Artwork / high school and college / Papy

painted portrait of a grandfather wearing a cap
Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on linen
33 x 28 inches

My grandfather is a legend. Maybe every granddaughter says that, but not every little girl has a whole community to back her up on it.

For years, my Papy and my grandmother ran a candy-stationery-tackle-souvenir-odds-and-ends store on the town square of a small village in Brittany, France. They sold pens that never made mistakes and candy which my Papy claimed to have imported personally from Chicago—pronounced “CHEE-ka-go” with a funny emphasis on the first syllable and a hard “ch” sound that doesn’t exist in his native French because that was the “prononciation américaine.” He didn’t realize that Chicago’s “ch” is pronounced “à la française.” My Papy raised a generation of kids on his antics and, even today, he’s never far from their hearts.

It was my grandfather’s face along with his mythical status that got me interested in portraiture. And it was something he once said to me that led me to be an artist. In his last years, when fuzziness had all but taken over, he had one unforgettable moment of appetite and clarity. He took an apricot from the cool of the garage where it was stored and, munching on it, he mused to me that “painters, they see things.” It’s one hell of a job description, but, since that moment of summer-fruit lucidity, I’ve given it a go.