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Portraits of Love & Loss: A Tribute to My Family

By: Jennifer Prevost
12 minute read
1630 words

The pandemic was a challenging time for all of us, each facing our own unique struggles. For me, living alone and single, it meant navigating the storm in solitude. While some might consider that a nightmare, I found solace in my artwork. During those difficult times, painting became my refuge, reigniting my passion in a profound way. The chaos and uncertainty of the outside world faded away as I immersed myself in my art.

In April 2021, amid the turmoil of COVID, my world came to a sudden standstill. I lost someone incredibly special to me—my father. He was more than just a father; he was my mentor, my therapist, my business advisor, my friend, and my biggest supporter. To honor his life and cope with my grief, I painted many portraits of him, capturing the essence of the man who meant so much to me.

 

Painting Through Grief

Creating artwork can be a powerful form of therapy when dealing with grief. Through each brushstroke, I worked through a myriad of emotions, channeling my sorrow, love, and memories into my paintings. It felt as though I was honoring my father's spirit and life with every piece I created. These paintings were not just mere representations of his physical form; they were attempts to capture the very essence of his being. I used color to reflect his vibrant personality, drew parallels with other important works that I deeply respect, and embedded hidden symbolism throughout each piece. This artistic journey allowed me to process my grief while paying tribute to a man who was so much more than a father to me.

I had never painted a portrait before this experience. However, having painted numerous landscapes and local landmarks, I thought, "How hard can it be?" Surely, painting a person couldn't be that challenging. I quickly learned how wrong I was! Portrait painting activates a completely different part of the brain, requiring a new set of skills and a deeper level of observation. Despite the initial struggle, the reward of capturing a person's likeness is profound. It's as though you see them again, bringing their presence to life on the canvas. The satisfaction of successfully rendering my father's image was immensely gratifying and added another layer of emotional depth to the process. If I’m being honest, I painted many portraits until I found I had painted one that truly captured his likeness.

 

The Mentor – A Portrait of Kenneth Prevost

 The completion of this painting launched a series of family portraits that are the most cherished works I've ever created. Through this initial portrait, I aimed not only to capture my father's likeness but also to communicate his spirit. The sky plays a crucial role in this painting, illuminating his vibrant personality. My father was an entrepreneur, an avid reader, and someone who lived life with incredible passion and excitement. To reflect these qualities, I used my favorite colors—bold and exciting hues that mirror his character. The sunset in the painting symbolizes a time of change, and the choice of a pink sunset signifies that tomorrow will be beautiful. This symbol captures the essence of my father's optimism and enduring influence.

He was so much more than a father to me. My dad mentored many people to follow their dreams and pursue their passions. He loved to teach and connect with people on a personal level. As my mentor, he guided me through countless life lessons. To honor him, I painted his portrait using similar colors and composition to a portrait of my artistic mentor, Van Gogh. This reference added a layer of depth and homage to the artwork.

In the painting, I included a model airplane flying through the sunset. This detail was significant because my father had a few model airplanes he was fixing up, and he often wrote in his journals about how everyone should experience building an airplane in their basement. It was a testament to his zest for life and the joy he found in even the simplest projects. Capturing these elements in his portrait was my way of reflecting his exciting and inspirational spirit.

 

A New Series – Family Portraits

I enjoyed painting these portraits so much that I embarked on a quest to paint my immediate family. Painting portraits of loved ones who are still living is a very different experience. Following the same composition and layout, I began the next painting in this series. Once again, the sky played a pivotal role in determining the atmosphere of the painting and reflecting the essence of the person. Each stroke of the brush became an exploration of their unique personality, capturing not just their likeness but the spirit that makes them who they are. This journey of creating family portraits has been incredibly rewarding, allowing me to connect with my loved ones on a deeper level through my art.

This is a portrait of my older brother, Christopher. Chris is very kind, soft-hearted, and has an old soul, so I aimed to paint a soft, romantic sky that reflects these qualities. I tried to paint him with a lot of warmth, capturing his gentle and kind personality within his expression. The thick, repetitive brush strokes create a visual rhythm throughout the painting, echoing the classic impressionist style. Through this portrait, I wanted to convey the warmth and sensitivity that defines Chris, making the sky and his demeanor integral parts of the composition.
The next portrait within this series depicted my younger brother, Simon. I chose to paint him wearing a bright yellow coat, a color that symbolizes youth, hope, and optimism The sunrise behind him is depicted with vibrant, lively hues, reflecting the vividness of his personality. Simon is quite the character—full of energy, enthusiasm, and a zest for life that is truly infectious. The bright hues and dynamic background serve to highlight his unique presence and the joy he brings to our family. Each brushstroke was intentional, aiming to convey not just his appearance, but the joy and vitality he brings to everyone around him. This portrait is a tribute to his spirited nature and the optimism he infuses into our family.

Painting my mother, Janet, was a deeply enjoyable experience. The texture of her blue velvet coat lent her a regal quality that I sought to capture in every brushstroke. Her scarf, a cherished Christmas gift from years past, added intricate patterns and visual interest to the portrait, symbolizing the layers of her personality and history.

Once again, the sky played a crucial role in the composition, dynamic and bright, echoing my mother's vibrant spirit. Janet is not only fun and funny but also a bright presence that naturally draws people to her. In portraying her, I aimed to infuse the painting with love and strength, reflecting the remarkable woman she is. Each detail, from the texture of her coat to the play of light in her eyes, was painted with care to celebrate her essence and the profound impact she has on our family.

I was initially hesitant to paint a portrait of myself, but I ultimately felt it was necessary to complete this series of family portraits that have been so meaningful to me. This self-portrait marks the culmination of this series, reflecting not only my physical presence but also my artistic journey and influences.

 In selecting the colors for my clothing, I drew inspiration from a self-portrait painted by Van Gogh, one of my greatest artistic influences. The blue hat and green coat pay homage to my father, reflecting our similarities in mind and spirit. To further honor Van Gogh's influence on my work, I included an embroidered brooch on my coat bearing his portrait—a symbolic gesture that ties my artistic journey to his enduring legacy.

 The trailing sunset in the background symbolizes the long journey ahead through life that I eagerly anticipate. It represents hope, resilience, and the continuous exploration of new artistic horizons. Painting this self-portrait was both a personal and artistic challenge, yet it allowed me to reflect on my family's legacy, my own artistic growth, and the vibrant connections between art, life, and influence.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this series of family portraits has been a profound journey for me, both artistically and emotionally. What began as a refuge during the challenging times of the pandemic evolved into a heartfelt tribute to my father and a celebration of my family's essence. Each portrait, from capturing my father's entrepreneurial spirit to reflecting my brothers' unique personalities and honoring my mother's warmth, has allowed me to convey not just their physical likeness but the very essence of who they are.

As I look at these paintings, I see more than just images on canvas; I see a legacy of love, strength, and connection that I hope will resonate through generations. These portraits encapsulate moments, stories, and personalities that define us as a family. They are a testament to the power of art to heal, to remember, and to celebrate life's journey. It is my deepest wish that these paintings remain cherished in our family for years to come, serving as a reminder of where we come from and the values that bind us together.