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My first portrait? Mom is the Word!


Mom was the first person I ever recall drawing. I started making drawings from black and white photographs of her. As parents, women derive more joy from their children than men. My father once told me that no matter what a man does for his children, they will grow up and only do stuff for their mother. Well, I painted my father's oil portrait after he had died, but Mom was alive when I painted hers. She saw me painting all those portraits of dead people. I got commissioned by their families who needed something for the funeral room and lying-in-state. They need these images of their deceased loved ones to keep their resemblance for decades.

One day my mother asked me if I was waiting for her to die before I made a painting of her. I thought of painting her but just needed to get better at it. That would be one artwork that I would live with. I had this horror of living with all the imperfections years after finishing the portrait. That shocked me. I decided to make an oil portrait from photographs on the condition that she must come to sit for me in the studio to put the finishing touches on the painting. Mom agreed. That is how this portrait got made. I also asked her to bring the dress she wore in the photograph for me to understand the patterns firsthand.

She proudly showed off the portraits to visitors. I think of the joy on her face, and the colors in the painting must have cheered her up on dark days. Her smile is infectious, warming the room. This portrait was a gift of love. It was not my gift to her- it was the other way around. She gave me so much that I could never repay. This little essay is in appreciation- that she saw herself painted in life, that posterity will see her in a beautiful light- with colors wrapped around her. This portrait hung over her favorite spot in the living room till she died in 2012. The painting hangs on one side of the living room, while the dad's portrait is on the other. They seem to look over the family. They are ever-present.


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