Afternoons in the vegetable garden

Crafting paintings from memories

This was a very special illustration to create. My client, and now friend, Marie-Ève, shared a story that resonated with me personally. It was about a memory she has of her mother who died of cancer several years ago. While growing up, Marie-Ève’s family had a large organic vegetable garden. She remembers often returning to the house in the summer months and seeing her mom working in the garden.

The house has since been sold and the garden covered up with lawn by the new owners. As it turns out, she was unable to find any photos of the garden. It’s such a strange thing that sometimes it’s hard to tell what will feel most important and dear to us over time.

My mother is currently terminally ill with cancer and I find myself wondering what those things are that I will miss most… and the problem is, I don’t think you can really know, until time passes.

A woman working in a large vegetable garden in the late afternoon sun.
Memories of a garden. Mixed media on paper.

This illustration was crafted with love, after a long conversation about the garden and the memories surrounding it. We came up with a rough diagram of the layout of the backyard and I took notes about what plants she remembered and approximately where they may have been in the garden; where the trees, paths, and hedges were. Where she would have been standing, and where the sun would have been coming from. Then, I went and spent some time gathering references and figuring out how the pieces would all fit together into a finished image.

We went through a couple rounds of sketches – adjusting and shifting things until they felt true to her memory but also left me some freedom while creating the finished piece.

I wanted to capture a warmth, a richness of feeling – even a little bit of magic. I felt that a late afternoon sun would amplify the warmth and have lovely contrasting shadows that would create a rich atmosphere and add to the sense of memory.

It was a challenge to try crafting someone else’s memory – something I’d never taken on before without references – and also a true joy to work on this project. I hope that the finished illustration captures the essence of this cherished memory for Marie-Ève and that some of the feeling comes through to you as you hear and see this part of her story.

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