Happy Birthday to “Little Cathy”

For my mom’s birthday I decided to do a portrait of her from a black and white photograph from her childhood. I had plenty to choose from but one stood out to me. Her expression of childlike happiness and the shadows from the squinting of her eyes added a whole new depth to the photograph. It was almost like she was in the middle of playing outside in the midst of summer, not a cold stingy portrait in an air conditioned studio where her hair is brushed her clothes crisp with a nervous smile that happens when you glance at the photographer you barely know which is curtly telling you to “smile” .

My mom is an amazing example of a human being. She has a story behind her eyes that not many people see or know about. She has her strengths and  weaknesses like we all do, but her sheer force to carry on even in the midst of pain and unhappiness is inspiring to me. I wanted to capture that childlike happiness for her. That joyous moment of life when your old enough to experience the world but not yet know the dangers and sadness, that great amount of negativity our world harbors. I just wanted to give her something that really came from the heart. I do not have many talents so the ones that I do seem to have been luckily blessed with, I try to make the most of them. This was my first serious attempt at a pencil portrait of a real person. Sure  I’ve done sketches of people before, like in airports or from magazines. But I’ve never been able to really “catch” that certain person’s personality in my drawings. I once before did a portrait of a teacher’s child. I was in elementary school and from what I can remember it seemed like a pretty good representation of the little  girl. But this time I wanted it to scream “Cathy” [ my mother’s name].

Drawing is like breathing to me, a second nature you could say. So when I stumbled across that photograph it felt just right to pick up a pencil and start drawing. Living in a small town limits my resources drastically, so I used some poster paper ( the kind you get from the dollar store ) and taped it to a wall in my hallway under good lighting. If this was a perfect world, I’d have used a thick textured paper, something that would blend well etc. etc. etc. But for now, I’ll keep that as just a dream and stick to my dollar store specials. I took pictures during the creation of this portrait just so people could see the different stages of it. I tried really hard to capture the essence of my mother in this drawing, and it was satisfying to see the look on her face when she came home from visiting her parents to find it still in the hallway. It was almost like a gift for myself to see that my gift had touched her so fondly.

With my family’s encouragement I entered “Little Cathy” in the Burns Lake Alternate Arts Festival. The AAF (Alternate Arts Festival) is a oppurtunity for students from Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Fraser Lake and Fort St. James to exhibit works of art as well as performances, films, and music. I always enjoy going to art shows, I feel somewhat at home at these places surrounded by people like myself. It is very inspiring to see so many people with such creativity and talent. In grade 8 I had won second prize for a Gesso acrylic painting of a dahlia in the junior category with a prize of $100. The past few years my art hasn’t placed as I had usually put “experiments” in the art show. (abstract, graphitti, and other unusual things) but this year I put two works in. A portrait of Lady Gaga, and the portrait of my mother. I wasn’t expecting to place this year, looking around at all the other senior work…I had plenty of competition. I would hate to be cocky, and say my work was the best because that is just not me. There was beautiful creations of work there. More than I remember from the past years. At the end of the festival the awards were given out. I had placed second in the seniors division, it was satisfying to stand up there and receive my prize ($100) it boosted my esteem that the judges had taken an interest in my portrait of my mother in the sea of mesmerizing artwork.

For a few months it was almost like I had put down my pencils for good. It was depressing, I had reached an artist’s version of a writer’s block. It was torture when nothing seemed to come out right. The idea in my head always looked different then what my hands created. I had lost confidence in my skills. So when I say that this birthday gift was a gift for me as well, it was this portrait that had finally ended my “creativity drought”.

Hallelujah

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