Saturday, September 12, 2009

Self Portrait Global Love In Challenge #2

Self Portrait #3

soft pastel on 61/4" by 91/2" tan velour pastel paper

OK, I'm adding this on - the point is the Self Portrait Global Love In Challenge #2, hosted by David Lobenberg. This is such a successful Challenge, probably because it started with David and our friend Milind Mulick from Pune, India. It drew attention from a world wide audience. There were many artists from Spain. Anyway, David, being pretty clever, I'd say, waited several months before offering the second challenge. This time, our self portrait is to include a hat or some type of head covering. For those of you that know me, or maybe just seen my picture on line, I am seldom without a hat. I don't even remove it when I lay down!

I remember the first hat I was attracted to was a little royal blue billed cap that came with a Beneton promotion for the perfume Colors. Remember that fragrance? I got that hat in about 1988, still have it in fact, although I no longer wear it. I probably wore that hat four years before I added to that collection. Crazy little things - without rhyme or reason - can start a life long passion!

I have written a long and detailed account of the origin of the photograph this painting was taken from. I hope it is interesting and I hope you read and enjoy it. But, all the details for this painting challenge have now been covered!

Is it proper to say you love your own work? Or even better/worse your own self portrait? Well, proper or not, I love this drawing! I love the hat, the shirt, the beads, the drop-off of color on the bottom and most important, the origin of the original photograph. The photograph was taken by a brilliant Jacksonville portrait photographer, Pete Helow.

Pete Helow is a patient and kind man! He had to be to put up with the day my family descended upon his studio - like a horde of locus! He is multi-talented and multi-faceted, being also a musician and now an aspiring pilot! I like people that do lots of varied things - you never call someone like that dull! But here is the story of what he did for me and for my family.

In May 2008, I saw a commercial on TV advertising his photography studio. I loved the work I saw and knew immediately that I would meet Pete and it was going to be expensive and a really big undertaking! My 60th birthday was approaching, October to be exact!

For my 40th birthday, I put together an album I called "My 40 Year Retrospective". It was a huge undertaking and took me months and lots of dollars. I started at my 1st picture as I was carried out of the hospital. I took every year and attempted to include the house I lived in, my friends and pets, my birthday and anything else that seemed interesting for that year. I combed through every family album that I could find.

My Father had taken slides most of our growing up years and I was especially interested in finding a photo of my first dog, Gaman, a little toy poodle mix that had been given to me when I was about 10 years old. I couldn't resist a couple of other slides and started by having a handful converted into prints. Remember that at that time, the late 1950's, most photo's were still printed in B&W and these were modern day size and beautiful colors. When my Brother saw them, he said "Beckie, did you find an old roll of film that hadn't been developed?"

I suppose the hand writing is - or was - already on the wall. Both my brother Bruce and my sister Beverly wanted their own Retrospective! This became a massive project but worth every minute. I still remember the joy of working long hours every night after work, the organization it required to select the photo's by year and subject for each of the three Retrospectives, taking them out and picking them up for reprints and then labeling them with the best information I could find and finally organizing them into each album. Whew! I'm impressed all over again!

For my 50th Birthday, I decided to do a Timeline of my life. Although not as glamorous as the Retrospectives, it also became a massive project - just a more personal one. I used Excel and it took 36 pages. I included every year by 6 month intervals.

* My Immediate Family, Extended Family, Friends and Co-Workers - Births, deaths and Marriages
* Mine and my daughter Mary Ellen's - Babysitters/Daycare, Schools, jobs with hourly wage and annual income and cross-reference schools for Beverly & Bruce - we were seldom ever in the same schools due to age differences
* Homes - location with addresses and monthly rent or mortgage payments
* All pets - YES - 50 years worth!
* My BFF's and friends in general
* Facts, Antidotes and Events
* Presidents and Wars
* Headlines & Media Blitz'
* Trivia - This and the above 3 requiring hours and hours in the Library!
* Things about my Dad
* Things about my Mom

So, for my 60th birthday, I again had the urge to celebrate the landmark! But I didn't just want photographic portraits of me, I wanted one great portrait of "the sisters" and we would coordinate our outfits. If Bruce had been alive, I would probably have done the siblings, but with his passing, my sister-in-law Barbara became my sister. I have actually posted about Barbara and our relationship in previous posts. Since Mary Ellen is grown, she also falls into the "sisters" category. But, first I had to convince them how important this was to me and I would like them to join me without a lot of grief. Lucky for all of us, they got it! In fact, they ended up loving it - the planning, the shoot and especially - the finished product.

I met with Pete and his hair and make-up artist, Rene a week before the session to find out as many details as possible. Then I had a strategy planning session with Bev, Barb & ME. We color coordinated at least four outfits, selected props and jewelry. On the day of the shoot, we arrived - each with a large suitcase and tons of bags. I think Pete & Rene were surprised to see how 'heavy' we were traveling! Rene set out styling hair and make-up on each one of us. By the time the shoot was over, we had been at it over five hours! I was exhausted and looked it in the later pictures.

The one great group portrait turned out to be the least of the entire process! But did we ever have fun. It was probably one of the absolutely most fun family events we have ever done together. We ended up with coffee table books, the one Mary Ellen and I share has 27 pictures in it!

And you know what? I credit Pete and Rene with making our adventure a lasting memory that will out survive us all! However, as our family dwindles down to branches without leaves, I just hope some future obscure cousin will be interested their ancestors.

On a funny note, I was telling my physician who is my age, about my 40, 50 and 60th birthday commemorations. I said, "I'll guess I'll have to come up with some other idea for my 70th birthday"! He thought a moment and said this, "Gee, I'm hoping to just show up"! How right he is!

Please, click on Pete's link to see his web site and beautiful work. He is a treasure and gave my family a wonderful gift on my 60th birthday!


AutumnLeaves said...

Oh Beckie! I so love hearing your stories and your memories. I love that you took the time on your 40th, 50th, and 60th to commemorate your life as you did. I so do not have the patience for this type of thing! I wish I did though. As soon as I can afford it, I want to get back to the geneology though. I made a dent, but I hope to get more branches filled in.

Your self portrait is lovely, though I honestly think you are prettier in reality. Your spirit and your joie de vivre are just so palpable through the computer screen. I always wonder and worry when I don't see a post after a couple of days (I know you said your schedule is a bit different than most peoples' though.) I always read every word and enjoy your blogging so very much.

Irina said...

My feelings about this portrait: the person is naive and sincere and openhearted, the technique seems childish but strong and talented. Sorry it took me too long to comment, I was busy, no time to paint, to post and to enjoy my friends' posts reading...