I wanted to write up something very special about my mother today, to honour and celebrate her on her birthday, but I find myself at a loss for words. Let me give you a glimpse of her through this painting instead, a portrait she did of me when I was 8 years old.
She signed her artwork in various ways — her full name was Harriet Dushane Penniman Patterson Buchanan, which is a bit long and she never included it all. This painting, she signed simply Buchanan. It’s called “Mousey” for one very obvious reason, but I think perhaps also for another. When I was 8, I had a pet mouse to whom I gave that very straightforward (some would say unimaginative) name. Here we are, Mousey and I, in our quiet, gentle little world together. My mother took some artistic liberties in giving me lighter hair than I actually had at that time — I had gone from blond to brown at around age 4 — but I think she really captured something of the mousey shyness I experienced (sometimes painfully so) at age 8.
This is obviously not the first work she ever did, and not her only style. She attended the Maryland Institute College of Art as a young woman and although she never became well-known as an artist, she continued to paint and draw her whole life — well enough, I think, to deserve a little late recognition.
Someday I’d like to show you more of her paintings, sketches, and pen-&-ink illustrations, and there’s also so much else I’d like to say about who my mother was as a person, how she impacted me as her daughter and friend, and how fond of her everyone else who met her seemed to be as well. In the meantime, I thought sharing this oil painting with you would give you a glimpse of her talent, and help me lovingly celebrate at least this one facet of her, on her birthday.
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