Personalized family tree illustration with personality

A very thoughtful man looking for a meaningful 60th birthday gift for his wife contacted me to find out if I could paint a large family tree of his family.  I jumped on the project without realizing that by ‘large’ family tree he didn’t mean the size of the painting, but rather the size of his family. I’m not going to lie.  At first I was a bit overwhelmed trying to figure out who is who.  Naturally, I like arranging my family trees chronologically with family branches (not the literal family tree branches) kept together.  With this painting it took me quite some time just to sort people out.  I almost put together a brother and sister thinking they were a married couple.  Thankfully I always double check with my clients to make sure everything is right.

Creating custom family trees is very different from regular family tree charts that just look like trees.  My artwork requires me getting to know my clients’ families on a personal level.  I don’t want to paint just portraits of the people I depict.  I want their personalities to shine through as well.  That’s why I ask my clients for descriptions of their family members and I take my time to come up with fun ideas as to how each individual could be painted.  I want my family tree illustrations to tell a story.  A story that could be passed along to the future generations of that family.  Furthermore, I want my artwork to be meaningful, not just visually representative of the family.

Artistic challenges are always welcomed by this artist!

To begin with my client told me about his wife.  For any woman turning 60 years old is a big milestone.  I’m not quite there yet, but I surely hope that when I’m that age I’d be surrounded my a large family just like my client’s wife.  But I digress…  He told me that his significant other is a former chef and enjoys cooking.  So far pretty straightforward…  I suggested an apron and a spatula to represent her former occupation and a current hobby.  He agreed.  For him I suggested a caliper and blue prints to symbolize his profession, (an engineer).  Once again, so far so good.  That’s when I encountered my first artistic challenge – to find a creative way to depict the couple’s devotion to God.

While I could’ve easily used a Bible or a cross to represent their spirituality I wanted to come up with something a bit more original.  After a little brainstorming I decided to use a white dove holding an olive branch above white and red rose bushes.  White roses to represent purity and red roses to represent love.

Portraits that showcase personalities

My creative challenges didn’t end there.  My client has a number of grandchildren.  One of the smallest ones he described as someone who likes to explore.  She couldn’t have been older than a year old so asking for her other ‘hobbies’ was kinda out of the question.  I decided to paint her holding a globe in her hands.  Her older sister apparently liked to tell stories in a very excited manner.  To depict her I chose a pose that conveyed a kid’s excitement: hands up in the air with outstretched fingers as if she is wildly gesturing in a middle of a story.

I chose another fun pose for my client’s son who apparently is quite a joker.  It took me a bit to come up with how I could paint his light-hearted personality.  I ended up painted him with his tongue sticking out.  Another thing I don’t do often is depicting someone running.  I got a chance to do just that when I worked on the couple’s daughter’s portrait.  She’s a marathon runner!

By far the toughest challenge was figuring out how to paint newborn twins the family just welcomed.  The photos my client send me of them were super cute, but in every single one they had their eyes closed!  And what about their hobbies?  What hobbies, right?  I knew I didn’t want to paint the boys with their eyes closed as if sleeping.  It’s just not terribly exciting for an illustration where the rest of the family is doing something!  Thankfully, the twins had an older brother who they seemed to resemble quite a lot.  I had a number of his photos and ended up ‘using’ his eyes for the little guys’ portraits.  Another stroke of good luck was their middle names.  They were named after Superheroes and I ended up painting them dressed in Superhero costumes.  🙂

Personalized family tree art for a big family. The parents are painted as full body portraits with everyone else painted as portraits in frames hanging on the tree branches behind the couple

Using colors to make a family tree make sense

Whenever I work on a large family tree that features a large number of siblings with their wives, husbands, and kids I try to make my illustrations make sense for the future generations of their descendants. In the past I’ve grouped every sibling’s family on a branch of their own or used different color leaves to write their family members’ names on.  With this family tree painting I wasn’t going to write anyone’s names on leaves since I was painting all the couple’s children and grandchildren as portraits in frames.  I needed a creative solution for the viewer of my painting to understand who is who and how they’re related to each other.  That’s when I decided to use different color backgrounds for all the portraits hanging on the tree.  It worked like a charm!

The best part of being a family tree artist

This particular custom family tree illustration order was very unusual for me.  Most people place their orders anywhere from several weeks to a few month in advance of the occasion they want it for.  When I found out that my client was ordering six month in advance of his wife’s 60th birthday my jaw dropped.  If this is not being a thoughtful husband I don’t know what is.  How many men think to themselves “My wife is turning 60 in six months.  I better start looking for a meaningful gift for her big day”?   Seriously?

I did my very best not to disappoint my client and his wife. I loved the way their family tree came out.  It was colorful and bright and full of personal details.  I even included their house in the background!  I created an illustration of their life.  With my brushes I told their family story in hopes that my family tree painting will not only be a special 60th birthday gift, but that it will also become a treasured family heirloom in the future.

I was absolutely thrilled when after receiving the painting and giving it to his wife my client reported back to me that she LOVED it!  Messages like that it what makes it all worth it for me.  The stress, sleepless nights, forgetting to eat become non-issues when you know someone takes their time to write to you because what you’ve created for them was something really special and meaningful for their family.  I love my job!

If you would like to order a custom family tree for your family please contact me with details or go directly to the Shop section.