Learn to Fly -Painting my daughters portrait before she flys the nest

My daughter Lottie will be leaving home in September for university and I'm preparing myself for the empty nest feeling that I'll no doubt be feeling when she goes.

When I recently discovered that a black bird had made a nest in my garden it particularly resonated with me. The nest was at eye level in the hedge outside my studio and I've been watching with facination as the female tended her eggs while her mate came and went with food.

Once the eggs hatched the hedge was a hive of activity with the heart warming sound of the chicks' cheeping as the parents relentlessly flew back and forth with food.

I had become rather attached to this bird family and this week I discovered the two little plump chicks had ventured out of the nest and were now learning to fly. Perched on a plant pot on my lawn the flightless chicks were fully at the mercy of the neighbouring cats and I was very worried for their saftey.

But my dog is a good cat deterrent so thankfully the two fledglings managed to avoid being eaten and with lots of coaxing from their anxious parents have finally flown away.

The hedge is now eerily quiet and the nest is empty..

It's a meloncholy reminder that Lottie will soon be gone.

I've often mentioned in my past blogs that I feel compelled to paint loved ones as a way of preserving them, and the painting process always helps me come to terms with the inevitable changes in life.

So it felt like the right time to mark this milestone with a portrait of her (below)

I liked this pose because she was lit up by the evening sun coming through the window, against a jungle wallpaper backdrop. Her milky skin tones remind me of the Victorian society portraits painted by the likes of Singer Sergent when it was fashionable for woman to have ghostly white complexion

'Lottie at 18 years' Oil on canvas 2021

It's such a cliche but her childhood has gone in a flash- it seems yesterday she was toddling around in nappies clutching her favourite 'Noddy' toy, today she's driving a car and eating out at Wetherspoons.

It's a double edged sword, - on the one hand when she moves out I'll have a tidy house and no-one stealing my clothes or hair products but -I'll also be losing my little household friend and ally-

who will I laugh, banter and bicker with now? Come to think of it, who will bleach my roots for me?

Reflecting back on my sketches and paintings of her over the years, her childhood is played out again:)

I sometimes crave for that little girl with the china doll ringlets

'Lotties Curls' - Oil on canvas

'Lottie staring'' - Pastel on paper

I painted this portrait below when she was going through a difficult time in her teens- her defiant expression says it all. I wanted to include the feminine warmth of pinks and reds.

The chaotic patterns reflected her personality and teenage angst.

'Lottie in her Dressing gown' - Pastel on board

I liked the way her clothing and hair mirrored the colours in the back ground.

This portrait below was a live demonstration I did for an art class

I felt it was less daunting using Lotties face for the demo - I almost know her features by memory after 18 years of observing her

'Demo Portrait of Lottie' - Pastel on paper 2019

This painting below was a recent study - a rare sighting of her without her usual full face of makeup.

I prefer her in this more natural state where I can see her pale complexion

'Lottie with hair towel'- Oil on board 2021

I'm grateful that I have this visual history of her childhood- each drawing and painting takes me back to that particular stage of her life. I look forward to producing many more paintings of her throughout her journey

This fledgling will soon be ready to leave the nest -

She has the wings - now she just has to learn to fly.

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