Over the last two months of blogging, connecting on Facebook, at festivals, as well as through my online website, I’ve connected with hundreds of folks. While most are from Guam, the CNMI, FSM, and from the mainland, it is difficult to predict just who you’ll meet next, or where your journey will take you.
Most people contact me to purchase artwork that has been designed on my online store. However, this one instance would be a little different, and touching indeed.
Last week, I received an email from a girl named Katie online who found out about what I did by reading our story in the Guam Pacific Daily News. Unlike the many others that just hop on my website and browse my illustrations, she had a different objective.
She mentioned that she lived in Guam, and that recently she lost her grandma that she loved dearly. Her story was that she wanted to commission my services to develop a custom illustration of her grandma to be able to relive her memories and share it with her many other family members. She had an admirable goal in mind.
I asked how she wanted to remember her grandma. She said she wanted a large illustration that she not only could frame in her home, but also share it with others. I asked more questions about her grandmother. I mentioned to her that not only can I design this for her, but that we should think of how this piece would be a valuable heirloom for her entire family. I suggested that this piece could be made available as copies to other family members as a unique gift that would be heartfelt and very meaningful. We began the planning process.
She described her grandmother and her times where she would spend weekends together. Her grandmother as a tradition would make a Chamorro dish called chicken kelaguen in her own kitchen. She described how her grandma looked, what she’d have on the table in preparation for making the dish, and other little things as part of the cooking process. As we discussed about life with grandma, I asked if there was anything special that brought back memories about being in that kitchen.
Katie mentioned that her grandma would always have purple orchids in a blue vase on the table in the kitchen. She also added that she wore a silver wedding ring on her finger. This was something that she remembered distinctly. As I asked what photos she had of her grandmother in her kitchen, she said that she only had random photos that could only be used to assist in building this concept.
So with a couple of photos she provided, a little back and forth discussion to understand what her grandma was like and the environment that she remembers, I went to the drawing board. I created a life-like illustration depicting her grandmother standing in her kitchen, actively preparing a dish of kelaguen for the family. Adding a smile to grandma can only enhance the satisfaction and value of seeing her as she was remembered. While her illustration included a beautiful vase with purple orchids, I couldn’t help but add a few of my personal illustrated pieces among others, such as the Guam Rail poster on her wall, a small gecko walking the wall of her kitchen, a flame tree in her back yard, and of course, a rooster walking across her lawn.
While we could have made her illustration exactly what grandma’s house was actually like, it would have restricted our creativity, and the potential for making this piece not only special, but also strikingly beautiful. All told, she gave me free reign to be as creative as possible.
We finished her illustration in about three days, and after going back and forth on email to try to refine the illustration, she finally was able to see the finished piece and she was nothing short of ecstatic. She said “I love it! it really looks like my grandmother! Thank you soo much! My dad wants an illustration too and I know my other relatives will want a copy for themselves. Thank you again so much and God bless!!
If there was any illustration that I have done that has brought me so much satisfaction, it probably has to be this piece. I not only had an opportunity to design something so meaningful and beautiful for someone else, but I also connected with the story behind the art piece. I’m just happy that I could be of help to someone who wanted to relive their memories with someone they loved so dearly.
Kate. If you’re reading this, I hope that this illustration that we worked on together will bring you years of enjoyment and the opportunity to share with your extended family your memories of your grandmother. I know its hard to lose someone you love, however, this is your memory that we were able to illustrate and bring to life for others to enjoy. I believe as the years pass, your illustration will be more and more meaningful as you will be able to share this special moment, not only with family and friends today, but also with others that will only know grandma through picture (such as your own children and grandchildren). God bless.
Gerard Aflague has a passion for illustrated art and being able to share his interpretation of his culture and the many things that embody it. He is a self-taught illustrator. If you would like to contact him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call him in Denver at 703-508-9989.