Portrait Commission of Naava

In December 2018, a father reached out to me for a commission. He wanted a painting of his 12-year-old daughter, who he told me was struggling with her self esteem.

“Something so she always remembers she’s a beautiful black girl.”

I asked him what season she was born in, and what her favorite color was. Upon finding out she was an Autumn baby who liked green, I got to work.

I decided to add a fall-color-inspired garnish to her hair, and I placed her in a lush environment with bright green foliage in the background. At first, I thought I might render the leaves in full realistic detail, but I found myself using more impressionistic brush strokes for the foliage. I think it made her surroundings look more whimsical and surreal, themes that are much more fitting to my vision.


She’s an oil painting on 16x20 canvas - the largest piece I’ve ever done with this amount of detail and color. It took me about four months to complete. I used both Gamblin & Winsor and Newton oil colors.

This was a very special and touching piece to work on. I hope it brings father & daughter as much joy as it was to create.

Precious Henshaw