Happy Birthday to my Mom!



Today is my mom’s birthday. Or so we think… We are not a truly dysfunctional family, but we do have our share of quirks. One of them is not knowing for sure on what day my mom was born. All available documentation states February 18th. My grandma, my mom’s mother, insisted that it happened on February 15, and the heck with the records. And she ought to know, she was a major participant in the event. As a result we celebrate twice, and my mother gets twice congratulations, twice phone calls, twice as many cards and flowers, and almost twice as many presents. Personally I think it is a wonderful deal.

Many of my friends and visitors shared with me that they like little snippets of stories that go with my portraits. As I was painting I was trying to think what to write about my mom and finally realized that no matter what I write it would be inadequate. How do you put half a century of love into a blog post? This requires writing on Leo Tolstoy level to do it justice. How do you choose which story of connectedness, care, or mind reading to share? There are too many and they all are special.

Along the same lines this portrait comes short in really showing how beautiful my mom is. I tried…, and I will have to try again.

But what this portrait can do is say – Happy Birthday!

And – I love you, mom!

And – I will see you in two weeks, I can’t wait!

12” x 8.5” (30 x 21.5 cm) watercolor on paper

A big Thank-you goes to my friend Ryan of A Small Town Dad blog for his help with the dark and rich background. I always struggled with achieving a deep saturated background in watercolor. Ryan shared his technique with me without which this sweet chocolate wouldn’t have happened.


  1. lindahalcombfineart February 15, 2011

    This is incredibly beautiful. Your affection is evident. Beautiful deep, dark colors – very rich. Your Mom must be very proud and the story is incredible. Two birthdays – we should all be so lucky!

    • Alex Zonis February 15, 2011

      Thank you so much, Linda! My mom is very special, the two birthdays doesn’t even scratch the surface. She is so warm and sweet and loving and funny, I tried to use my colors to convey her warmth and sweetness.

  2. asmalltowndad February 15, 2011

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your momma!
    And what a beautiful, absolutely beautiful painting. Your softness in your paintings amaze me, and something that I have got to work on and something that I struggle with. Thank you so much for mentioning me, you and everyone else has helped me so that I can only hope to help in anyway. Thank you again, and what a wonderful painting!

    • Alex Zonis February 15, 2011

      Thank you for your comment, Ryan, and for the technique! I am so happy that I don’t have to shy away from dark backgrounds anymore. And deep dark BG is so great for setting off my portraits, really shows the lights in the faces. So glad I finally got it using your suggestions!

  3. Debbie Adams February 15, 2011

    This is a wonderful painting of your Mom, and and excellent way to celebrate her birthday.
    Well if you helped Ryan, guess what? He helped me! I love how this works!
    Once again, a beautiful painting of your mom!

    • Alex Zonis February 15, 2011

      Thank you, Debbie! Mom loved the painting, I am so pleased :)!

      It’s so great that people are able to help each other like that. I certainly benefited from Ryan’s points. Great to hear that you did too.

  4. lesliepaints February 15, 2011

    Ha! I love the story! ! Your painting is beautiful and I absolutely am drawn to the rich warm neutrals that you used to compose this. Mothers are special, special people.

    • Alex Zonis February 15, 2011

      Mothers are special, you are so right, Leslie. This is why it was so difficult to paint my mom and to write about her. There is too much to express. I am glad you noticed the warmth, that was the intent.

  5. Shelly February 15, 2011

    Grandma is beautiful and you conveyed that beautifully. I especially love her eyes. I didnt imagine you could make her light-colored eyes stand out as well as you did. Wonderful job mama. It makes me miss Israel and Grandparents very much.

    • Alex Zonis February 16, 2011

      Ha! I noticed that the eyes came out quite nicely. I am not sure how exactly I did that. But it would be good to know so I could do it again. I think it could be that I put yellow tone (New Gamboge) as a first layer. As strange as it may sound, I remember thinking that the yellow tone as a base would make the blue/gray/hazel eyes lit from underneath. It seemed to work :)!

  6. nicola (pointypix) February 16, 2011

    Another beautiful portrait and another amusing wee anecdote to go with it! Belated Happy birthday to your mum for whichever date it actually falls!

    • Alex Zonis February 16, 2011

      Thank you from both me and my mom, Nicola! Good to have you back online!

  7. Val Erde February 16, 2011

    Belated birthday greetings to your mum (whatever day her birthday is!) and I love your portrait of her.
    My booba (grandmother) didn’t know when her birthday was, but then when she was born records weren’t kept. So she chose a month she liked (May) and someone chose a date and that became her birthday.

  8. Carol King February 16, 2011

    Happy birthday(s) to your mom. You ask, how to put a half century of love in a blog post. Well, I think you succeeded with the so, so beautiful watercolor portait. Your sensitive handling of the watercolor and that background (courtesey of Ryan) really makes mom glow. I even see your eyes in hers.

    Lovely portrait. May she enjoy both her birthdays.

    • Alex Zonis February 18, 2011

      Thank you from me and my mom, Carol!

  9. raji February 24, 2011

    I can see that all those graphite portraits helped you in sucessfully painting the watercolor portraits as well. Love this and the last watercolor portraits. You are getting better and better!

    • Alex Zonis February 25, 2011

      Thank you, Raji! They are coming along, the watercolor portraits. The graphite practice most certainly helped, but there’s so much more to color, as you know…

  10. Odelia | Pencil Scribbles April 27, 2011

    […] non-existent, and Odelia’s English is not at the level of discussing matters of art. But my mom came to the rescue. With her machine gun Hebrew, taking no prisoners attitude, and general charm the […]

  11. P. Johnson November 3, 2014

    Great job using watercolor in this manner!

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