And then tell me all about how you made the time machine which whisked you back to nineteen-thirty-five.
Norman Rockwell may have enjoyed this kind of family feast but it’s been a long, long time since Norman put brush to canvas and there have been one or two turns of the earth since then and let’s face it that sort of thing is just gone.
The whole family is more than likely scattered to the four winds. If the Great Recession didn’t rob them of their job and force them to migrate to somewhere like South Dakota where they can find a job and pay for the heating to stay alive in a South Dakota winter they went away to college and never came back or they married and the bread-winner was forced to move to South Dakota to find a job or they were getting on in years and they moved on along the great earth cycle and are no longer gathering anything but moss and there is just no one left to gather except you and that thing on the sofa with the remote in its hand and that is why there will be no huge family gathering this Thanksgiving.
And in truth those family gatherings where everyone came from far and wide were fraught with anxiety. If the meal wasn’t perfect the Long Sufferin went into a deep depression and didn’t come out until after Groundhog Day or Uncle Zachariah started a fight about whether the current NFL teams were as good as the Packers of old or the Bruins of old or the women on television were wearing less than any descent woman should be allowed out of the house in and the law school daughter allowed as how some people who get old should just go ahead and die and make room for the generation which is going to fix all of the damage they did and the environmentalist son-in-law is sure that eating turkey’s will cause the destruction of all feathered creatures and probably bring about the end of bee colonies and increase global warming and the grandmothers are dueling it out over the correct and proper way to make dressing and should it be in the bird or out and then there are the kids…
Maybe eating out alone in another city is the best plan.
But as an artist there is one thing that you should keep foremost in your mind; however it goes, no matter how many show up, each time Thanksgiving rolls around you have an opportunity to record the faces of a family which may never be together again.
Sure we've all seen the families on television and wish that ours could be so perfect but the fact is that when families get together they don’t always get together peacefully.
If the writers of television shows are any barometer, all of the Gen Xers are foaming at the mouth with bitter resentment of the reckless way in which they were raised and the parents of those same Xers are wondering how these children managed to grow up in a civilized home and have so little respect for manners?
Lord, send me a picture!
And that is exactly what you should do.
Let’s just suppose that you do have a perfect television family and that they gather in good cheer and never turn on the ballgame. Will all of them be there next year?
Sure you could and should take a picture. Pictures make wonderful reference material when you sit down to do a portrait. But they don’t always have the life the people in those pictures overflow with and it is hard unless you are a professional portrait photographer with hundreds of dollars in lighting and thousands of dollars in camera equipment to capture the life in every single one of them. (This assumes you can get them to stand still and let you take the picture.)
Why not make this the year you get great reference pictures of all of the family which gathers and spend the next twelve months making them into magic with your brush/chisel/chalk or even crayon.
You know that you can in your own studio do a better job than any mall side two for twenty-five dollar photo booth. Make beautiful, thoughtful images of your beloved guys while they are still here to make those images with.
And if you do then you have next holiday season knocked. You can take those images and use your own masterful tactical family insight and distribute them to the family which will most enjoy and appreciate them. (The trick here is that the ones who get the portraits will laud it over the ones who don’t and make their lives so miserable that they will come begging more and you can supply them as well and stay busy all of the year just supplying the family with irreplaceable views.)
I come from a family which was older when I came along, my maternal grandfather had been dead for seventeen years, my maternal uncle nine, my paternal grandfather and grandmother were alive and doing remarkably well but there were no images of them as young people cause in those days film was hard to come by and working people didn’t take pictures, except at weddings and funerals. Fortunately my father was a brilliant, gifted pencil artist who captured both Daddy Mix and Brother in pencil and colored pen, so I not only know what they looked like but I know that Daddy Mix had those pale, almost transparent blue eyes that look so weird and that he could turn a kid’s blood to jelly with just a look and that Brother was a gut-busting, mother-loving Navy man, (Sorry Otto I know what the censors wouldn’t let you say and it think they were wrong but this is a PG sort of blog so I’ll just steal the line the way you reluctantly re-wrote it for the screen), who had his father’s eyes but didn’t use them like lasers, and I know this because of what my own father did.
So instead of complaining about Kmart opening on Thanksgiving Day or about forty-seven football games all being played and telecast at the same time or about how long you have to spend in the kitchen, why not capture those family faces in your art so that no matter how far away the clan gets there will always be those wonderful, treasured, loved faces around your house.
I hope to God I did right when it was my turn to save the family faces Dad.