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.
9″x12″ acrylic, 2012. Check out the expression on two-year-old Carter’s face! Those Star Wars squeeze toys are his, a birthday gift from his mother’s best friend, but it seems that big brother Grant has taken them over. Even though Grant, five, has never seen the movies, he loves to act out elaborate scenes with these rather infantalized versions of the classic Star Wars characters. Whatever — Carter will just be hanging out over here with Elmo. The boys love bath time, and their mother Laura commissioned this painting (which she calls “Toy Envy”) to hang in the family’s bathroom. The Star Wars tub toys were made by Disney.
6″x8″ acrylic on cardboard, 2012. This painting, the second of two portrait gifts for Kathleen from Paul, features their three-year-old son Asa. I have experienced Asa’s ardor for trucks and trains first-hand, as Asa and Sonja sometimes get to play together. He imbues them with vigorous, joyful personalities, and expresses his deepest good will by offering his favorites to his playmates to borrow. It was such a pleasure to paint his sweet, striking face, which in person is incredibly animated — Paul tells me that it was nearly impossible to get him to be still long enough for a decent photo! Here are my recent portraits of Sonja and Asa side-by-side:
5″x7″ acrylic on cardboard, 2012. Took a break from the toys to paint my favorite little face… Sonja is four, and I think I’m going to try to make yearly portraits of her from now on. Is it evident that I love the Andrew Wyeth Helga paintings? Sonja’s braids definitely conjured them for me!
9″x12″ acrylic, 2012. When he was very small, ten-year-old Oscar fell in love with fishing at his Uncle Howie’s own well-stocked pond. Oscar’s mother Katya tells me that the fish were so plentiful that they practically jumped on the hook, and that thrilling experience guaranteed that Oscar was hooked as well! This fish is a large mouth bass that Oscar caught at the pond about four years ago. This is the first in a series of paintings Katya is having done of Oscar’s very favorite catches. Oscar was also the recipient of my Lego Bobafett portrait!
11″x14″ acrylic, 2010. This painting of Max and his cat is not a toy portrait of course, but is a follow-up to my painting of Max’s sister Lilly and her toy frog. Max’s mother Wendy says that Max does not have a particular favorite toy, but he is very attached to Jack the cat. She says that Max slings Jack over his shoulder and carries him around that way, and Jack doesn’t seem to mind a bit!
12″x12″ acrylic, 2010. A fun challenge from Wendy, who commissioned a portrait of her daughter Lilly together with her recently lost favorite stuffed toy! Poor Lilly and Froggy O’Froggy had been inseparable ever since she was born. Froggy is a variation on the very popular blanket/head theme in contemporary stuffed animals, but this is the first one I’ve encountered that consists of a whole animal holding a blanket in his hands — very clever and cute! Very thoughtful of Wendy to immortalize and commemorate Froggy for Lilly in this way… but I hope he turns up!