These paintings are by far the project that has humbled and blessed me the most since I began creating synesthesia art.
Earlier in the summer I attended a church small group meeting as research for a piece of art. At that meeting I met a hysterical, persuasive, lovely woman. We talked. My art came up because it was the reason I was visiting the group. Later in the meeting she shared some very sad personal news: a family friend had been diagnosed with cancer. Her parents and siblings were very close to this man and his family, so his diagnosis was shocking and painful. The group prayed that night, and I continued to pray afterward.
Not long after that she contacted me to ask about doing a family portrait of this man and his family. I was thrilled to say yes. My new friend got right to work.
Over the coming weeks, she amazingly recorded the family’s voices without them ever knowing. She sent me those voice clips. He was bright blue. His wife was burgundy. Their daughters were strikingly similar tangerine shades, with one sister being slightly pinker than the other. My friend’s dad and stepmom were deep orange and forest green. We settled on doing two pieces: a portrait of this man’s family (he, his wife, and their two daughters), as well as a surprise for her dad and stepmom (the two of them with this man and his wife). Now it was my turn to get to work.
Did I mention this gal is persuasive? I have had a love-hate relationship with watercolors in the past. They were so ethereal and lovely, but I never felt like they behaved for me and I had given up on them. But this woman convinced me to try again. This man, his family, and their relationship with my friend’s family was all special. I was told they did everything together. “They’ve traveled everywhere together and just plain did life together,” my friend said. “Blended colors makes beautiful sense.” When it came time to paint, the first brushstrokes convinced me that she was right: these people’s lives had blended together just like this paint did. Watercolor was perfect.
One sad night while I was still working on the paintings I got a text: He had passed away. My heart was with his family and friends, and the project took on a new intensity and preciousness to me after that.
I wanted to make the two paintings feel like a set, like they belonged together. It seemed right that these families each have a piece of each other, along with a memory of this special man. We named the family portrait “Together Forever,” and the portrait of the parents “Mejores Amigos,” which means “best friends” in Spanish.
I wasn’t there when my friend gave the paintings to her loved ones, but she passed on that the families loved them. My heart was so happy at this news. This collaboration really had created something intensely meaningful to honor this man’s life. We had made something that did what I hope all my work does: Capture something, be it simple or sacred, and keep it alive in a beautiful way.