Sleepless Surrender

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Sleepless Surrender is the second in my Motherhood series. I fell in love with this photo used by permission of Photographer and Author Naomi Lynn

This Mother and Child Figurative painting is the second in my Motherhood series. This painting reflex the sleepless nights and the selfless sacrifice of a mother to do what is needed for the the child to have peace and be able to sleep, even if that means she stay awake. I was drawn to the beauty in the the exhausted eyes depicting not only her tiredness but also a relaxed peace that at least finally her child has found rest.

As always I start by drawing the image out onto my canvas. With this series I have pre-toned the canvas with a thin coat of transparent Iron oxide. This is such a vibrant color and adds such a glow to the background and even shines thought the layers of paint that go over it, giving the painting a warmth that expresses motherhood perfectly.

I then block in the basic values, tones, highlights and dark shadows, paying attention to shape and form.

Once I have all the basics in place and I am happy with the composition and colors I have chosen I will start to add in detail and add layers of glazing to push and pull the values darker or lighter where needed and to add a look of reflected light.

Art Prints now available @
Sleepless Surrender

While I usually push my paintings into a realism with fine blending and detail, I wanted to leave this series blocky and un edited you might say. Raw, Real, yet Unfinished. These are the feelings I’m trying to portray. My use of bold color and contrast of cool and warm tones is to show the contrast in emotions that so comfortably sit side by side in a mothers struggle to care properly for her children. A sacrifice that is not always appreciated by the baby, toddler youth or teen. But she continues on doing her best anyway. No Matter What, because she loves her children more than life itself!

Entwined

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Last year I got the privilege to hold my young grandsons for a 2 week period. I loved playing hard and resting with cuddles. The second week of my visit was more cuddles then playing hard as I had come down with covid, but didn’t know it. One day I just woke up and i was very weak, tired, and my legs would buckle under me. I never had any of the typical symptoms like fever, shortness of breath, soar throat… Just couldn’t stand up and walk for any length of time.

The boys were great with sitting and cuddling with me as I put my feet up. Grey the oldest boy even handed me his beloved stuff toy one day and told me that DOG would help me sleep better during my nap time. This was such a precious gift because Grey couldn’t sleep without him. It just melted my heart. But that’s what grandkids do to us Grandmas!

One day during this cuddle time I looked down to see that the boys had intertwined themselves around my arms, making it hard to see where They began and I ended. I had been wanting to do a series on hands and feet for a while, but never had the inspiration. But this, I knew was the moment I had been waiting for. SO I asked my daughter in law Emily to take a quick photo before the boys moved.

It was months before I had recovered enough to actually work on the painting. It turned out I has gotten long covid.

My vision had just the arms and legs without faces but to do that I would need a custom made canvas. Frankly by the time I got feeling good enough to paint it I just didn’t want to wait any longer for the new stretcher bars to arrive. So I just framed it the same as the photo and started.

The more I blocked it in the more dissatisfied with it I became. I felt that by leaving the boys faces in the painting it looked more like it was going to be a portrait. But as a Portrait it felt weird because my head was cut out of the painting. Right?

So, As I worked on it during art class I began to tell my students that I was going to put this painting on a smaller canvas cutting out the faces as I had originally envisioned. They all protested, but I was certain that that was what the painting needed. SO I ordered the new stretcher bars and waited.

Cropping it, I finally had it exactly the way I originally had envisioned it. SO I proceeded to add details until I had finished. It now proudly hangs in my living room reminding me everyday of my sweet Florida boys!

If you have any Questions or comments please comment below! I would love to hear from you.

For prints you can find this and other pieces I’ve painted on FineArtAmerica by clicking this link.

Shared Surprise

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Shared Surprise is #4 in my Motherhood series. This painting tells the story of sharing the joy of a new baby with your older child/ children. I have kinda haloed mother and child not because this is the Madonna and child but because of the sacredness of motherhood itself.

My reference was a little more challenging this time as it was in Black and white. But there were others in the photo shoot that were edited in color so I used them as reference as well.

My usual process of drawing my image onto the canvas and blocking in color and value were followed to the T. it was so important to me to get the body language drawn correctly as it tells such a beautiful story. This photo took me back to when my mamma told me that I was going to be a big sister.

I have this image hanging on a cabinet door in my studio! I love this photo of me and my mom!

OK, So back to this painting, LOL! To harmonise with the other paintings in the series I kept the color pallet the same and the style the same. but when I got everything painted in I felt I needed to darken the floor to ground my subject so they were not floating. I also darkened the edges of the iron oxide back ground and left the haloed affect that I desired.

Again I left the fine details undone. there are no individual strands of hair, in fact there are no sharp defined details. Instead this one is left a bit blurry to represent a memory of a special moment in time.

Here are the 4 Motherhood Series paintings along with a few others waiting to be hung at

Mindpower Gallery in Reedsport Oregon. Prints of all these paintings are available on Fine Art America as well.

Sacred Solace

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Sacred Solace is painting #3 of the motherhood series. There is so much about painting this one that excited me as an artist. I love the brightness of the painted background. I’m absolutely in love with the mother”s hands that gently supports her child’s bottom and head as he looks around exploring with innocence his new world.

My reference photo was granted to me by photographer and Author Naomi Lynn. I just adore her work!

Again I pre-toned the canvas in the transparent iron oxide. I absolutely loved how the background turned out, dark in some spots and glowing in others. Working with that glow I allowed the reflected light of the painting to actually be the background showing through.

Notice in the reference photo how the dress is a darker but similar color to the flesh tones. This works wonderfully in the photo, blending the two figures beautifully into one against a dark background.

What works to make something a great photo does not always work to make is a great painting. The artist has to decide what story she wants her painting to tell. Where do I want to direct the viewers eyes? What Feeling do I want to convey?

In my painting he color of her dress in the reference photo more closely resembles the background of the painting. So I decided to transposed the colors by taking the greenish blue back ground of the reference and putting a dark greenish blue dress on her in the painting. I felt that the contrast of the dark teal dress would draw your attention to their pail smooth skin, body language and facial expressions.

As always I followed my usually steps of blocking in and getting tones, values and shapes right. Then touching just a few dabs of blue color around the face. Normally I would blend these colors into the wet flesh tones making them more subtle. But when I stood back, I decided that she was perfect the way she was.

This may surprise you , but this was very hard for me to physically do. I actually had to leave the studio for several days, just so I wouldn’t fiddle with the paint. I really feel it would have ruined the painting to refine and define her more, and I certainly didn’t want to do that. I’m so glad now that I listened to that voice inside telling me she was done.

40 Year Together

Reference Photo by Kellie Doschades Trenkle

After 40 years of marriage I finally painted a portrait of my husband and I together as a Christmas gift for him. Double portraits can be tricky because they have 2 unique personalities and faces to paint, AND you have to get them right so they are recognizable.

I love this reference photo because of the tenderness in my husbands face as he kisses my forehead. This man loves me so very well! Getting my husbands features right was easy. I could probably paint him in my sleep. I know his face so well. I thought that capturing that look of love would be the difficult part, but that came easily too.

Surprisingly (to me anyway) was the trouble I had painting myself. After all I have known me all of my life, right! LOL! But that also might have been my problem. When I look at myself I see the wrinkles, the tires eyes, my wide nose and double chin. And those are just the physical things I see. My list of personal flaws is much bigger. SO I see my mistakes, my sailors and places where I just don’t measure up. I also know I’m not the only one who has this distorted view of myself. Am I right?

Anyway I got the painting to where I thought it was done, but one of my dearest artist friends told me to take my image further. She said “you are way more beautiful than that!” Which for some reason was hard and awkward for me to hear. But she wouldn’t let me call it finished until I had captured the me that she sees. AND I am very thankful for that. Not just because it improved the painting but because It lifted me up when I didn’t even know I needed lifted.

If you have been looking into a mirror of distortion while seeing your reflection, I would like to encourage you today, as my friend did for me. You are not the sum of your flaws and mistakes. You are loved, You are beautiful! The Bible tells us that “While we were yet sinners ( That’s all of us) GOD demonstrated his LOVE for us by sending Christ to die for us.” Romans 5:8

You were created just as you are by the Master of all Master artists. YOU ARE LOVED!

Motherhood

The moment I saw this photo of my beautiful daughter in law and my grandson taken by photographer Naomi Lynn Vacaro I knew it would someday be a painting. Naomi is great at taking photos that already look like classic paintings. So it doesn’t take a great imagination to envision it as such.

While I usually focus on making the image look as much like a portrait of the models, this one was motivated by feeling and not in it being a portrait. So as I blocked the painting in, I lost focus of it being a specific mother and child and focused on the feeling of the sacredness of motherhood. I wanted it to be representative of the Madonna, but not be her exclusively. I wanted her to represent the Holy gift of motherhood in all women.

For me being a mother and grandmother has been my greatest and most fulfilling job of my life. The bond I have with my children is so beyond words; and the bond with my grandchildren is a golden thread that wraps so tightly around my heart I could burst with joy.

I love this piece because the focus is not on the mother, but on the mother’s focus on the child, because that is what being a mother is all about. Motherhood is learning to die to self and give your everything for someone who is totally defenseless and dependent on you. Sleepless nights, fevered brows, knee scrapes and heat aches, motherhood is pouring love into the lives of our children in hopes that they will learn from our example how to love and how to expect to be loved.

NOTE: To you young mothers;

I know it’s hard to see the beauty and sacredness of motherhood with tiered bloodshot eyes. I know the difficulty of sleepless nights, praying that the baby will sleep through the night just once. That the 2 year old will stay in her own bed all night instead of crawling in yours and laying on your face. I know the frustration of adolescence, acne and hormones. My children are all grown and married and starting families of their own. and I still have an occasional sleepless night worrying about them.

I remember the days of just wanting 5 minutes of silence. Now with all 4 grown and out of the house I have hours of the silence every day. I find myself longing for and cherishing the days my children and grandchildren visit so I can hear their joyous laughter in these walls again. I know it’s hard being a young mom. But take it from an old mom, it all passes all too quickly. Try to cherish every minute that you possibly can. This t0o shall pass, and when it does you will dream of just a few hours more to hold your babies in your arms and feeling their sweet breath on your neck.

Collaboration

This summer I had the honor of doing a collaboration project with my artist granddaughter. I had started working on a floral diptych shortly before my annual art in the garden show. So just for fun I set up my easel along side my artist daughter, and pulled out my paints. The plan was that in slower moments I could steal away and paint. This would be great fun for me, but also for visitors who could get a peek at my process.

The problem was, that I was so busy with visitors that I just never got around to painting. But I did notice that my granddaughter was standing and watching her Aunt paint and I recognized her yearning to paint. So I placed my paint apron on her and said “have at it.”

She was very hesitant as I had already started the painting a couple days before, and she was afraid she would ruin it. But I assured her that that was not possible and encouraged her to paint.

Soon she was well into the process. So much so that she called her brother to fill in on her shift at work so she could keep painting. A sign of a true artist if you ask me. Someone who will give up a regular paycheck just for the joy of creating.

Anyway, her work was so beautiful with its broad brush strokes and bold colors. Totally in contrast to my well blended more pastel style. But together these two styles worked wonderfully when in juxtaposition with each other.

Since there were two canvas, I had her do the bud and a few leaves on my painting and I did likewise with her canvas. The affect was superb.

Our paintings are now available and hanging at the MindPower Gallery in Reeds Port Oregon.

Christmas Cuddles

 

I don’t know about you but the greatest gift I can receive is a hug from my grand kids, let alone when one comes up and cuddles in for the long haul just because. Well that is what happened Christmas day 2019. I was sitting on the sofa with my granddaughter when she leaned into me and got real comfortable. This was not the first time by any means, but as she is 16 now it was kind of a surprise. A very wonderful surprise.

I’m not sure why it surprised me, but it did. You see my eldest grandson (18) started collage this fall, and well I guess I have been telling myself that since him and his sister are full grown that this old lady was going to have to learn that she was just not going to see them much anymore. “They will go off to school, get lives of their own, move away  and lets face it, what young adult wants to hang out with an old lady? right?”

Now I’m not one for Drama, or feeling sorry for myself and dwell on negative things (AT ALL!) But this one kinda came in the back door without me noticing. Even without me realizing that I was thinking it. It just seamed like a fact.

But this Christmas proved all of those worries to be totally false. First of all, My grandson goes to school south of home and so he just stopped in to visit with me on his way home for Christmas vacation. I almost missed him because I was playing my stereo so loud. LOL! But he pounded loudly on my door to make sure I heard him. We talked for over 2 hours (something that he and I have never done before.) Grown up to grown up. It was the most fabulous thing to happen to me in years. We found out that we had a lot in common, and that many of our thought patterns were the same. We even like some of the same music! It was absolutely a magical moment in time that I will cherish for ever.

Then on Christmas day as I was sitting on the sofa beside my 16 year old grand daughter, she turned and leaned into me and snuggled in and stayed there for about 20 minutes, maybe more. At one point my arm went to sleep and my back started hurting, but I wasn’t about to move and possibly end this beautifully precious moment. Realizing that this was a fleeting moment in time, I asked my daughter to please take a photo of us together so I could cherish it forever. (Something I rarely do, but I am doing more often these days.)

Then a couple days later I see this post on my granddaughter’s Instagram and I was moved to tears. So much for my fears of the kids not enjoying time with this old lady! LOL!

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To my surprise my husband heard me ask my daughter to take a photo and he pulled out his camera as well, so I was blessed with two different views. While I loved the head on shot my daughter took, the side view from my husband struck me as a potential painting.

 

 

So a couple days after Christmas I started on the painting. It was so wonderful to work on this one with the joy of this memory so fresh in my mind.

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I started out with just basically blocking in the forms and trying to get a good start on the values. I did not worry so much about likeness right away.

The red blanket on the back of the sofa stops behind my granddaughter’s head in the photo, but I wanted to use that bright color of the blanket as part of the composition to bring attention to the two faces. So the blanket magically got a little bigger.

One of the tools I like to use while painting a portrait is to take photos of the progress as I go and compare them to either the reference photo or to a previous stage in the painting to see if I am getting closer to the likeness of the subjects or further away. It is amazing what this process can point out to the eye very quickly.

 

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Another tool I like to use is to change the photo of the painting to Black and white to check if my values are correct. Nothing makes a painting fail quicker then not getting the values correct.

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This painting is only a 12″x 16″ so these faces were pretty small. I’m not sure why I keep doing this to myself, but it is hard to get a likeness when the faces are only about 2″ square.

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Once finished with the painting, I purchased a lovely floating frame for this gallery wrapped canvas and wrapped it up as a valentines gift for my beautiful Granddaughter. It was such a joy to take her and her mom out for a coffee and to present her with my heart in the form of a painting. I think she liked it! What do you think? I sure do love this KIDDO~

A Time to be Born

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This piece is #3 in my Ecclesiastes 3 series wrapping up a very emotional year.

Titled “A Time to be Born”

This year has been a roller coaster of emotions for me. If you are a regular reader you know that I lost my big sister on Christmas day last year. So, even though I had planned to paint more paintings this year then ever before, turns out I have painted three. This season of painting has been filled with passion and raw emotion as I worked out the avalanche of emotions that were, and still are, churning around in my very soul as I allowed them to flow through me onto the canvas.

The first two paintings I have done in this series were working out my grief.Remembering tender moments and reliving old regrets. But #3 was going to be different.

In February, We found out that our son and his wife were expecting another baby. Our home was filled with joy again. This would be our 4th grandchild. Soon, though, that joy turned to worry as we got the news that the baby would have a 25% possibility of having Cystic Fibrosis. Months went by, waiting for news as Dr. visits  and check ups were scheduled, We found out the baby was a boy! Helping pick out names, counseling love and hope to our son and his wife as they worried, trying to be strong for them, feeling like a rag that had been rung out once to many times myself. Praise the Lord, the birth went amazingly well, and spirits and hopes were high, but after a few days it was evident that little man Kai was indeed sick with the dreaded disease. The roller coaster ride goes on still.

I decided to go on with my painting series. After all “to everything there is a season”, right? I decided to use my emotions artistically and focus on the positive. So about a month before Kai was born I started this painting. Using a reference photo of his older brother Grey taken by their aunt Naomi, I picked one that had the main focus on the connection of the hands and heart. It would be the companion piece to “The Last Goodbye.” and I wanted the emotional connection of the hands as well as a connection between the two pieces of art.

I started with a sketch up on canvas as I usually do, then quickly blocked in all the elements. In my typical way I adjusted the back ground several times and worked to keep the main focus on the hands not the baby’s face.

 

 

 

 

As I progressed, I felt something was wrong with the composition but couldn’t put my finger on it. So I walked away from it over night and when I had looked at it with fresh eyes I quickly realized that the mother’s thumb on the head was serving as a stop sign. So, It had to go. I fiddled with that hand and moved it several time before getting the thumb where I wanted it being the support for the head. fbsheet

Also around this point in the painting I switched from Acrylics to oils like I did with “The Last Goodbye” painting to get better blend ability.

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The idea in my head was to make the background for the baby the sheets, like in the companion piece. I was also planning on adding just a touch of the green, like in the hospital gown, for the babies diaper cover. But once it was painted in, I felt it was too cold and void of emotion and warmth. So to fix this problem I decided to switch the green to the background and the white sheet to cover the diaper and lower left hand corner of painting. Once this was done I was so pleased. The painting was now warm and full of life.

To me the green represents the LIFE in these two paintings. I “A Time to be Born” there is so much life to look forward to, and in “Last Goodbye” there is just a remnant of life left. I had accomplished telling the story.

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Part of my creative process is watching what happens as I paint and deciding where to go from there. As I progressed through this painting I was having difficulty with the hand that supports the baby’s head. Things that work ok in photographs do not always translate well into a painting. you see the ye is naturally drawn to the point in the painting with the greatest contrast. The mother’s pale hand against the dark hair and strong shadows of the baby’s head was creating it’s own focal point. This created a problem for me as the story I wanted to tell was to be told through the emotional connection of the hands. So I had to do a delicate dance of lowering the values of the hand and even graying it out some so that it would feel more like a background element, even though in reality it was the thing in the far most foreground. I needed to be there as part of the story, but I didn’t really need it as a main character.

At the same time I was dulling out the left hand, I was increasing the contrast and intensifying the color of the baby’s hand. I did this by adding glazes of a warm shadow color and adding more warm reds to the tips of the fingers, with reflected red light bouncing off of the mother’s fingers. I also added those same reds to the ear to give baby a nice health glow.47391629_218022855766036_7897445495763632128_n

A Time to be Born

11″x 14″ Oil on canvas

#3 of the Ecclesiastes 3 series By Jackie Little Miller

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I wonder what painting the Lord will have me work and FEEL my way though next. It has been therapeutic yet, painful. I love that it is taking my art up a level, but a little apprehensive of what might be next. I’m hoping for some laughter and dancing soon. LOL! But I know my God is faithful. I know that His plans for me are for good, His thoughts are of peace for me and not evil, to give me a future and a hope. And I will keep painting though what ever He brings my way next.

 

Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out my art process! To see more of my paintings check out jackielittlemiller.com

 

 

Last Goodbye

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This is my second painting in the Ecclesiastes 3 series, to everything there is a season. I have been a portrait artist for years and love the human expression. Driven by a desire to push myself past faces, I started thinking about doing a series of paintings on hands. Then I thought maybe hands and feet, and I came to the conclusion that I just wanted to be able to paint expressive emotion without the aid of facial expression. So I had all these possible ides running around in my head, day and night. especially at night. I tend to do all my best thinking just before I go off to sleep. After the process of painting “A Time to Mourn” the series was set in my mind. But this painting was of the full body and was a dancer. So then I’m asking myself questions like, if this one is of a dance, does the whole series need to be represented in dance? Do I use the whole body in all the paintings: Or can I still go with just hands, or hands and feet? So many conflicting ideas overwhelmed my thoughts. Then the answer came to me.

In December of last year when my sister was passing away,  I sat in the room with her holding her hand, as she was taking, what I knew were some of, her last breaths, I looked down at my hands holding and caressing hers. The artist in me wanted to capture this moment forever with a photo of our hands touching for the last time this side of heaven.The rational side of me, how ever, talked me out of it saying that it would be crass and insensitive of me. For several months afterword I mourned that decision, as my sister and I were so very close and her hands and my hands worked along side each other so many times. She was like an extension of me and I of her.

One day as I sat visiting a friend who had just recently lost a dear life long friend, she was expressing her feelings as she and another friend sat saying their last goodbyes to their failing friend. She looked at me and said, I have something I want you to see. She then opened photos on her phone and showed me this beautiful photo of the three friends holding hands. She expressed to me how she had apprehensions about taking the photo, and had almost talked herself out of it, but her other friend encouraged her to go ahead and take it. As I looked down on this photo, I was taken back to that precious unforgettable moment with my beloved sister. I instantly asked permission to paint this photo, and was graciously granted permission, with my friend saying, “Maybe it was meant to be shown to you!” And I think she was right.43672923_560139704412003_7099662553256558592_n

So I started with a sketch up. I changed the angle of the hand on the left as I felt it was leading the eye off the page coming in directly from the left. instead I angled it from the bottom left corner to lead the eye in to exactly where I wanted it to land. I also enlarged the drawing to fit the size of canvas I wanted to use. I did a little shading with my pencil to give myself indications of shape and values needed. I then started by blocking in the sheets and hand furthest underneath it all, working myself to the top hand.

working in acrylics has always given me a challenge full of frustration. It dries so quickly and just doesn’t give me the time I need the for subtle blending needed to paint skin the way I would like. I admit I am a blend-o-maniac! There I said it! Another frustration that was getting the better of me was that acrylics tend to dry darker then the wet paint. sometimes 2 or 3 shades darker. Usually I would be able to press on through and get it done anyway, but this year has been rough when it comes to how much patience and to be honest how much energy and even desire to paint. So any frustration at all will shut me down in minutes. So again progress on this painting stopped for about a month.

 

I know it’s normal, as I am grieving, to be frustrated and lose focus easily, but it is also very stressful. I have the creative ideas constantly flooding my mind and I need to be able to express them or I kinds get a little crazy. It’s like therapy to me to paint through my pain and emotions. Anyway, I started entertaining the thought of trying to paint with oils again. I had stopped because the fumes would trigger my migraines, and nobody can be creative with a migraine, right? So i did a bunch of research and purchased oil paints with just pigment and oil, and got an odorless solvent which I use very sparingly. I was so blessed to find that they did not trigger migraines and the blend like butter. I am In love!

Once I started painting with the oils I felt like a bird set free from her cage. These paints are wonderful. I am in blend heaven. And I can paint for days with the same pile of paints before they dry up on me. This is going to take me a while to get used to as the canvas stays wet for days too. But this is both good and bad. Good because I can continue to blend and get those subtle blends I want, but bad because I can still blend and get those blends I don’t want! LOL!

Back to the painting itself. In the photo my friend is wearing a silver bracelet that she wears all the time as it is very special to her. I really wanted to get that bracelet into the painting. But as I started blocking it in I realized that my eye was being constantly drawn to the bracelet more then to the hands clasping, where I wanted the attention to be. So I made the hard decision for the sake of the composition to remove it.

Once that decision was executed and the arm was finished being painted, I went over my darks with a couple layers of glaze to deepen the wrinkle, in the hands as well as the sheets. added a few age spots, and glazed in some red to the arthritic joins in the main hand. Showing the painting to my friend who took the photo she says “I love the painting but it makes me cry every time I see it.” This is the highest complement ever! and I have to agree, it makes me cry too from my own precious Last goodbye with my sister. But it’s not the ugly cry that it used to be, it is the cry of being blessed by a women I will never fully let go of!

 

fbsignature“Last Goodbye” From the Ecc.3 series

14″x18″ oils on canvas