Do you Paint from Family Photos?
The reference photo for the monotype above was snapped in the mid 1970’s, in my dad’s childhood home in rural Connecticut. My grandparents bought and renovated the house in 1944, after it had lived a full life as Old Meadowbrook Farm – a Country Inn and gladiola farm since the late 1800’s. If you’re unfamiliar with monotype printmaking, there are many posts on this blog featuring monotypes in process (click here to see a few posts). You can also watch monotypes being made on my youtube channel. Gather your supplies and lets make something, shall we?
This monotype, in it’s beginnings on my studio desk, with my reference photo on the right. The image was drawn in water-soluble crayon on a sheet or prepared plexiglass, and printmaking inks were painted in layers on the plexi.
Images are Already Familiar
The view of rolling green hills dented with a thumb-print of a pond, and the pool where I learned how to swim are still visible after all these years. (I’ve zoomed in and sighed relief while searching on google maps.) The main floor and upstairs were made from creaky, wide plank wood floorboards, with square-head nails. (Try as we might, it was impossible to sneak up on anyone at Nana’s house.)
A massive stone fireplace in the center of the house featured grouper-mouth openings in five rooms, upstairs and downstairs. Potted geraniums – normally squinting in the sun by the pool – were pulled into the sunporch to hide from New England snow. I used to water the plants in the winter while my grandparents stayed in Florida. The smell of geraniums still takes me back to this sunporch.
Harvest the Good Stuff
Like a lot of people,there are chapters of my childhood that are best forgotten, but my grandparent’s house at Old Meadowbrook was a respite. The circular driveway rotated with gathered friends & family, pulling chairs up to hearty, Italian meals, while being entertained by visiting cousins, dogs, birds and rival siblings. We watched over my grandfather’s shoulder while he whittled figures from wood, or assembled mechanical contraptions on the kitchen table from his machine shop next door.
The mind swells with wonderful memories while painting from family photos. The time to reflect is heart-felt and the recollections are solid enough to lean your whole weight against, even in vaguely recalled sensations. If the photos were taken before your time, there’s enough genetic recognition in the facial structure, carriage and environs to provide your inspiration Go-button with familiar, pre-studied painting subjects. Each photo holds clues about your family’s beginnings & their youth, and the leap frog nature of family resemblance is always entertaining.
Lighten Your Grip, Francis
The added benefit in the art-making is this; there is just enough of the creative mind occupied with remembrance & family history to free the poor hand from straining with decisions related to painting things in or out, and mixing color & values. Pre-occupied mark-making is less stressed & more fluid. You can blend two lovely activities in your studio: making art and harvesting good memories from old family photos. It makes me appreciate the sweet life I live now – with my artist’s-brain, working-hands and a fully-awake heart.
Do you use family photos in your artwork?
Thanks for visiting today and I’ll see you in the next post!
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However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.
~Henry David Thoreau