I love a challenge and I love wedding toy portraits, so this project was lots of fun! Just a week before leaving for her sister’s wedding on the Isle of Wight, it occurred to Rachel that a portrait of the bride and groom’s favorite childhood playthings would make a unique and sentimental gift for the occasion. She quickly contacted the couples’ parents to secure similarly-lit photos of the toys as well as their relative measurements so that I could create the illusion of their togetherness in the portrait. This well-loved Winnie the Pooh was given to Rachel’s sister Sarah at her Christening 33 years ago, and the classic Snoopy and attached (?) blanket belong to her beau. The painting was finished, framed, and wired just in the nick of time, Rachel and her adorable son Arthur stopped by my “studio” to pick it up before heading to the airport!
8″x10″ acrylic, 2013. Fourteen-year-old Kiki, whose real name is Madeline, can almost always be found at the feet of one Shelby’s four children. The family compares her to Nana from the Peter Pan stories, as she has watched over the little ones all their lives. One of the kids’ first word was “Kiki!” Her face has grayed in recent years and she is probably deaf, but Shelby suspects Kiki might just be ignoring her at this point. I recently painted a portrait of Shelby’s family in the guise of classic Little People… if only Fisher-Price had made a little pug figure!
I’ve painted many Jellycat bunnies, but the story attached to this little guy is particularly moving. He belongs to Boothe’s daughter Lulu, whose birth marked the end of a period of immense loss and sorrow for the family. Lulu’s “spunky, little wildflower spirit” reminds Boothe of Isaiah 61: “[He will] provide for those who grieve… bestow on them a crown of wildflowers instead of ashes.” She describes Lulu, who is almost five, as “feisty and hilarious and quite literally does things – EVERY thing – in her own remarkably funky fashion.” Bobo the bunny, originally called Bo, was chosen early on as the favorite from among a slew of Jellycat toys awaiting Lulu’s arrival, and has remained her “one true love.” Bobo has travelled to at least twenty states (including Hawaii!) at Lulu’s side and is often found dressed in doll clothes or Lulu’s own baby clothes. In this portrait, Bobo sports Lulu’s own monogrammed baby shoes! Boothe recently came upon Lulu rocking Bobo, singing to him and attempting to teach him his colors. “I wonder how long she’ll love him,” Boothe wrote me, “He’s been a precious reminder of the sweetness that Lulu is. In my own way, I’ll always cherish Bobo, too, which I think is why I so wanted this portrait to be done.”
5″x7″ acrylic on canvas, 2013. Amy’s little girl is turning one this coming November, and as a birthday gift Amy decided to honor the stuffed bunny blanket that has brought her daughter so much comfort throughout her first year. The bunny is known alternately as “Bunny,” “Nappy” (due to his magical sleep-encouraging powers,) and “Foo Foo” (as in the pursuer of field mice, I assume.) The baby chews on his ears to fall asleep, and when she learned to crawl, she made her way to the nursery, pulled herself up at the crib, and reached through the slats to grab him! By my count this is the tenth pink bunny “blanket-head” I’ve painted!
8″x12″ acrylic on fiberboard, 2013. Like most of us, I wear many different hats. One of my other “hats” is actually a pair of headphones, as I’ve worked as a dj playing house music in clubs and at raves for the past 14 years. Consequently, I have a default fondness for the turntable motif (despite the fact that actual turntables are practically obsolete in modern clubs!) I’m very fortunate that my mother saved some of best 1970s Fisher-Price toys, including this classic wind-up record player. Can’t you just hear “Edelweiss” and “Camptown Races?” I couldn’t resist painting a pair of them side-by-side as a wink at my “other job.”
8″x10″ acrylic, 2013. When she found me on etsy, a portrait of her family as Fisher-Price Little People seemed irresistibly inevitable to Sharon, a vintage Little People collector! We modified classic figures to better represent Sharon, her husband, their sons Patrick and Shannon, and daughter Jasmine. We used the standard red-capped tyke for both boys, dressing one in blue and one in yellow for differentiation. The hairstyle on this little girl, originally yellow, appears here in dark brown to match Jasmine’s. The mother figure’s yellow hair and dad’s classic dark brown have both been altered to meet in the middle as medium-blonde. My summer sale on Little People family group portraits continues!
7″x9″ acrylic on board, 2013. That expression… we call that her “busy face.” Sonja looks this way whenever she is engrossed in an object or activity, and it ranges from mildly pursed and focused to bug-eyed and vibrating. Here’s an extreme example from her babyhood: Needless to say, we have found the Busy Face to be an endless source of amusement over the years, which Sonja, now five, finds a bit annoying at this point. We recently acquired a container of classic Tinkertoys at our local thrift shop, and painting her working with them has gotten me interested in making portraits of children engaged with their favorite toys. This seems to be a natural progression from years of portraits of kids and toys individually! Here’s an etsy listing for just such a dual portrait here if you’d like one of your own.
I was honored to paint this memorial portrait of Toga, a boxer who belonged to Michael and Stephen from 2007 until his passing this past January. Michael shared this history of their beloved dog:
“He was found as a sick and emaciated stray in Philadelphia when he was around 2 years old. From there a Boxer rescue organization found a foster home for him in Malta. That couple nursed him back to health and we adopted him in the summer of 2007 as a companion to a puppy boxer we’d gotten the year before. He was with us for almost 6 years. He was the most strong willed dog I’ve ever met but also exceptionally loyal, goofy and loving. He spent so many summer days working with me in the front yard that the neighbors came to call him the Mayor of Foxhall (our street). Last year he was diagnosed with a heart condition that we were treating. The picture you painted was taken the day before he passed in January. He had been running around the beach at a home we’d just purchased on Cape Cod. He was healthy and active up until his very last day. That night after we’d returned to NY a valve in his heart failed and he passed quietly. I’m sure that he’ll go down as the most unique dog we’ve ever owned.”
This painting was commissioned by Michael as a gift for Stephen’s birthday. Michael tells me that Toga was the inspiration for their friend Tim’s adoption of Olive the boxer, whose present-day and puppyhood portraits I painted earlier this year!
9″x12″ acrylic on canvas, 2013. My very favorite thing about this stuffed Jellycat hedgehog is that one-year-old Jack carries him in his mouth by the nose. I wish that I had set up a tag at some point for this phenomenon, as I’m sure I’ve had several other portrait subjects that were transported in this manner but can’t recall which ones… I’d love to look back over them and see if there’s a particular trait that invites this behavior! Jenny Witte of the wonderful Mamatoga blog came by this custom portrait at an auction benefitting the Children’s Museum of Saratoga. It will go nicely alongside the painting she won last year at the same event! Big sister Levy’s stuffed bunny and brother Finn’s stuffed pup are featured in my previous portrait for the family, who are clearly Jellycat devotees. Here are Levy and Finn painting their favorite toys at a children’s paint-your-own-toy-portrait event I recently hosted as part of the Saratoga Arts Fest “Kids Do Art” program… We are so lucky in the Saratoga area to have blogs like Mamatoga and folks like Jenny who support local arts and family businesses!
8″x10″ acrylic, 2013. I’ve painted many a Fisher-Price Little People family portrait, but have never used the iconic yellow-bibbed baby until now! This figure was one of my favorites as a child because it reminded me of a perfectly cooked hardboiled egg, which I suppose could just as easily make someone dislike it! Erin’s commissioned this portrait of herself, her husband, their baby girl, and their twin girl and boy. Both twins are blonde, she told me, but her daughter’s hair is a bit lighter in color. I took some liberties with the standard Fisher-price palette to achieve her son’s coiffure and Erin’s light brown hair, but the rest of the family is represented by existing, classic Little People.