My grandfather developed a mild skin cancer when he was in his 60s. He loved the sun and so didn’t really pay attention to what was going on for many years. When he reached his late 80s, the cancer was bad enough that he couldn’t go outdoors without thoroughly covering himself. This painting wasn’t meant to convey such morbidity, but rather serve as a symbol of the love I had for Gramps. He was definitely my muse. Unfortunately, this was the state he was in at the time. It has ironically made for a very serene subject matter.
In this painting he is covered head to toe with material. Nevertheless, he wore a little smile knowing that his grandaughter was going to paint his portrait. I did several sketches and took several photos for study and later reference. I hope to finish this painting, although I am very happy with how it looks now.
I’m sure you can guess that this is a very Hopper-inspired painting. There’s a lot of Eakins influence there too.
Gramps’ gravestone has finally been laid three years after his death. He is buried with other family members in The Independent Workman’s Circle cemetary in Massachusetts. My father explained the name of the cemetary to me along with another interesting custom:
“The cemetery is called “The Independent Workman’s Circle.” It’s located on a piece of land that was purchased years ago by a large group of Russian/Jewish immigrants, most of whom were probably communists. For years they held huge outings and picnics there. Eventually the older ones started dying and were buried there. Now it’s a cemetery.
“Visitors to a grave place small stones on the gravestone, I think as an expression of connection and taking a personal part of the ceremonial burial. I don’t know if there’s any religious basis for it. It’s a tradition. I put one on it; the others were already there. Another visitor. I got a bunch of stones out of our lawn and gardens and brought them up with us.”