This is one of the first pieces I have invested in that was completely inspired by everyday relationships, and was not a commission.
The inspiration for this painting first developed roots on one of my visits to the local Dunkin Donuts. During my junior year studying theatre at Palm Beach Atlantic, I often practiced the same ritual of devouring a delicious caramel iced latte somewhere between my acting 4 class and the evening rehearsals for whatever show was running at the time. It was during these frequent visits that I started to notice a young girl, about my age, who worked the day shifts at Dunkin. I remember one particular day after I had just dyed my hair a chestnut copper, the afternoon shift girl smiled at my change with appreciation and quickly confessed "I love your hair color!" It might seem like a silly little thing, but honestly it MADE MY DAY! I think I was having a bit of a rough week, and her cheery praise lifted my spirits. And I never forgot to notice her and smile extra big every visit after that!
It wasn't until a couple of years later however, after graduating, house changes, starting an art business and especially one long summer of being a camp counselor which required me to be somewhere promptly at 7:30 AM (and therefore required lots of coffee!) that I learned Naseem's name and she learned mine. Somehow the costumer/employee relationship between us began to look much more like sincere friendship. A fondness and deep care for her quickly grew in my heart. Our interactions grew from her learning my favorite drinks (and re-learning them as I discovered my food sensitivities) to me learning a lot of things about her! Naseem loves nail polish! She has a ton of colors but still always buys more, her favorite shades being all variations of rich red. She and her family are from Pakistan and many of them work with her at the same store. At the time, she was betrothed to a man in Pakistan and was planning to marry him, but because of their move had not been able to see him for three years! I learned that she was planning to move back to Pakistan to marry him, and it would have been 4 whole years since they'd seen each other! The more I learned about Naseem, the more I found myself thinking and praying for her. I soon got to the point where I wanted to do something for her, to show that I cared!
On one of my morning visits to Dunkin, Naseem's joyfully greeted me "Christy, do you want to look at my wedding portrait!" (It has since been explained that in Naseem's culture there is an initial ceremony for a betrothal/engagement which almost looks like an wedding but takes place a few years before the actual wedding ceremony. The photo she was showing me was from her engagement.) Naseem's eyes were completely lit up. I looked at the photo and I am pretty sure my jaw dropped. I love the intricate design in Middle Eastern/Asian clothing, the rich colors and the gems and sparkle. And in all that clothing as well as ornate jewelry, pristine makeup and lovely henna, Naseem was gorgeous. The way her eyes were lit up when she showed me the photo, it was clear that Naseem had felt absolutely beautiful on that engagement day :) She proceeded to explain that she wanted to get the photo enlarged to hang on her wall, and before I really thought it through, "I can paint a large version for you; I own an art business!" fell out of my mouth. But I wanted to give it my best shot!
Naseem was very patient as I took several months to work on this elaborate piece. I was always quick to snap a progress photo on my phone and bring it in on my coffee ventures to appease her anticipation. That headpiece was QUITE a beast. But I also loved every second of it! Somewhere among the months I spent working on this piece, I visited Naseem in her home where her mom spoiled me with all kinds of delicious Pakistani cooking. It was there in Naseem's room where we sat cross-legged on her bed giggling over the photo album from her engagement ceremony. We were officially friends! I finally finished the painting right around the time that Naseem was having a bridal shower for her nearing return to Pakistan and marriage to her betrothed.
I was so honored to be invited to the shower, since most of it was family! I was ecstatic to experience a bridal shower in the Pakistani culture. Such delicious food and fun games and incredible dancing! I had a blast! Naseem and her family are rich with culture and laughter. They are incredibly close and I am honored to have been welcomed by them with open arms. Probably my favorite memory in giving the painting to Naseem other than her happy reaction was definitely her older sister making rounds with the painting shouting "She did this with her hands!"
Naseem and her family will always be special to me. She is now happily married in Pakistan and just found out she was expecting a baby! I miss her quite a bit, but I am so grateful to have been a partaker in her world even if for a short while. <3