Friday, April 10, 2009

14th Painting - the reason behind it ... or 9th and 10th paintings.

To understand the why of the 14th painting you have to look back. Back to my 9th and 10th paintings.

Every October in the next town over there is a festival. This sleepy little town (Greenfield Indiana) really only has one claim to fame, J.W. Rieley, poet. The festival celebrates his life and achievements. He wrote around the turn of the last century and became very famous. In fact, he even wrote the poem Little Orphan Annie that inspired so many stories, plays and even movies.

Well, I'd been attending this festival for several years (really good food). But in September of 2008, I found out that during this festival they also have an art competition. I hadn't been painting long, but I really am extremely competitive, and just had to enter. So I found out the theme. It was based on one of many poems by Riley named "Our working girl". I'm not originally from here so I had no clue what the poem was about. I remember my first thoughts were "a hooker!?!" But the poem is about a girl who worked for Riley named Elizabeth, who made, according to him, the best custard pies.

As it turned out, I have a friend whose niece is a young girl named Elizabeth. I thought "perfect!!!" I emailed her mother (she lives a couple of hours away but I've met her many times) and described what was going on and asked if she would be willing to help. About a week later I received via email several photos of Elizabeth pretending to make a custard pie to use as reference material.

Keep in mind three things, #1 - I had never painted a portrait, #2 - I only had three weeks to paint one, and #3 - I generally hide in the background and don't participate in things that put me in center stage. So entering this contest was not my usual thing to do.

All of the reference photos had tricky angles, and because a flash was used the color was not good either. I ended up deciding that 2 pictures were the most usable so these became my reference for the paintings. So I painted, and I painted, and then I painted some more.

I take care of an elderly couple from my church who a year early had been nearly killed in a car accident so they do not drive anymore. During this three weeks, I was still taking care of them. Any chance I had though, I painted. The night before the paintings were due, I put the last stroke on each painting. I would have kept adjusting things but I ran out of time.

The morning they were due, it took a bit of work to find out where the competition was being held. Most of the festival was "downtown" but it turned out the competition was at a nearby park. When I got to the park, it was NOT clearly marked where you were suppose to go. I remember thinking "I've worked so hard, and now I can't find where I am suppose to go! This is just not right!" But eventually I saw someone else with some paintings go into a small building. I got my paintings out of the car and took them in. I was so nervous. I think I stuttered when I asked if this was the place. I handed in my paintings, my fee and the entry form, and left.

I don't know how other artists feel, but I become very attached to my paintings. I am even a little sad when I complete them. Kind of like when a child grows up and moves out. So I felt like I was leaving a small child with strangers. This of course made my case of nerves even worse. At this point, I wasn't even thinking about he competition any more, I was thinking about, in detail, every bad thing that could possibly happen to my paintings while they were in someone else's hands!

A few days later the festival started. We of course started with the "downtown" area where the food was. (Did I mention there is great food there?) After we had looked around and eaten our fill, I got up my nerve to go check out the art area. I hadn't wanted to look like the competition was too important to me, so I didn't even mention going to check it out until we had seen everything else.

We looked around at everyone's art. I tried to look interested in what others had accomplished, but I really just wanted to see my paintings. Then I found the first of the 2 paintings. It hung on the wall with a ribbon attached too it! I couldn't believe it! It said 3rd place! I was so excited I almost screeched! Then I saw my other painting. It too had a ribbon! Honorable mention! Wow! (I think I was jumping up and down about this time but I'm not sure.)

During the painting of these portraits, I assumed I would give them to the mother as a way of saying "thank you" after the competition. I did not consider how attached I would become to them. My first 2 portraits, and both had won ribbons! So as you are probably deducing, I did not give the paintings to Elizabeth's mother. They, along with the ribbons, are hanging in my house. I felt guilty about not giving the paintings to Elizabeth's mother. So the 14th painting is of Elizabeth, that yes, I did give to the mother. My next posting will be on the actual 14th painting.

These are the paintings:

BTW - I was later told it is not possible to do one portrait in 3 weeks, not to mention 2, so I feel that although they are not what I will ever feel as my best work, they will always be special to me!

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