“Every picture has a story.”
– Gini Campbell Annis
Somewhere along the way, a painting will develop an amazing story. These stories reflect that each painting becomes part of me, and I become a part of it too. Enjoy!
Watching and Waiting- A Self Portrait
The dress I am wearing in the portrait was made by my mother, Blanche Chapman Campbell. Originally, I wore the dress as Maid-of-Honor for my cousin Arline’s wedding. It was an empire style with short puffed sleeves. My Mom disassembled it, making it an A-line style with mutton chop sleeves. The lace was hand tatted by a great aunt. The title, “Watching and Waiting,” was inspired by a Moody Blues song. It is about a lonely person waiting for someone to play with. It represents a difficult time in my life. The painting combines so many things that are important to me…the dress, the rose and that moment in time.
With My Son
A mother came to me wondering if I could combine a couple of photos and put them into a special setting. The photos were of her husband and son. Both died within six months of each other. She wanted to have them in their favorite spot. The main difficulty was combining the photos to look as if it were a natural pose. I had my husband and son pose so I could arrange the elements to look as if they were actually standing together with their arms around each other.
While working on Faces of Nevada, People of Value I met and painted a portrait of Mr. Montgomery. He was quite a character and a bit feisty. His wife was so taken that I represented him as she saw him, a gentle soul. She very much wanted to buy the portrait, but the budget didn’t allow for it. She offered a trade with a watercolor painting she had picked up at a garage sale. I noticed it was by Lorenza Palmer Latimer, a famous California watercolorist (1857-1941). I knew it was worth much more than the work she wanted to trade it for. I contacted a friend who knew collectors of Latimer’s work. After selling the watercolor, I subtracted the price of the portrait, then asked Mr. Montgomery to meet me at the Artist’s Co-Op where I was working at the time. When he arrived, I asked him to hold out his hand, where upon I proceeded to place several one hundred dollar bills. The look on his face is what it’s all about.
A Special Daughter
While I was working for High Sierra Vending, one of my accounts was The Silver Club in Sparks Nevada. The employee I worked with knew I was an artist and wondered if I would paint a portrait of his daughter. He hadn’t seen her in many years. He gave me the only photo of her that he had which he carried with him in his wallet. The next week, when I went back, he had been let go. I asked where I could contact him, they didn’t know or could not tell me. I felt a sense of responsibility to this man, even though I had no way to reach him or hope of finding him to give him the finished work. I had to paint that sweet face. It was one that just flowed from my brush. I still have the photo that he gave me and I am honored to keep it until hopefully someday he will reach out to me when he is ready to collect it. I eventually sold the painting and considered it a tribute to the sweet nature of the subject and the love of the father for his child.
I like to go to garage sales for inspiration. Every once in a while, I discover something I just need to paint. At one such occasion, while I was purchasing an interesting piece, I mentioned that I was going to paint it. The seller said “This is a handmade copper bowl, please don’t paint it.” I let her know that I was not going to paint on it, but make a painting of it. The “bowl of contention” is shown in Pink Lady.
Digging Up Memories/Sisters on the Beach
The original photo inspiration is of my brother (Gary Campbell) and his daughters (Keli and Lori) who are represented in the work, Digging Up Memories. When Keli got married, she asked for a painting of her and her sister. Using an original photo, I created Sisters on the Beach. I did this by taking Gary out of the photo and creating a new center of interest, the seashell. This painting is especially important to me because it is family. It was an honor that they asked me to create this as a wedding gift. Keli has it prominently displayed in her home. The painting won the Judges Choice Award Northern Nevada Artist Association show at Brewery Arts Center and I have chosen it to represent me and my work on my business card. Often when someone sees it, they remark, “Oh this is you! I have seen this before!” On a personal level, the original photo was from a time we all spent at the beach together, which was such an enjoyable day and lovely memory.
Cabbage Bowl with Lemons
In one of my classes, we were to start a new painting the following week. I asked the students to bring in some objects that had special memories for them. One student brought a bowl that was in the shape of a cabbage. It brought back happy memories of her Grandmother. We created a nice still life with lemons, ivy and an old rusty bell on a wooden box. Many students have painted that still life since that class and it remains one of my favorite images. Several years later, I ran into the student who had brought in the cabbage bowl. She informed me that the bowl had been broken and was irreparable. She was so grateful to have painted that still life because whenever she sees the painting, she is reminded of those special Grandmother memories.
After the Harvest
Sometimes what seems to be the most insignificant is a point of inspiration. One of my favorite paintings is that of a cluster of tomatoes sitting on my kitchen counter. A friend had just harvested her garden and brought some tomatoes over. I placed them on the counter and went about my daily business. When I returned to the kitchen, the sun was hitting the tomatoes in such a dramatic way. I stood there staring at them for the longest time. I decided they just had to be painted. A situation such as this is a large reason of why I paint. I think it is important to remind the viewer of the beauty that is all around them. We get so caught up in our daily lives that we sometimes fail to notice the beauty around us. It’s a stop and smell the roses moment. My husband feels that I see everything as a potential painting.
And So It Grows
Another example of a “found” still life is when I had used a red onion in a still life, set it on a shelf in the studio and proceeded to forget all about it. I don’t know how long it sat there, but when I finally noticed it, it was pretty well sprouted. Of course, I had to paint it.
The First Arrival and The Gang’s All Here are similar examples of “found” still lifes.