I was very fortunate to spend the last holiday with almost my entire immediate family. That doesn’t happen too often these days. With a brother serving in the forces overseas, a sister finishing grad school, and my wife and I with infant twins, we’re always going in different directions.
But my Mom’s not getting any younger, and we need to make the most of our time with her.
The Idea of Photo to Painting
My quest to create the best gift ever started when we were sitting around the table one night. All of us were drinking decaf coffee (you know you’re getting old when you avoid caffeine at night!) and looking through old family photographs.
There was this one picture from the 1960s where my mom and her siblings were all posing in their childhood living room. Behind them on the wall was a painting of my great-grandparents. My mom got a little teary looking at the picture. She’s the only one of her siblings still alive.
One of us asked about the painting. You just don’t see many oil paintings of your relatives these days. She said it was commissioned for my great-grandparent’s 50th anniversary. Tragically, the painting was lost in a house fire a few years later. Mom mentioned that the photo we were looking at was one of the only ones she had of her siblings, since the fire destroyed everything.
Our Aha! Moment
I took one look at my wife and knew she was thinking the same thing I was. See, it’s really hard to get my mom gifts. She always says she has everything she needs, and we know she’ll be downsizing soon, so the last thing we want is to get her something she’ll have to get rid of when she moves.
But a custom painting that will bring a smile to her face every day? Now that’s a gift we can get excited about! Over the next few days, I talked to my brother and sister about the idea of turning the photo of my mom and her siblings into a painting. They loved it!
Finding the Right Artist
My wife and my sister spent some time looking for any other photos of my mom’s family and found a few more. My sister managed to sneak away and get copies of them without Mom noticing.
Turns out that was the easy part! I started looking for an artist who could take those old, faded photos and turn them into an oil painting that would be a cherished heirloom. I knew a computer-generated ‘painting’ just wouldn’t capture the right feelings.
Places like Uncommon Goods have some really neat customizable gifts, but by now I knew exactly what I wanted—a portrait of my mom and her siblings. Finally, I came across Paint Your Life. I knew immediately that it was the perfect place to turn this idea into reality.
We all spent some time looking at different portraits and artists on the site before agreeing on the right one for Mom’s gift. Actually, it was a real bonding time for us. We’re all living such different lives, but this was something we were all working on together.
The Best Gift Ever
We decided to have the portrait ready for my mom’s 70th birthday. And once we sent the photos to our artist, we could hardly wait to have the finished product! It was really neat to communicate with the person actually doing the painting and hear her get excited about our vision too!
One of the things that made me choose Paint Your Life was the digital mock-up that they provide early in the process. I’m not artistic at all and I had a hard time picturing how the painter could take the few photos we sent her and turn them into a perfect portrait. Seeing the mock-up put my concerns at ease.
Although my brother couldn’t get leave for Mom’s birthday, we were able to video link with him when it was time for Mom to open her gift. Let me tell you, it was quite the moment! At first, she was totally speechless. She just sat there holding the painting in front of her for a minute.
Then she reached out and gently touched each of the faces of her siblings as tears ran down her cheeks. Of course, that had all of us crying, just to see how much the gift had touched her!
She couldn’t believe that someone had taken a few old photos and recreated that moment with her siblings. Now the oil painting takes pride of place in her living room where she looks at it all the time. And my brother and sister and I have this special memory of doing something for her that was personal and meaningful. So it wasn’t just the best gift ever for my Mom—it was the best gift ever for all of us!