A Memorial Portrait: The passing of Ellie, and the white rabbits of my childhood
My Uncle Jimmy was responsible for my love for bunnies. The first rabbits that came to live in our red barn were white ones I picked out from from Uncle Jimmy's hutches. His property seemed vast, and begged to be explored. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of times spent with my cousin Chris, tromping around visiting all the animals their family kept.
In many ways, a little girl couldn't be luckier than I was, with chicks and litters of kittens, and more baby animals than I can list. But the same babies who filled me with a wonder for life also taught me that death always comes, one way or another. I discovered the grisly aftermath when a weasel got into the hen house, and when the neighbor's dogs tore through the rabbit hutches. I saw my cat get run over by the school bus. There were the quiet losses too, cats that never came home, a favorite chick that followed me everywhere but just didn't make it.
My Ellie passed away quite suddenly this past month. The vet saw her for an eye irritation but found nothing too concerning, just a tiny scratch on her eye. But Ellie died the very next evening. We don't know why she died so suddenly, but we miss her.
It's a sad thing, but I learned in childhood to be thankful, that death doesn't diminish the gifts of life. Ellie was a sweet friend to her brother Charlie, and I'll miss her hopping around the house, and snuggling at my feet while I paint. She was a great muse, and it comforts me that I was painting her portrait when she passed.
We kept one early painting of Ellie for ourselves, and I'm glad we did. A portrait has a freshness and a life of its own that makes the subject feel close, that keeps them alive and well in our hearts. It's a hard thing to explain why a painting should feel more significant than, say, the photo it's based on, but I think it's the care put into making it. Because it's a totally unique object, we give it meaning.
Please look below at some of the other paintings I've done of Ellie over the past few years, and join me in remembering her fondly.
Portrait for Small Works 45th Anniversary Exhibition at Childhood's End Gallery
Along with five other paintings, this portrait of Ellie will be on display in a group exhibition this October. More details in next month's newsletter.