was with Mary, except that all of a sudden, there she was.
I'm not afraid of trying to capture those I know and love, but there is no doubt about the increased intensity in trying to do so. At one point, the weight of loss swept across the studio and my eyes filled with tears.
I hope this portrait brings a small measure of solace to Gordon, who spent over 70 years with this remarkable lady, and to grieving children and grandchildren.