Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Drawing on life for a tribute

I was going to do a card to hand out at the funeral, with Mom Barshaw's picture on it. Then I decided not to. Then one of my nephews asked if I would, so that night I drove 90 miles home, set pencil to paper not knowing what would come out of it, and drew.
Then I slept fitfully and got up for the long drive back to Detroit for the funeral early in the morning.
It was almost magic, how the image came out of the pencil without much anguish, in the middle of the night. This doesn't happen often; generally funeral cards are a difficult labor of love.
Maybe I'm getting better at this.
Here's my mother in law:

As it was coming out of my pencil, I first noticed the eye on the left looks just like some of her daughter's eyes. This astounded me.
And there's my husband's chin, and another daughter's eyebrows.

It always surprises me when I see someone I know in my drawings.

It's also odd to meet someone on the street who looks like one of my recent drawings. I want to rush up to them and shake their hand and ask a lot of personal questions because I feel like I know them well.

Taking these cards to the funeral, I felt self-conscious and awkward, as usual. I always worry that the rest of the family will hate the art, or that they'll think I'm uppity for printing copies, or greedy for getting self-promotion during a sad time. In this case I didn't hear any bad comments, but the funeral director put the cards in a place where I doubt many noticed them. Someone took home a stack of these. Maybe they'll go in thank-you notes. Maybe they'll be lost to the ages. It doesn't really matter; I did my part, giving what I could give. I drew Mom. The original sketch will go to the nephew who asked me to draw.

And I'm back to working on my book.

My editor has gone home for the holidays. They're closed all next week. They wanted the final art done before Christmas; earlier this morning I was thinking, if I can manage 30 drawings a day plus revising text, I can still get it out by Christmas. Thinking in the wee hours of the morning, it wasn't quite a dream. More like a nightmare.


johann said...

Beautiful work Ruth. Its the magic of a portrait, how one notices the parts you know in other people's faces. How an eyebrow now lives on your daughter's face...how this or that is found somewhere else... and you keep noticing it. Like sticky notes scattered all over with reminders.
When you work so intimately and closely with faces, beneath your pencil, you often feel you know the people so well...only they dont know it do they?
Power to you Ruth... you amaze and inspire me with your determination and work ethic.
Heres to you my friend! Cheers

Debbie Diesen said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother-in-law.