I Paint Dead People

Margaret Waiting
Kind of creepy huh? The truth is that I also paint the living. The important thing (to me at least) is that they were captured on film revealing a bit of their personality as well as the personality of another era. I love to imagine what life was like for them in the early or even middle part of the twentieth century. Those old photos give me a glimpse at a life I never knew. Pictures of my grandparents first as children and then young adults seem to be strangers looking back at me. What are the emotions I see? What can I tell about their personalities? Were they happy? Scared? Weary? In love? In one picture there is a group of children standing in front of a house in the middle of nowhere. It appears to be around the end of the 1800’s and they all are wearing large hats and holding dolls. Hmmmm… I can’t begin to guess what that was about. In another picture I see my great Aunt as a young girl clowning around with a man’s hat. I didn’t know she had a sense of humor! Now I’m looking at two young men with their arms companionably draped over each others shoulders as they grin into the camera. One is smoking a cigar, the other a pipe. I like to think that they are best friends celebrating something. Maybe one of them is getting married in the morning. I have collected hundreds of these pictures from my parents and other relatives. I insist on snagging every photo destined for the trash bin as my parents prepare to relocate. “NO! I want that! I might want to paint it later!” Even if I never get around to painting half of them, it’s important to me that someone preserves our pictorial family history. It’s my pleasure to be that person. And besides, I will get around to using most of them as references in paintings eventually. If I live long enough. And if I don’t, maybe someone will paint my portrait from an old snapshot they find stuck in the bottom of a dresser drawer that they are getting ready to sell or throw out. Then the tradition will continue. They will “paint dead people”.

Have some old photographs you would like to have painted in either oil or soft pastel? Contact me at Leah@lwiedemer.com

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