Historical Portraits

A Recent Historical Portrait I Painted
A Recent Historical Portrait I Painted

Family History Through Art

I have been painting as a professional artist for many years now, everything from wild life art to portraits. By far the most rewarding of all my work, however, has been the historical portraits. I began doing these pieces of art years ago for a friend, who commissioned me to do a portrait of his grandmother. I included, in the background of the painting, scenes taken from her old family photographs--pictures of her parents and siblings, her wedding and her own children, and many of the important places in her life's history. When his grandmother had to move into a retirement home, because of her failing health, the one thing that she asked to take with her was that painting. Later, my friend related to me how much joy that painting had brought to his grandmother over the years there. He said his grandmother would tell all her friends and visitors, in the retirement home, the story of her life, as she would point out the pictures in the painting on her wall. He explained how much that meant to her, and how having that painting on her wall helped her remember all those special times in her life.

The Historical Painting of "Big Gust"

Later, I did a historical portrait of the Sheriff of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, "Big Gust". He was born in the 1800's and was a giant of a man in his day, 7 feet 6 inches tall, and weighed over 300 pounds. He was a famous legend even in his day, and they called him the "gentle giant". When a fight would break out in the local bar, Big Gust would simply walk in, grab the two gentlemen under his arms, and take them to jail (their feet dangling in the air). In the background of his portrait, I tried to include many of the highlights of his colorful life. I donated the painting to the city of Grantsburg, and I believe that it is still hanging in their city hall.

Portraits Today

Today, I am still painting portraits of the elderly. I have just completed one recently-shown above. I usually paint the person in color and choose to paint their history in monochromatic colors, such as the one shown, in brown tones--this gives the most emphasis to the person in the foreground as the fainter background colors portray their history. Half of all monies I receive for my art goes to produce books and DVDs for the deaf, which is my primary goal.

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Comments 5 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, this is wonderful! I don't think I know of anybody else painting the background scene from old photos. You are telling their life story in on painting! amazing! why has nobody else thought of that? lol! I think this is a great way, no, terrific way of using a painting to tell a life story, and how great is that for an elderly person to be able to tell the story behind the pictures, amazing! and you are a fantastic artist! voted up and facebooked!


signgirl profile image

signgirl 4 years ago from Palmetto, Florida Author

Thank you for all your kind comments. It has been amazing for me to paint these special paintings--I felt each time

like I was living part of their history too.


jmsteele 4 years ago

Great Job! Signgirl! The painting looks fabulous...you did such a wonderful job capturing the person and their

past. I know they'll cherish this painting.

Way to go!


Dbro profile image

Dbro 4 years ago from Texas, USA

What a wonderful idea! I can see why these paintings would be treasured by the subject and their families. As a painter myself, I'm interested in how you get commissions? Do you advertise? Do you have a website?

The paintings are gorgeous. Thank you so much for sharing them with us!


signgirl profile image

signgirl 4 years ago from Palmetto, Florida Author

Thanks for your comment. So far, it has just been word of mouth. I do have a website, but have not put my paintings on it so far. Good luck to you!

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