One summer morning Terry Davis introduced himself on his way out the door of Starbuck’s, a coffee in both hands. He stopped to express his appreciation for a painting of mine, a character study of a colorful, local fellow. Terry and I chatted about my art, about our community, and then he came back to the subject of portraits and asked if I could paint one from a photograph. That was when he shared about the loss of his son, Jimmy on July 3, 2007. Jimmy was 26. Terry seemed happy to share stories about Jimmy and before leaving me he explained he was on his way to the local cemetery where most mornings he has a coffee with, as he said it, “my boy.”To create an expressive portrait it is always helpful to meet the subject, for much can be gleaned about a persona from a short chat and observations. However, without this opportunity in Jimmy’s case the best alternative was to ask questions and listening to stories.
Writer Ray Bradbury has said that when people talk about those things they deeply love, they become poets. And so it was when Terry and his wife, Candy, came by my studio to share a handful of family photographs of Jimmy and many heartfelt stories, stories that would inform and influence the painting I created for them.
Following their visit Terry quietly oversaw the project. His wish was to surprise Candy with the finished painting for the holidays. When the portrait was completed I rang Terry and had him come by to see it. Pleased and moved, for a long time he stood close to the painting studying it, smiling and admiringly explaining how he could see in the work Jimmy’s animating-bright spirit at many different ages and stages of his life. “That’s my little Boy” he said chuckling. That was sweet to hear.