I have a fabulous oil portrait in my dining room. If you’ve ever been in my home, you’ve seen her. If you’ve looked through my blog much, you’ve probably spied her in the corner of many of my pictures. No, she’s not my grandmother or favorite aunt. I found her on the side of the road propped up next to someone’s garbage – she was too large to fit in the can, and way too lovely to end up there.
Anyway, it was starting to rain and I had to make a quick decision. Do I let this beautiful painting of a dejected mother-in-law go to the city dump? Or do I risk embarrassing my own mother by picking through her neighbor’s garbage before our lunchdate? Yes, my mother was humiliated and shocked that I would do such a thing. But it was worth it.
After finding my beauty, I decided I might like to collect these kind of oil portraits. But, guess what? They are often poorly-done (the quality of the hands is the mark of true talent) and/or just plain spooky. You know, the eyes-are-watching-you, Scooby Doo kind of thing. I hung an oil portrait of my husband’s grandmother for a little while, but it creeped out my children. Maybe it’s best if you don’t know the person. Portraits that are really well-done are difficult to find and very expensive. Portrait painting is becoming a lost art. There’s this guy I went to college with in Nashville who does amazing ones – but they cost thousands of dollars to have commissioned.
Earlier this summer, I was at a yard sale scooping up some rejected but stylish shirts for $1 a piece from a 14-year-old fashion diva. And then I spied something interesting. It was a rolled-up canvas with a $2 price tag. I unrolled it and gasped. It was a blond lady in a light blue dress, and she could have been a younger version of my own lovely lady! I quickly paid the teenager, so afraid that someone else would see my amazing find and snatch it up for themselves. But that’s the good thing about the way I think – others rarely see the potential in the crap, I mean stuff , that I fall in love with.
I got home, unrolled my treasure, and notice something distracting and disturbing. My lovely lady is wearing a beautiful evening gown, but with a diamond-shaped cutout on the belly area. The thing that makes it even more disturbing is that the artist used plenty of shading that makes the lady appear to be showing off a hint of her under-bosom. UGH!
I thought about hanging it as-is, knowing it would be a humorous conversation piece. Then I showed it to my friend Michelle, who said “why don’t you just take some paint and cover that up?” Could I do that? I’m no artist, and I certainly don’t have any oil paints. I reminded myself that my initial investment was only $2, so what did it really matter if I screwed it up? I pulled out 3 shades of blue craft paint from Michaels and got to work. Tah-Dah!!!!
Now it just looks like my lovely lady is wearing a gown with some interesting detailing. So much more couth than the bare belly and hint of under-bosom.
My husband made a very simple wooden frame that I stapled my portrait to, no exterior frame required. He did it under duress, as he doesn’t understand why on earth I would want to hang this in our home. But I guarantee you, it will grow on him. Thankfully, he has learned to trust my vision :).
There are several points I want you to get from this post. Embrace what you find beauty in, no matter if anyone else sees what you see. Don’t be afraid to alter things you have to make them more interesting or more beautiful. Separate the object from the context – something can look old-fashioned or tired in someone else’s home (or in someone else’s garbage), but look fresh and fun somewhere else with a different design aesthetic. Don’t take yourself or your decor so seriously. And most importantly, call me if you find an old oil painting for cheap!