About the Project

I have an obsession with graveyards. Morbid but true. Whenever we drive past one, my husband laughs at me as I squeal, “Oh, look at that cute one! I just want to take a walk in it right now!” I want to study each name, each worn engraving that gives me a clue to this person’s place in the past.

Similarly, when I go to someone’s house, I find myself drawn to the faded photographs on the walls, looking for a resemblance, a uniform, a wedding dress—anything that tells the silent, often forgotten story. While I was looking at a group of black and white photographs from my husbands family, I was filled with a desire to paint each one, and in a moment, The Colorful Past Project was born in my mind. I want to paint the black-and-white stories of our pasts in large, colorful paintings, to make these stories come alive again.

My goal is not to tint photos or re-create the exact image in precise colors, but to capture what I see as the soul of the photo, the unseen breath of life that has been lost through time. In her book The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander comments on this interior aspect in old photographs that fades with time: “You know what a pitiful thing the photograph of a long dead person is: it yellows with age and grows dingy; it “dates,” it loses that person’s living personality and retains only some reminder of something of his or her time.”

The Colorful Past Project seeks to bring back the subject’s ‘living personality’ through watercolor painting, not in exact replication, but through my interpretation as the artist. I may not know what color someone’s hair was, or what the color the dress was, and I am glad, because it allows me freedom to paint from my heart, connecting with the subject in the photograph through color.

Do you have a particular black and white photograph that you love? Is there a story to tell, a moment to re-capture? I love getting new photographs to work from, and I invite you to submit a photo (or several!) for me to paint. Please click below to read more about what kind of photographs will fit for the project and how to submit.