Community Remains Oil Portrait Number 39
2-hour oil sketch or custom painting oil portrait hand painted from life
for BFA thesis original oil paintings project Community Remains, in partial requirement for a BFA in Drawing and Painting for Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) and Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC). Read Tali’s 2020 drawing and painting thesis Community Remains here.
This is an excerpt from my thesis paper regarding this oil portrait painting. Names have been changed to protect privacy.
As I painted Emerson, I was overcome by our similarities. He, a sixty-something black man from the Deep South, and me a Caucasian forty-something art student from a Jewish Israeli Kibbutz. And yet for those brief two-hours I felt closer to him than my own siblings. He looked at me straight in the face, mourned with me for my losses, celebrated my successes, and shared his love of humanity that had grown within him throughout his difficult life. At times he was quiet, trying to control his composure. I felt no need to fill those sacred moments with words. I just kept painting and loving the beautiful man before me. He hugged me when he first came into my studio and I apologized for my emotional state. He hugged me when he left, after taking several moments to look deeply at his portrait. With real tears in his eyes he thanked me and left.
I checked my phone messages remembering the familiar ding that I almost hadn’t heard during the spell of the moment. “Raquel is free” the words read, accompanied by a broken heart emoji. I felt my heart sink into my gut. The message was expected but utterly devastating. Thirteen-year-old Raquel had been fighting an aggressive brain cancer for the last two years. “Free” meant gone, gone from this world, gone from her family, violently ripped from her mother’s arms, my best friend, who would never be the same again.
I looked back at Emerson’s portrait. His painting looked back at me with compassion, almost tears in his eyes, and I knew I would not “adjust” his portrait any further. He would stay as he was, his life and compassion memorialized in paint—a cancer survivor himself who also lost a son he loved. Whenever I think of Raquel now, I also think of Emerson, and how he looked at me.