Sunday 4 August 2013


Grandma - from memory
This week the theme of 'Celebrating Women' is the challenge for Sunday Postcard Art.  I decided that I wanted to celebrate my grandma, the only grandparent I knew, and the little I know about her is quite a story - I'll tell you some of it.

Although my mother told me virtually nothing about her mum, she must have been quite a strong character to cope with the difficult life she had.

I think I saw her less than a dozen times in my life because of a family rift created by my Irish grandfather, a terrible, cruel and very Victorian story, and I think my gran must have been very unhappy at what happened.  Perhaps one day I will tell that sad story, which is just like a novel.

I was almost an adult before I met her when my granddad was no longer alive and the connection didn't really 'take'.  The last time I saw her was when Carol was born 54 years ago.

This picture from my sketchbook was drawn a while ago, and I think I used pastel pencils.  I wanted to draw my grandma from memory, simply because I had no photos.  I tried a pencil sketch first, then an acrylic painting and then this sketch which is the one most like her.  Fortunately when I reduced the size on Photoshop ready for posting, it measured just 6" x 4" for the SPA postcard size.

She was a Londoner from the East End born in 1884, a true Victorian, and she lived to the age of 92.  Even as an old lady, barely 5 feet tall, she had straight black hair, which she always wore plaited and rolled up on each side like earphones.  I think in fact they covered her ears.

Her black hair was apparently explained by a foreign ancestor.  My mum always used to tell us that we had a Spanish Princess way back in our family.  My sister and I always discounted this as a family tale with no reality in fact.

But when my niece's husband researched a family tree he found that one of my ancestors was a soldier in the Portuguese campaign of the Peninsula Wars with Wellington.  Napoleon of France had armies in Spain and was looking to capture Portugal.  All this was part of the Napoleonic war which ended in defeat for France by Wellington's army at Waterloo.

The Spanish princess was in fact a Portuguese woman brought back to England as a wife by our soldier ancestor, so mum's story was true in essence.

When she was young grandma was courting a young man, the brother of my eventual granddad.  My mother told me that her father said to his brother 'I can take her away from you any time I want' - and he did.  I know they moved to south Wales, where my mum was born, and then up to Lancashire looking for work in the depression years of the 1920s, where my mum met my dad.

I know granddad was very strict, and that he tended to be violent when he was drunk on whisky, which he often was I gather.  It is very sad that mum told me so little about her own mother, and I would so like to have known more.  So this picture is my way of remembering and celebrating my gran and giving my grandchildren an idea of what she looked like.


  1. Thank you for sharing your Grandmother's story, Jez, this is a very moving tribute to her!

  2. A fascinating post and sketch Jez,
    Thank you for sharing your story :)

  3. Thank you for your story and sketch!

  4. This is just wonderful in so many ways - firstly what a great picture to do from memory. Just the bit of the story that you've shared could be part of a novel - she certainly had an eventful life it seems. You make her sound like Princess Leia with the buns :) I keep imagining the lady in this picture in Star Wars :D

    It also makes me think of one of my favourite films (that not many people have heard of - it's really old) called I Remember Mama. I don't know why - it just does.

  5. what an amazing thing to draw from such an early memory!. Carmen is right it does sound like a piece from a novel,such an interesting story. It always amazes me how elaborate the hairstyles were back then, those princess leia earmuffs must have taken ages to do!!

  6. wow - I don't think I could draw my grandma from memory! that is awesome. sad but awesome all at the same time.

  7. what a wonderful tribute to your grandma. It sounds as a very sad story indeed, she must've had a hard life...

  8. Such a lovely tribute to your grandma. Great story and your portrait of her is wonderful!

  9. I agree with Electra, well done, thank you for your comment and the colours are very much Matisse. Cheers


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