Oil on panel, 9×12″
This is a portrait of my son and his grandfather, Don, from a photo taken 30 years ago. I started working on this painting a few days before he died two weeks ago. Although he was afraid of dying he had tremendous acceptance, from years of regular meditation. Visiting him was a very peaceful experience. Even though he was experiencing so much loss, having been an athlete all his life and now watching his body fail, he was incredibly serene. We brought him some photos to look at, including the one from which this picture was made, and they cheered him up and made him laugh.
The reason I titled this post “Persistence, Acceptance and Freedom” is both because of Don, and also because I’ve had to accept that I don’t yet have the skills to make this a good portrait in oil paint, despite my persistence, and that this painting is as far as it’s going to get and it’s time to let it go. And that gives me much needed freedom, after working on this for way too many days. In the beginning it was a wonderful way to remember Don and think about those early days. I was determined to do the best I could but now by accepting that this is as far as I’m willing to take it, I free myself to move on to something else.
I didn’t spend enough time with the initial drawing, the photo I was working from was old and funky, and the color had faded strangely. Initially there were three generations in the picture, my son, his dad, and his grandad. First the two men were great but the baby was a mess. Then the baby got good but I messed up one of the men. After scraping off and redoing all or some of the people many, many times I decided to eliminate my son’s Dad, paint the background and clothes, and call it done. The thing with oil painting is that you can edit forever but I need to stop.
I’ve read it’s better for learning to paint hundreds of one-hour paintings than to spend hundreds of hours on one painting. I’ve tried the later and it’s not fun. I’m ready for the former and excited about doing timed paintings — more like sketches — one hour apiece.