There is something about painting portraits of older toys that makes my heart melt. These are the toys that stayed – the toys that were loved beyond childhood – the toys that are symbols for their owners of their childhood innocence and childhood devotion. I am a deeply nostalgic person, and somehow it makes me feel connected to my own childhood when I paint portraits of other adult’s childhood loves.
Here’s a little roundup of some vintage treasures from the past few fledgling months of my business. Keep the oldies-but-goodies coming! I’m putting the portraits under the pics their owners sent, so you can see how the photo is transformed into a hand-painted portrait. The oldies often have fur missing, discoloration, or other signs of age, so I work closely with my customers to help them decide whether they want the toy restored back to its original new state, or kept looking old (or “well-loved”) in the painting.
Feelicia and Erika – Erika writes the totally fantastic blog IndieSpotting, and she featured my toy portraits on her Indie Tot section a couple months ago. Erika’s mom read Erika’s writeup about First Friends, and thought it would be sweet to surprise Erika for her birthday with a portrait of her favorite toy from childhood, Feelicia. Feelicia is a “Feel Good” bear from Filene’s department store, and was a Christmas gift for Erika in 1988. Erika’s husband is a professional photographer, so he sent me a fantastic photo of Feelicia to use as a model for the painting. Feelicia is definitely still feeling good after all these years!
Bear and Robyn, Woofy and Jessie – Jessie and Robyn are both grown-ups now, but their sister Kiley remembers how attached they were to their favorite toys, Bear and Woofy (although apparently Robyn still sleeps with Bear every night, so the attachment has yet to end – Robyn, you are totally rocking my nostalgic world). Woofy lives in the closet now, but Kiley says he will always have a special place in Jessie’s heart. Kiley managed to get her sisters to send her photos of their special toys by pretending that she was going to write a blog post about their childhood friends (btw, Kiley is an extremely talented photographer – you can visit her site here.) Here’s the photos from Kiley’s sisters and the finished portraits.
Jenny and Snuggles, Gabe and Tina: Jenny thought it would be a sweet idea to have a portrait painted of her and her brother’s favorite childhood toys, and frame them together as a gift for her mom for her birthday, to remind her mother of the happy times they spent together as kids. Snuggles and Tina were a bit of a challenge – they each had issues related to their age that Jenny wanted corrected a bit to bring them back a bit to their younger looks. Snuggles had been to the toy hospital (yes, there is such a thing!) to have his stuffing replaced, but they majorly overstuffed him at the hospital, so Jenny asked if I could relax Snuggle’s posture in the painting to bring him back to his old floppy self. The t-shirt Snuggles is wearing was Jenny’s shirt from elementary school gym class!
Tina the turtle was a greater challenge – she has really been through a lot over her life. She has significant water damage, she was burned in a fire, and although the doctors at the toy hospital did their best to repair her, she is still lopsided, discolored, missing fur, and her little music box is broken. In the photos her head looks white and patchy, but Jenny told me that her head was originally the same color as the rest of her body. Jenny also wanted me to find a way to incorporate Tina’s sweet face from the headshot with a full-on body portrait like the other photo. I painted three versions of little Tina before Jenny and I finally agreed she was right!
Solomon and Leo: Solomon now belongs to 7-year-old Leo, but once upon a time Solomon belonged to Leo’s mom at the same age. I love toy stories that go on past one generation – it must give the child a special comforting feeling to know that their parent hugged and loved the same toy as a child. Luckily, Solomon survived the years intact and still looks practically brand new – perhaps he’ll stick around long enough for one of Leo’s children to love him one day, too.
Nicole and Annabelle – Erin wanted to commission a portrait of her sister Nicole’s long-time favorite doll, Annabelle. Nicole has loved Annabelle for 30 years, so as you can imagine Annabelle is quite faded and worn. The only picture Erin could find was grainy, small and difficult to see clearly.
I told Erin I’d try to do some sleuthing around online to see if I could find a better picture of Annabelle. Luckily, Nicole kept the name the doll came with, so I googled Annabelle doll 1970s, and voila! Annabelle! Pure 70′s loveliness.
Erin confirmed that is the same doll, and said Nicole’s Annabelle is so faded she had totally forgotten she was checkered. I faded the doll just a bit in the portrait, to give the illusion of age.
Kevin and Jimmy and Jenny – Jimmy and Jenny were commissioned by Kevin’s wife, Jane. Jane sent the actual toys to me, instead of a photo, so I could paint them from life! They live in boxes in storage now, but once upon a time they were treasured childhood companions for Kevin. Kevin’s parents brought them back from a trip to South America in 1982. Kevin claims they are kangaroos, but I’m not convinced (kangaroos in South America?) Either way, they were a colorful joy to paint.
Kate and Meow – And finally, I wrote about little Meow in a post here and again here, but she’s such a fantastic oldie, she deserves mention here too. She was a commission from a mother to her grown-up daughter. Tears were apparently shed when Kate first saw her portrait of little Meow. Here’s Meow’s photo and finished portrait:
And now, if you will excuse me, I am feeling an urgent need to paint my Holly Hobbie doll.
To purchase your own custom toy portrait or view more paintings in my gallery, please visit my online store at www.firstfriendsportraits.com!
**Please note that all toy photos are the property of the toy owners, who graciously allowed me to use them for this post.**