Everybody’s Aunt Madge

Everybody’s Aunt Madge

Before I get into this post topic, let me fill you in on what’s been happening around here and why I haven’t been blogging over the past few weeks.

Besides the frenzy that occupies our minds nearly 24/7 (moving to Hawaii) we decided to take a vacation to Montana to visit Richard’s parents and our step-daughter and grandboys. It was a very slow paced and low-key vacation. Probably the most exciting thing to happen, other than seeing our wonderful family, was getting up close and personal with these guys:

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Pretty doggone cool, huh? Yeah, I thought so too, until one guy decided to use our car as a back-scratcher:


Uh, yes Mr. Bison, you are welcome to rub your 5,000 pound body up against our little car. Please, be my guest.

Whew! My heart was in my throat and I actually closed the window, thinking that would keep him out if he decided he wanted to see the inside of a VW Jetta.

The last time I saw bison was in Yellowstone back in 1976 when I made the great trek to the Pacific Northwest from my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. It was exciting to see them then, and it was exciting to see them two weeks ago. Fortunately the American Bison, almost extinct in the 1800’s, is now at about 150,000, mostly living on farms and reserves in the west. The bison we saw were at the National Bison Reserve near Ravalli, Montana. You can read more about the reserve here, and I recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.

OK, now that you’ve had your little history lesson for the day, back to our reularly scheduled program – Aunt Madge.

The buyer of my “secret” commission has picked up his painting. He texted me while I was in Montana that when he saw it, he cried.

I think that was a good thing?

I am SO EXCITED about this painting – I can’t wait to show you the finished product.

Drum roll please……

Here’s a rather blurry iPhone photo of the finished painting:


Isn’t she just the cutest thing?

My friend Bryan has hired me to paint all five of his and his partner’s children around their sixteenth birthdays, and one of those children, all grown up now, is getting married. Bryan asked me to paint this portrait of his soon-to-be-daughter-in-law’s grandmother as a wedding gift.

The source photo was a favorite of Sarah’s, the bride-to-be, of her beloved grandmother who died before seeing Sarah married. The plan is to have “Grandma” at the wedding via this portrait.

Isn’t that so cool?

As soon as Bryan saw the photo he thought of me and my “Are You my Mother?” series, knowing I would jump at the chance to paint such a lively old girl. Doesn’t she seem like the kind of grandmother who would buy you your first drink? I love her! Her eyes just twinkle and her smile, well, it’s dazzling.

And I am quite sure that is a frosted Yardley lipstick she is applying. Oh, and her name really isn’t Aunt Madge, but I think it fits.

I’ve promised you in-progress photos, and here they are:


This was all done in a single day! I was on fire when I started this portrait, and sketched her in and blocked in the big shapes immediately. She just sortof flowed out of my paintbrush, really. I think I had hardly anything to do with it at all!


At this point I was mostly working on her mouth – her eyes came easily but her mouth had a couple of strange little curves that if put in the wrong place, completely changed who she is. I also had the mouth waaaaay too narrow here. A couple more photos from this session:

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In the last photo above you can see that I really got a bit lost on the mouth. One tiny change begat another tiny change which begat another tiny change and when I finally took a step back I had pretty much trashed her lips and teeth. (Full-on toothy smiles are not for the feint of heart or inexperienced painters. Teeth are very difficult to paint without them looking like the subject just had a new set of veneers attached!)


By this stage I had worked very loosely on her hand and lipstick, and you’ll notice if you refer back to the previous stages I squared her jaw quite a bit. Hair has gotten softer and more natural and the earring is beginning to come together, although the highlights are too large.


The MOST fun thing to do was her eyeglasses – who knows what the design was, or if there were jewels at those corners or not. It was all about just painting what I saw and hoping for the best. I do think by this phase I had the mouth right and the teeth in the right position.


In this close-up you can see that her neck and dress are just roughed in, and there is work to be done on the lipstick and hand. But it was still going extremely fast for me.


And back to the finished painting. My final days are always spent on making sure edges are blended, shadows are in the right place and the hairline is looking natural.

I’m quite pleased with this one, and hope the bride is as well.


4 thoughts on “Everybody’s Aunt Madge

  1. David Turner

    Love to! I like that ”she’d buy your first cocktail!” – True!
    Many more wonderful days of painting ahead and enjoying that wonderful process! ( Which is difficult to truly share what that feels like, with others.)

  2. Kathy Paul

    Seriously, this Aunt would totally take you to have your first drink, or on your first trip to (wherever), where the two of you would discover all sorts of wonderful things and she would tell you secrets about your mom (or dad). Gini, I am in awe of your talent. I feel so fortunate that you are sharing these step-by-step narratives-of-paintings with us. Lucky bride to be — and what a WONDERFUL wedding present!


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