Sketching for Dad

Hey gang. I apologize for not posting all week. Yesterday, March 8th, would have been my father’s 80th birthday had he lived. He died in 2004, at the age of 72. My Mom, my brother, and I went to visit his grave to bring him love and birthday wishes. It was a tough experience, sunny gorgeous 68 degree weather notwithstanding. Today I woke up in a really crummy mood and it’s showing no signs of improving.

I took a picture of Dad’s headstone with the flowers we placed there – yellow tulips and blue hyacinths. This afternoon I tried to sketch it, perhaps as a way of working through my lingering grief. I don’t know if artists avoid working when they’re emotionally miserable, but I know I can do better than this if I’m in a more positive state. Or maybe my somber mood is precisely the reason I felt the urge to sketch this scene in the first place?

You see, we never got to say goodbye to my father because he died suddenly, out of the blue. That reality has always tormented me. With feelings of sadness and frustration, I threw down some watercolor here, just to capture the general shapes and colors. There’s a large bush next to Dad’s grave on the right side, just so you know why there’s a mess of green wash there! In real life it creates a beautiful cool shade, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to try to represent it here.

Then I tried a charcoal and pastel drawing. This time I began with some semblance of a plan but I lost my focus, started crying, and gave up. The ground at the base of the headstone is uneven, so at least I managed that detail. The upper left should have indicated other headstones in the the distance, but I made a smudgy mess and didn’t bother to fix it.

I hope you’re all doing better than I am moodwise. I’ll be back real soon, in much cheerier spirits I promise!

6 thoughts on “Sketching for Dad

  1. Bill MacDonald says:

    I’m sorry, Claudia. My dad died last March — I know a little about how you feel.
    This type of art is entirely about the feeling — just know that, regardless of whether you feel that you did strict representational justice to this space, the feeling comes through loud and clear.
    I remember when my cousin sang my aunt’s favorite, “Ave Maria”, at her funeral. When I spoke to him afterwards, he was upset that he hadn’t done his best rendition for her — he said that it was tough to sing at your mother’s funeral. I said, “Jimmy, you did great.” And he had.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hope that sharing your feelings on this blog helped a litte. Grief is such a hard thing to carry around and hopefully working through it on your blog and in your sensitive watercolours helped.
    Thinking of you

    • artmodel says:


      Like Bill’s comments above, yours are incredibly kind. I’m grateful for your compassion. Hopefully the next artwork I attempt will spring from joy instead of sadness.

      Thank you, friend 🙂


  3. Fred says:

    Sometimes I want art to transform my sadness or other feelings. It does, but only indirectly, because if you nurture it as a practice it causes something to grow and thrive within you. When you’re feeling pain it’s really hard to keep an aesthetic focus. Still, I find something moving in the rough composition that both these sketches share. There is the gray block at the center, with deep green looming above and to the right. But below and to the left there are the bright colors of spring, yellow-green and yellow and purple, life rising into the somber frame. Poetry in a simple arrangement of colors.

    • artmodel says:


      It means a great deal to me that you recognize the compositional strengths of the scene. Separate from the emotional import, the setting is quite beautiful to an objective viewer. Glad you perceived it, and I guess my rough renderings portrayed it sufficiently. That’s a decent accomplishment! Yes, the sunlight patch on the left was glowing with lighter, fresher greens/yellows. The cemetery in New Jersey is an exceptionally magical one, loaded with history, resting places of folks of varied ethnicities, many with birth dates in the mid-1800s! Amazing.

      Thanks so much for your comments, Fred.


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