A Sunny Family Portrait Painting: Aunt Maurice


‘Aunt Maurice’, family portrait painting by Austin artist Valerie Rawlings

Today’s family portrait painting is based on a photo my cousin Karen took of her mother (my aunt) Maurice. She was poised over a bowl of strawberries on a sunny afternoon at her timeshare in San Diego. I was lucky enough to join Karen and Maurice there last October, just after my mom’s funeral. It was a perfect time for us to celebrate my mom’s memory, traveling together as we used to do — and provided a great subject for one of my family portrait paintings. We laughed and cried and buoyed one another up in our grief. Sometimes when I am missing a family member, the best cure is to paint their portrait!

My Imaginary Family Portrait Painting Conversation

I painted this right after Christmas, and loved spending all that virtual face-to-face time with Aunt Maurice. As I added each brushstroke of color, it was like having a conversation with her. I imagined her coaching me about how she wanted to appear in the portrait. “Don’t give me any wrinkles. Does my hand really look like that? I think my hair needs to be fluffier.” So Aunt Maurice coaches, and I just grin back at her. It was great fun.

I thought I was finished; so I put the Aunt Maurice canvas aside and began working on a still life and another family portrait painting commission. As usual, I took a photo of the Maurice painting to send to Karen. We have this sort of mutual accountability thing going where we send pics of our artistic efforts to each other. And this ALWAYS happens: I look at the photo and I am shocked — something needs to be corrected! Sometimes I’ve taken as many as four photos, painting corrections in-between, before I can send it to Karen.

Painting (and Repainting) Family Portraits

This time the shadow on Maurice’s right cheek seemed too small. I fixed that, carried the painting outside, re-photographed, went upstairs to download the picture to the computer, saw it on the big screen and WTF? It looked like I didn’t even finish that bowl of strawberries. Back downstairs, repaint, carry outside, re-photograph, back upstairs, download to big screen and FINALLY it is good enough to release into the world.

Well, Karen showed Maurice the photo on her phone and she declared it “charming” — a pretty good grade from this no-nonsense art critic. So I guess this family portrait’s painting is good enough to call done. [Whew! I’m always a little anxious that I have missed the mark.] I’ll be sending Aunt Maurice her family portrait painting via Karen when she and I attend a Leslie Saeta art workshop in two weeks.

I hope you all get some face-to-face time (real or imaginary) with your loved ones this weekend! There is nothing better! (Unless it’s face-to-face time during an art workshop!)

About Valerie Rawlings

Austin, Texas oil painter focusing on portraits, landscapes and still life paintings
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2 Responses to A Sunny Family Portrait Painting: Aunt Maurice

  1. Ann Childress says:

    Nice! I like it–and a sweet memory.

  2. Excellent likeness of your Aunt Maurice@ It would be great if you could do a complete family portrait painting the next time Karen and Maurice are in Austin.