You are currently viewing Using her Artistic Talent, Painter Depicted her Granddaughter’s Life Struggles

Using her Artistic Talent, Painter Depicted her Granddaughter’s Life Struggles

My grandmother, whom we called Nana, held artistic talent which she used in at least a couple of areas. Her two most well-known creative talents were cooking (including baking) and oil painting. I have always felt that I inherited my artistic talent and my artist’s eyes from Nana. The walls of her house were covered in her realistic oil paintings of a variety of subjects. She was prolific enough to share many paintings with her adult children and minor grandchildren.

Paintings for her Grandchildren, using her Artistic Talent

With her artistic talent, Nana created special oil paintings for her grandchildren. When young, I did not appreciate the oil painting my grandma made for me. I admired the paintings on her living room walls of a jaguar and tigers, a beautiful courtyard with red flowers and a white fountain. I liked how she depicted cute birds at a water pump. Even the desert scenes were beautiful. On the other hand, Nana’s painting for me showed loneliness and struggle: a dreary and lonely little girl in a washed out pink rain coat trudging against the rain and wind, lunch box in hand.

Nana gave my brother her renderings of cool, old fashioned airplanes. The oldest of my cousins received an artistic view of a girl – the cousin herself – whose figure filled most of the frame, holding flowers and playing in a graceful pose outside. Another cousin got a portrait of himself, modeled after his photo. Nana gave me a plodding storm, with a dormant or dead tree in the background.

Paradigm Shift for my Painting

I realized something later in life, after I further developed my own artistic talent, which made me come to love this painting. I believe that the little girl depicted is me. And that Nana recognized my struggles in my lonely childhood. For one thing, she literally saw me walking to and from school all alone and lonely. In southern California, it was rarely rainy and I don’t remember walking in a rainstorm. But I think the weather in Nana’s painting symbolizes the figurative storms in my childhood.  

Nana knew of the storms I endured. She saw my family of origin torn apart. She knew that I was shuffled back and forth, from my mom to my dad, several times every month. I struggled, changing schools halfway through the school year for my first several grades. As a quiet child, I had trouble making any friends. Perhaps Nana perceived this too.

With that in mind, you do not need artistic talent to appreciate this painting. Upon closer inspection, you may notice that the girl moves on with determination. With a straight back, she pushes forward. Her strong little (mostly bare) legs march on. Even though she can barely see through the storm ahead and all around, she perseveres. Now that Nana is gone, I receive her encouragement through the painting she created long ago. Through it, I hear my grandma saying, “I saw you, in all of your struggles, and I saw you continuing on.”

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Jenifer Tull-Gauger Kyoshi

Children's picture book author/illustrator. Traditional karate teacher and practitioner. Loves drawing and all kinds of art. Also into animals, plants and Mother Nature.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Najat

    The way the little girls posture is in line with the storm, looks like there was faith in this little girl. Lovely painting!

Leave a Reply