6″x8″ acrylic on cardboard, 2013. This little Peter Rabbit from Eden Toys belonged to my husband when he was a child, and I have always considered it to be an absolutely perfect example of proportion and design in the realm of stuffed toys. Even though I’m somewhat desensitized to the charms of most stuffed animals these days, I still find this bunny to be completely adorable from every angle! I’ve even painted him twice… the first time was in 2009, when I was cobbling together my toy portrait business. Looking at the two portraits together, I’m struck by how my style has evolved over the course of nearly 400 paintings!
8″x10″ acrylic, 2011. A couple of days each week, I pack Sonja and what seems like everything we own into my car and commute 45 minutes north to my parents house. There’s one bag for Sonja’s stuff, one for my running clothes and shoes, a cooler for food and drink, my laptop, my giant purse, and a big bag of art gear. A welcome uptick in business this year has caused me to need to use these visits to cram in as much painting as possible while Sonja enjoys her grandparents. This was fine when it was cold, but now that it is gorgeous and warm, it hurts a little when they run off to go canoeing or swimming. My parents live in Lake Luzerne, NY, which is packed with all manner of Adirondack-y delights, such as this spot:
…where I could be found last summer basking on a rock….
…but this year, I’m mostly here at my parent’s dining-room table while the three of them are off playing.
But this past Friday, I had remembered the kitchen sink but forgotten the correct-sized canvas for the portrait commission I was planning to work on. Frustrated, I turned to the stash of toys that my mom keeps there for Sonja (which deserves an entire post unto itself – stay tuned!) and decided to paint the main bear of the house, Stewie. In keeping with what seems to be trend in my recent work, Stewie reclines on an embroidered pillow. I think that if this happens again, I should probobly go out and enjoy the lake instead… summer is short!
11″x14″ acrylic, 2009. Here’s an older sketch of two of Sonja’s little favorites. They are each about the size of an adult hand, and she has an assortment of animals about that size lined up along the top of her head board. I will admit that most of them were collected by my husband and myself long before she was born! Choo Choo Chicken was named when we found Sonja chewing on his foot as a baby… so I suppose that, really, we should spell it “Chew Chew?” It occured to me to post it today when I was amazed to stumble upon this post about a lost stuffed chicken identical to Choo Choo. We purchased ours from Target many years ago around Easter time, but I’ve never seen it anywhere since… hope they’re able to find another! Here are pre-Sonja portraits of Choo Choo and Hoo Hoo.
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8″x10″ watercolor on paper, 2007. Here’s a watercolor sketch from a few years ago of three objects that may be found in my living room. The giraffe is a tea-light holder from Pier One, the chick is a bubble container/wand thing, and the ceramic hamster actually represented my husband atop our wedding cake. As you can (barely) see in this photo of a photo at left, our cake’s “bride” was a ceramic duck with a silver star on her head. Of course!
8″x10″ acrylic, 2010. Well, while I’m waiting for my slow summer to give way to some brisk portrait commission action as folks look toward the holidays (I HOPE!), here is a little study of two classic toys. I found the tiger, along with many other whimsical velveteen animals, for a dollar each at my local Ocean State Job Lot. They are reproductions of 1950’s Dakin Dream Pets, which were originally used as packing material for toy trains! The giraffe was a yard sale find. It’s from Little Tikes, I’m guessing from the 90’s. It served for many years as the “pilot” of my husband’s car, perched on the dashboard with its head smooshed under the windshield. It became a bit deformed from all the sun, and was ultimately surrendered to our toddler.
5″x5″ acrylic, 2010. I don’t actually buy that many stuffed animals, but every once in awhile a truly special beast will make its presence known to me and I just have to have it. Such was the case last week as my husband, daughter and I wandered around our local Job Lot in search of some random item which was evidently not random enough to be carried by Job Lot. This absurdly proportioned lion made us all burst out laughing. There was no discussion or debate — the fat lion just stepped on into the shopping cart like he had been waiting for a bus.
8″x10″ acrylic, 2010. I LOVE this crazy, knit chicken! It is part of the L’atitude Enfant series of stuffed animals, as are our other knit friends Don Gato and this cow. I bought it at Target for Sonja when I was about two minutes pregnant, having been waiting for an excuse. But Sonja is frustratingly diplomatic with her toys, and seems to select a new one or two each day to dote upon. She is working methodicly through our collection and has yet to show much interest in poor Louise. When Sonja was a newborn I would often waggle the chicken in front of her face, babbling in high-pitched french — maybe Louise has already had her moment in the sun.
5″x7″ oil, 2005. Our Sonja, who is almost two, is under the impression that owls and penguins are the same animal. She’s not as familiar with real owls and penguins as she is the abstract variations of illustration, animation, and toy design, so I guess it’s understandable. This little owl is one of a the elite group of toys who live in Sonja’s crib. She is extra interested in him right now because she likes Little Bear (the show and the books) and is convinced that Little Bear’s friend Owl can fly to the moon.
8″x10″ oil, 2004. Here is a “early” toy portrait that I painted several years ago of my sister’s childhood favorite, Knuffles. He was about 6″ high, I believe made by Gund, and pretty ambiguous about his species. There were many heated family discussions regarding what sort of animal he was… a cow? Hamster? Guinea pig? A nutria, even? His amorphous, squishy body made him a go-to living room battle projectile whenever the need for one arose.
4″x5″ acrylic, 2009. This is a tiny painting of my husband’s childhood stuffed bunny. The bunny was unearthed a couple of months ago at his parents’ house and shown to me with a sense of extreme reverence. When I asked what the story with it was, there was a lot of shrugging and looking at one another. “It’s a bunny, and it’s a…ball,” the family finally agreed. I love that there really isn’t any more say about it than what is evident in its serious wear and tear.