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12 Months of Gratitude 2022 - Number 8!


When my beloved grandad died, I was convinced that a little robin was sent by him to visit me as he seemed to come out from under the same shrubbery every time I walked by with my dog Molly. I know that these birds are territorial and so seeing the same bird appear from the same place would not be unusual but what was unusual was the timing, it was every day, same time, same place. Each time we met, I would smile to the little bird and whisper a little 'hello' and the day would seem much brighter knowing that my grandad was still present in some way.

These thoughts and beliefs whether true or not, offer a great deal of comfort to us when we are in search of strength and a glimpse of something positive to come out of a dreadful situation. I also believe that my nan sends me a white feather when I least expect to see one, always bold bright and fluffy, gracefully falling from the empty sky, right in front of me at the most poignant and fitting times. One such time was after visiting the famous Sacre-Coeur in Paris, as my husband and I had lit a candle in remembrance of my nan and other loved ones, we stepped outside into the sunshine only for the feather to appear just for us.

I know that I am not alone to have such beautiful thoughts in that little tokens of love are sent to us from above. A small message to remind us that the spirt of those dearly departed souls live on and remain a constant source of guidance and protection to those who search for it. We all have our stories, we all feel pain and a sense of loss as some point during our lives, everybody has something that they are dealing with on a regular basis.

We take comfort and solace in different things and when somebody shares their personal experiences of loss with me and the stories that comfort them, it is a huge privilege. This painting of a European robin was commissioned by a dear friend who sadly lost their mother and in the most timely of moments, the little bird entered the room from the bedroom window and just sat peacefully at the end of the bed. If there was ever a message from above that was it!

Having done a little research into the symbolic meaning of trees nature, I discovered that the Lindon Tree (also known as a Lime Tree) is commonly regarded as highly sacred in many cultures due to the heart shaped leaves. This special tree is considered to represent love, tenderness and affection, all the qualities of a wonderful mother and therefore, the perfect choice of branch to support the little robin.

Molly and I in search of the perfect branch of a Linden tree for the little robin to perch on

As the painting was to be enjoyed all year round, anything too seasonal would have not been suitable so the lush green leaves were an appropriate fit. The various stages of the leaves from bud to maturity seemed to represent life itself with fresh new shoots bursting with life to reflect each subsequent generation.

The progress images below show how each layer is gradually applied over and over again until the correct colours and depth are achieved. Coloured pencil artists often have their own unique styles of working and I tend to apply my layers as thickly as possible to give a more 'painterly' effect as opposed to soft pencil strokes. This commission took me around 15 hours to complete over 3-4 days. Professional coloured pencils on archival cotton paper.

I am hugely thankful for this beautiful commission. The original artwork was framed and displayed in a prominent place for the client to enjoy every day and several limited edition prints were gifted to others in the family who share the same beautiful story. Thank you so much for allowing me to create this commission, it will always hold a special place in my heart and I am truly thankful to be able to share this creative and emotional journey with you and your family.

Janine x

Robin Redbreast - work in progress, coloured pencil drawing by Janine Lees
Work In Progress - Robin

'Always With Us' (European robin perched on a Linden Tree branch) - professional coloured pencil on archival cotton paper (2022)


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