"The Gilmores" Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches
So why would I do a family portrait not for a commission, and not of my own family?
1) I've already done a couple family portraits of my own family (though with an ever-growing family, that task is never complete. And 2) Because I was between commissions and with the approaching "revival" of the Gilmore Girls story and cast on November 25, tomorrow, and with me attempting to draw more traffic and attention for my online media, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to ride the hype of a fandom I was already a part of.
I watched "Gilmore Girls" when it first released, and identified immediately with more than one character for multiple reasons. Buried beneath the pop-culture references and pre-hipster era attitudes, the heart of the show was mothers and daughters. While my relationship with my own mother was no where near as bad as the caricatures in the show, I saw myself at times as Lorelai to Emily (her mother), and as Lane to her mother, Mrs. Kim, and at the most basic level, I felt growing up, that I was Rory. Good grades, goodie-two-shoes, meek, didn't date much. Of course as the story progressed and I came into my own adulthood while Rory went off to college, I realized she, and the other characters I saw myself in, where an alternate universe to me, like friend in high school who as adults have now grown widely apart. Rory was overtly liberal, while I'm a Catholic conservative. Rory dated guys I would never see in my social circle, meanwhile I found my own (tamer) version of Jess, and like Jess, my husband grew into a wonderfully stable man, which is why I'll always root for Jess, and the potential he showed, despite his hippie-vagabond storyline. Side note, my husband also enjoys the show, and I count myself blessed we get to enjoy it together, shouting at the characters for their idiocy and pride, while also praising them for their shining moments. We are both artists/writers, and "Gilmore Girls" is a wonderful trip into minute literary-analysis in a television show. It has plenty of dramatic and classic irony, usually in the form of characters (the protagonists themselves) too prideful and narrow to their goals to see the bigger picture, and to allow life and other people to steer them where those opportunities are present.
About the second time around watching the series, a couple years ago I realized my favorite characters were the grandparents of Rory, Lorelai's parents: Richard and Emily. I loved them so that I would choke up during the opening theme when scenes of them traipsed across the screen, as the words, "Where you lead I will follow," sang over the appearance of the actors' names. They were the history, the stability of the show. I had a similar reaction to "Harry Potter," and more than the actual storyline, loved the flashbacks to the protagonists' parents' lives. The grandparents bent the most, they gave the most, they sacrificed the most for their daughter and granddaughter. They were not without their faults, but their constant stability, that only occasionally faltered, gave foundation to the rest of the plot. Often regarded as a nuisance, as we grown children tend to do with our own parents, they were the basis for everything of integrity. When chaos on the show ensued, the characters came home to the Gilmore household whether they wanted to or not.
Finally, because the show jokes about fine portraiture: both when Emily commissions an artist to paint a live painting of Rory, and in the Revival when Emily has an enormous portrait of her now deceased husband, Richard painted, and Lorelai and Rory tease her about it. The Gilmore grandparents would have commissioned a family portrait of themselves and their daughter and granddaughter. Perhaps it never fit into the storyline, or we viewers are to assume the younger generations didn't want to cooperate. Regardless, it fits the character type of Richard and Emily to have this painting. The accent color of blue plays off the eye color of 3 of these 4 portraits, and the family's history with Yale.
So here is my painting of the would-be family portrait, the epitome of classic family portraiture (other than being in acrylic instead of oil, which Emily would have never stood for, I know), titled, "The Gilmores." The process of painting this over the past week has been documented on my Instagram page #soniajsummers
Acrylic painting of Dunlough Castle in Ireland, measuring 30 x 40 inches. Private Commission.
Decided to do a second, much quicker, sketch of the character, Jess, from "Gilmore Girls."
This is a redo of a drawing of the character, Virginia, from the television mini-series "The 10th Kingdom," from my highs school sketchbook, meant to document my artistic progress across 15 years by comparison.
Side-by side comparison: High school level image on the left. Current image on the right.
Sketch of one of my favorite characters from the TV show, "Gilmore Girls": Jess. Graphite on paper.
A new additions to my selection of portraiture of babies. This has been added to my Portraiture album on this website. Others provided below to feature just my collection of this category, which is usually mixed into the larger group of portraiture of people and animals.
"Portrait of Bella"
In the style of my Organic Mosaic series, this digital drawing expresses the isolation and helplessness on the part of the mother suffering through miscarriage.
Adding past drawing works to the Portraiture Portfolio.
Life is cyclical. We revisit the same instances, the same questions in our paths, but from new perspectives. I came across these recently in my studio and portfolios from high school.
The first image was a book-report project from my summer reading one year. I read "Silas Marner," by George Eliot. For those who don't know, Eliot was a woman, who wrote under a male pen name in order to be taken seriously. In her novel, a child conceived out of wedlock is discarded and left on Marner's doorstep. A miser in the same tradition of Ebenezer Scrooge, he finds fulfillment in the golden haired child he is gifted to adopt and raise by Providence.
The second painting is one I did for a Pro-life student art and writing contest, conducted by the Tennessee Right to Life. Years later, I would be invited back as a judge for the same contest (again, noting how interestingly cyclical life can be). In my simpler high school minded creativity, the best I could muster to depict abortion was a potential baby lost, the absence, the shadow of a baby that was killed instead of allowed to be held in his or her parents hands. I won the contest for which I had entered. If I remember correctly, there weren't many participants that year, however by the time I was invited back as a judge, it had clearly gained in popularity due to the much larger submission size.
Why is this cyclical to me? Because the first image of Marner's adopted child, Eppie, is the spitting image of my first child. She has golden curls, and she has a personality that draws everyone to her, like the beautiful girl in Eliot's novel. As I write this, she is in nearly the same position asleep, as I depicted that fictional child over 15 years ago. Meanwhile, the second work, painted 2 years later, the same spacing we had intended for our first two children, is the spitting image of my miscarried child, Alex. While my husband and I never intended abortion, as we view it as a violation of everything sacred about human life, Alex died inside of me this past summer, at about 8.5 weeks growth and we faced what we never thought we would: the loss of a child during pregnancy. As a result we had to go through the process of my body clearing out the remains, and we grieved, realizing there was a child we would never, never, in any real way, get to hold. There is a palpable ache present, that is now so much more pronounced in that second painting.
These paintings, completed before I was really Pro-Life, when I was still a very young artist with no real direction, who mostly drew pictures of actors I crushed on in my sketchbooks, and cartoon characters like Jigglypuff decorated my doodles in my textbooks, somehow link to today, and the artist I am now. I am fully Pro-Life. I realize the baby-shadow in the image I painted in high school isn't just a potential child, but the representation of an actual lost child, having now lost one myself. I now understand juxtaposed against an image of abortion, why Eppie is so fortunate, why she is such a treasure, not only as the salvation of Silas Marner, but also for her own sake as a child spared from death, instead given the alternative of adoption. I have had a conversion stretching further back than 15 years. I have so many people and events responsible for that gradual transition, most especially my husband, and the experiences we have shared together. I am a better person, a more loving and compassionate person, because I can now understand what the Pro-Lifers from my high school and college years were so passionate about.
I painted the portrait of Eppie from Silas Marner for a grade. I painted the depiction of a lost baby through abortion for a prize. But here they are now, as portraits of my two children that I have had so far, one that made it to beautiful fruition, and the other we remember and for which we grieve. I have come across the same intersection in my life, but from a new path that has wound and doubled back, giving me a glimpse into how I have grown both as an artist, and as a person.
Sonia Jackson Summers