It was more than a decade ago when I sketched out this painting. My son’s best friend had lost his mother, Maria. He asked me to do a portrait of her. They were barely teenagers. He provided me with a fuzzy photograph of her from a birthday. She looked happy. I had only met her once, so I’d have to rely almost entirely on the photo to recreate her image. But, despite my earnest intentions, it wasn’t time to create the portrait.
Over the years, the faintly-sketched canvas got moved from one corner to the next. It gathered dust and, quite possibly, grew things. I wasn’t even entirely sure that I hadn’t painted over it in a moment of desperation.
When the pandemic hit, the canvas called to me. I found it, cleaned it and, surprisingly, my original sketch was still visible. The photograph hadn’t held up so well but, I would rely on Maria to help me fill in the blanks. It was time.
While I was, admittedly, consumed with fear, when the pandemic (and ensuing shut-down) happened, I felt this overwhelming need to finish things. Maria’s portrait was one of the first things to come to mind. Almost as if she had tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “It’s time.”
To be clear, I am not an artist who can paint at will. My talent is something that seems to come and go. I do not pretend to be able to control it. Because my primary art-form is portraiture, I do not take for granted that I can always render a person’s likeness. There are times when it comes very easily, and there are times when it doesn’t come at all. So, I have learned not to force this work but, to wait for the right time. And, sometimes that time – as in this case – takes a very long time.
God rest Maria’s beautiful soul. I pray I did her justice.