And the shovel will live on.

Sandi Johnson (center) with her mother and father. Father depicted in painting with Sandi’s son.

Sandi Johnson, a San Diego County resident and business owner called out of the blue last fall. When I answered, she asked “is this Raziah the artist?” Yes I replied. “Do you still do art?” she asked. Yes I replied. “Oh, I’m so glad you have the same phone number. You did a painting of my daughter and my father-in-law 12 years ago. I’d like to commission you to do a new painting for me…”

As the call went on, we reminisced about the impact that originalpainting had had on her family. She said she had gifted it to her daughter. Now, she wanted a painting of her son and her own father. She had the exact image in mind!

We met inher hair salon in Vista to review photos, plan a size, and negotiate a contract. The composition was perfect- the two had beencaptured working in the backyard under the spotted shadows of Southern California fauna. Grandpa, in the glory of his 1980s vest and aviator sunglasses happily taught his pint-sized protege how to properly take on the joys of yard work. What could possibly be more endearing!?

Shortly there after I left the salon and returned to my Oregon studio to get started. I like to make it a practice of having clients visit me in the studio while working on their projects. However, given the distance, I had to keep Sandi up-to-date on her painting through emails and photographs. Each week, I’d send her an update on all the colors and layers as they melted together.

Oil on Canvas

The oil painting took about 3 months to create before I returnedto Sandi’s salon to present her the canvas. I arrived, package in hand, and quickly began to unwrap the surprise. Sandi was glowing when she saw it in person for the first time. She began to tear up, and as she wiped tears from her eyes she laughingly said “I told myself I wasn’t going to cry.” (Ya, like that ever works for anyone.)

To my surprise, Sandi had invited her family to be there when I presented the finished painting.I got to meet Sandi’s mom and the painting’s head honcho – “Dad.” As I shared my favorite moments of working on the painting, Sandi’s dad interrupted saying “I’ve got that shovel.” “Really?” asked everyone in the room. Yes he replied; “I’ve got it in the bed of the truck.” Sure enough, he brought the shovel in from the parking lot. What a coincidence! He just happened to betaking the shovel to the hardware store to get a new handle. After a round of laughs, he shared the origins of the shovel and how he came upon it. He also fondly remembered that exact day when he and Sandi’s son were working in the yard.

All told, it warmed my heart that Sandi had saved my information for so long. I am completely honored to have been the artist she chose to capture the most memorable moments in her family’s life. Being there with her and her parents has already become one of my favoritememories.

Thank you Sandi.

Happy Birthday Amy!

Over the past two years, Amy has gone over and above on friend duties. She lets me borrow tons of stuff; everything frombbq’s and projectors, to glittery eye shadow. She’s watched my cat, and her husband has diagnosed the “knocking” sounds in my car. When Amy’s birthday came up this spring, I pondered what could she possibly want that she wouldn’t already get for herself. Then it hit me! A custom painting just for her!

Feeding off Michael Kadera’s blue and orange painting in Amy’s living room, I created a red-heavy abstract utilizing texture, glazing, high-key contrast, and motion. And, as a special reflection of Amy’s love for sparkle, I added multiple metallic accents from a blended copper with red inference to antique gold with burnt sienna. She loved it!

As a studio artist, I really enjoyed making this giftfor Amy. It reflects her sarcastic nature (blue horizontal interruption), her strength of character (white/yellow pillars), and her girlishness (metallics). I look forward to many more years as friends.

Happy birthday Amy Miller!