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This commission was a privilege and a HUGE challenge.

My friend Ellen commissioned me just before I left for GOA to do a memorial piece for her daughter, Missy, who died in her sleep last year. She was only in her 20's. It was a shock to all of us.

I asked Ellen what she had in mind and explained that I don't do portraits. Acrylics dry so quickly, I wouldn't even know how to start. I only do loose caught in action moments. But Ellen said, "I don't care if you paste her picture on the canvas. I trust you."

She said she was in no hurry and I said that I would have it to her by Christmas. It would take a lot of thinking.

Missy was a bubbly girl who wore florescent lipstick, theatrical makeup, laughed and giggled easily and was almost always smiling. Missy wrote fiction. Missy loved fairytale. But Missy was so much more than that. At her memorial service, person after person stood and told how Missy stood by them through some really tough times when no ones else understood.

I really had no idea how to portray Missy. I asked for several photos, the more candid the better. I hoped that one of them would spark an idea.

Then I prepared to go to Gathering of Artisans, hosted by Matt Tommey, in North Carolina. I was so incredibly excited to be taking a class with Kate Green. I love her work and her process. Through a series of bizarre circumstances, Kate was unable to be there. She taught our class via skype and I can honestly say that it was one of the profound experiences of my life. That's a story unto itself that I will try to blog soon, but "meeting" Kate in that class and learning her process of intercessory prayer for others via paint and color ignited an idea for my commission.

I wouldn't use just one of the photos because Missy was way to bold to be captured in just one image. I would use all of them. And I was springboard off of Kate Green's lovely bright color palette and use of circles.

PLEASE check out her work at:

She is PHENOM!!!

Was I trying to actually do what Kate does? NO! I couldn't begin to capture what she does! But she helped me capture Missy.

I am not an abstract artist, so this was a total new jump. When you're doing abstract, you can only ask yourself "What can I do to make this feel better?" When you do more realism, you tend to ask, "What can I do to make this look better... like the image/item I am referencing?"

I think, I will be taking the "feel" question into my realism from now on.

But the PROCESS of this was what made it profound for me. The day I prepped the canvas for this, I was the moderator for a Skype mastermind meeting with two other artists. It was incredible. At one juncture, we all talked about feeling called to play. One of us was an enneagram 1. She wasn't sure she knew how to play. It tended to feel irresponsible or nonproductive. Another of us had played way too hard and said was reaping the consequences. She was having to relearn or rather redefine play. She was learning about healthy play, rather than irresponsible play. Me? I was raised by an enneagram 1. But I am an enneagram 4. I actually knew how to play, but was made to feel guilty about it by my enneagram 1 parent who I adored and wanted to please. So I grew up way too fast, denying myself the joy of play.

The 1 shared what she had learned from an article about play. She quoted the article as saying, "Play is activity in which means are more valued than ends." WOW.

Missy knew how to play.

So off to my music stash I went. I chose Camelot and Ice Castles and even One Wonderful Life which I wrote for a musical.

The next day I headed to the studio, already in prayer. My two darling little regulars came for hot chocolate before heading to school. I actually remembered to bring markers and paper for them. They giggled and drew and chose bright colors!

I adore these sweeties!

And then my daughter texted me a song: Pat Barrett - Canvas and Clay (Live) ft. Ben Smith

So with this song on replay on Spotify, I painted. I listened. I studied a life well spent. I chatted with friends who came to look over my shoulder. I drank coffee and I would have danced if I hadn't been to busy painting. I played.

For many reason, I refuse portrait requests. So I literally did Modpodge the images onto the canvas. Then I painted directly onto the image.

Here's a quick slide show of how it progressed:

(So I wish I knew how to load Canvas and Clay as the sound track, but I'm on a hairpin learning curve with all of this and I want to post this before the year is over. LOL)

When I was done, there were hidden things in this painting. Things my daughter pointed out when she dropped by. Things I didn't see till after they happened and the painting was finished. I have doodled them into a screenshot, but the painting doesn't have these marks. (Thank goodness!)

Under my signature, there is an image of a princess sleeping with a crown descending on her head. She is lying on her back and and making a heart with her hands.

Then there is one hand reaching down which overlaps another hand reaching up.

Again, they actually are seen better in the original at top of the blog, but this just indicates where.

And finally, in blue, there seems to be a sonogram image.

I sent a pic of the finished painting to Ellen. She loves it. It is not her normal style, but she said I captured Missy. I love Ellen. She is always giving. But then I began to worry that I maybe gave her something that she couldn't hang on a wall?

So I prayed more. And even though I don't paint portraits, I decided to paint one of the images on a tiny little 4x6 inch canvas board. I did it just to play, but then it actually turned out halfway decent. Acrylics are not made for portraiture. But this was from one mama's heart to another.

I sent a pic of it to Ellen and she was very excited. This is by no means something I will offer to do, but it was so rewarding to see it take shape for Ellen.

So grateful,


©2019 Lydia D Crouch

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Ellen Bagley
Ellen Bagley
Nov 16, 2019

Thank you so much. Your works are something I will always treasure. They have deeply blessed me. I love you.

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