Wednesday, February 10, 2010

J.J. and the Day of the Portraits

Last summer, when I was in Utah visiting family, Nina, my mother-in-law invited me to a High Tea party in her neighborhood. She said "Oh you just have to come to this to see the gardens of my dear friend who is hosting the party... they are so beautiful this time of year." How could I refuse that! Gardens and High Tea, sounded like a perfect way to spend a beautiful summer afternoon.

It was perfect. The garden was magnificent, and the food was heavenly -- tiny tea sandwiches, lemon curd tarts, and current scones with real clotted cream. The company was delightful -- I loved visiting with Nina and her friends. At the end of the party, a woman named Candace Frioux handed each guest a little book that contained all the recipes, including homemade herbal teas --- also incredible. On the cover of the book was a copy of a beautiful oil painting -- a still life of a tea cup, a flower and a lemon. It immediately caught my attention -- something about the way it was painted; it spoke to my heart. I assumed that Candace had copied a picture from an old master painter -- so I asked her: "Oh I just love the cover on this little book, it captured the day -- who is the artist?" She said "My son. I asked him if he would paint it for this handout." I couldn't believe it -- first of all that she would have a son that was nice enough to paint an beautiful still life for a party hand out, and second, that her son was that talented at so young an age. Candace confirmed that her son attended BYU -- a senior in the Fine Arts program.

As we continued our conversation, Candace said "If you like this, you should come over and see the portraits that my son has painted, that is where his talent really shines." The still life aroused my curiosity. I did want to pay Candace a visit -- I wanted to meet this boy and see more of his work. So I said: "I'd LOVE to meet your son, but I'm leaving town in two days." Candace responded.... "Then you should come over tomorrow -- my son will be home this weekend, I'll introduce you." Candace is nice like that -- willing to invite perfect strangers over to her house for a visit. So, the next day, I gathered my family together and we drove over to Candace's house to meet the artist son -- Jay.

Jay -- what can I say about him. Incredibly talented, full of life, and so much fun to talk to. And his art .... I wanted every single painting that he showed me. I loved listening to him tell us about each piece -- where he was when he did the painting, why he painted it, and who he sold it to. I loved listening to his mom interject, filling in details, encouraging Jay to show us more. It didn't take more than 15 minutes before I knew that I needed this young man to paint a portrait of Eden and Claire. Matt knew it too, I could see it in his face as he sat there listening to Jay. So we asked him the standard questions -- are you available to paint our kids.... how much do you charge.... how long does it take..... what do we need to do???? Before I knew it the date was set.... Jay asked us to bring Eden and Claire over the following day to sit for their portraits. I could hardly wait.

The next day, we went back to the Friouxs. Jay talked to Eden and Claire and took lots and lots of pictures, while I hung out with Candace. It was fun to watch the interaction between the three. They were all smiling and laughing, enjoying the day. I loved the idea of youth painting youth. I knew that Jay would be able to capture the spirit of my children. When Jay finished, he said "Ok, that's all I need, I'll be in touch." We departed for home, and then we waited.

A month went by, and then one day, out of the blue, the phone rang. It was Jay. He said: "I'm done with your paintings and I'm flying to California tomorrow to deliver them to you. Pick me up at the Long Beach Airport." So I did. We spent a few hours lost on the freeway trying to find the home of Jay's friend. We talked about mixing oils, and traveling through Russia to paint the countryside. When we arrived at an apartment complex in Santa Monica, Jay unveiled his work. It was such an exciting moment - sort of like opening a long anticipated Christmas gift. I stood there speechless. I think I cried. The paintings were beautiful.

There is something about one human being capturing the heart and soul of another with the stroke of a brush. A painting evokes that feeling in a way that a photograph cannot. Jay not only captured the spirit of my children, he captured the day that we visited the House of Frioux. When I look at these portraits, I see Claire and the way the light captured her face that that day in the den, and I see Eden sitting on a stool smiling for the camera. And I see Jay, staring intensely into the eyes of his subjects-- looking beyond what the eye can see.
Thank you Jay, for a fond memory, and for these beautiful works of art. My family will treasure them always.


busymama said...

They are beautiful!! I didn't know how to leave a comment on etsy, but I looooved the felicity necklace that I received in teh mail today, thank you!!

Puttin' Down Roots said...

Those are so beautiful. What a great treasure for you and your family. And to think if you didn't go the Tea Party...

Lori said...

Absolutely beautiful! I wish he could do my children's portraits! What a treasure...both the portriats and his talent.

Lyndsay said...

Those are wonderful and amazing! My maternal grandparents were good friends with a number of artists (my Granny painted, as well). So my mom and aunt had quite a few portraits of themselves in different media throughout their "growing up" years. I have 2 that were made of me when I was very young. And I would love to have paintings done of my kids one day, as well!

P.S. I need to order some b-day presents from you to send to family! :)

dandee said...

What an amazing experience! And such talent! I'm sure your family will treasure the paintings (+ the special day) always.