Blog / 2023 / Remembering My Papa

July 6, 2023

My father was a super safety nerd. Going to mow the lawn? Don’t forget your protective goggles and noise-muffling headphones. Have a root growing through your sidewalk? Here’s some neon orange spray paint to mark it until you can cut that tripping hazard right out. Need his table saw to build stretcher frames for your canvases? Nope, he’ll be doing that for you, because you’re his little girl and therefore completely incapable of manly things like using power tools.

Okay, that last one’s spiced with resentment for a binary which my father wholeheartedly promoted, but you get the point. The man loved safety!

photo of an old white man in an electric wheelchair
photo by Gwenn Seemel

And when he got an electric wheelchair, his obsession went into overdrive, especially when he was taking his ride outside to go for a roll.

painting process by Gwenn Seemel
painting process for Papa’s portrait

Please note:

  1. The hat and sunglasses to protect his head and eyes from harmful UVs, but also to ensure that he could see well in the bright light.
  2. The orange flag sticking up from the back of the seat, giving extra visibility for any cars he might encounter on his quiet suburban street.
  3. The wheelchair’s seatbelt, buckled properly.
  4. The gloves, which, even in July when the photo was taken, might have been for warmth but were also almost certainly there to protect his hands if he were to fall.
old man in his electric wheelchair, portrait painted by American artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
Going for a Stroll
acrylic on panel
7 x 5 inches

I’ve painted my Papa a lot over the years—you can see just some of the portraits in this post I wrote right after he died last year—but I think this portrait is my favorite.

Because the thing is that I’m not unlike him, as is obvious by the way I rock a parasol whenever I’m out in the sun, for example.

photo of a white person using a rainbow sunbrella
photo by David Vanadia

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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