In my experience, the spark of creativity can be just about anything but there’s plenty of art inspired by memory. Sometimes it can be the dimmest memory in fact.
My maternal grandmother was in her 40’s when my mother was born and she passed away when I was quite young, but I have fond memories of the time we did have. In the year following my birth my parents moved from North Georgia to be somewhat closer to family and we spent most weekends visiting my grandmother and other members of Mom’s family. So although those memories were brief they were strong.
Flash forward to the present and I was working on this local scene and suddenly I knew my grandmother needed to be in this artwork.
And I wish I could explain why. She had no connection to this little cottage or the town. And it doesn’t look like anywhere I’m aware of that she ever lived. It was definitely art inspired by memory but not just my personal memories. Among the photos of my mom’s older brother as a baby is a photo of my uncle being held by a nursemaid who was sitting on the steps. I’m fairly sure my grandfather took the photo based on shadow cast in the brightly lit scene. But what always caught my eye in that long-ago photo is that there’s a doorway behind the nursemaid and my uncle. Through the screen door you can see my grandmother half in shadow but clearly watching over her infant son. You can’t see her face because of the shadows but that likely unintentional portrait stuck in my mind over the years. There was something powerful about it. Thus the appearance of the grandmother in this scene. She’s not per se my grandmother so much as I consider her a sort of universal figure that I think will speak to many of us. Does it remind you of your mother or grandmother? I’d love to hear what this scene says to you.
Since I’m talking about the inspiration behind this artwork, I thought you might enjoy seeing a before and after. You see not only was there no one standing in that doorway in the photo I worked from, the house in question was a shadow of whatever it had once been.
It took some imagination to imagine that derelict home in better days. Although this artwork is something I did simply because I wanted to, I use this before and after as one of the examples of the custom digital art I can do working from your photos.
Before I go, I thought I’d share one more example of art inspired by memory. This time from my father and his side of the family. Dad grew up in a rural farming community in Covington County, Alabama. My paternal grandmother’s family homesteaded there in the 1880’s. Her parents were both born there. I’ve heard stories not just from my Dad and grandmother but a host of family members about life here. There’s a strong sense of connection to the countryside there knowing that several generations lived their lives there and are buried in the same little church yard.
In my Dad’s childhood, little Rose Hill had a schoolhouse, small country stores, and such. Not metropolitan by any stretch but more than there was by the time I visited as a child. But I do remember this little store. In my childhood, I believe it was still open then. It’s still there today but dark and vacant like so much of rural America.
I am told that the sign over the front of the store was added long after my father’s childhood in Rose Hill, so that part is not accurate to the time period portrayed in this artwork, but I kept it because it’s part of my memory of Rose Hill and connects this image to the place. At any rate, I’m told by family members that this store sat across the road from the schoolhouse and many seem to have memories of walking over there for candy and such.
This art inspired by memory is not just of my Dad but his family in general. I recall them when I look at it. I remember the stories they told about growing up in this small community. For others I suppose this artwork may speak to their general sense of nostalgia. I’ve heard as much from print buyers who have never been to tiny Rose Hill but love the spirit of the place conjured up by this depiction.
What do you think?
I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments or send a message if you have questions or thoughts you’d like to ask directly.