The Making of Therapeutic Art

I’ve been meeting with Jeff Lynhurst a few times over the past couple of weeks to get feedback about the “Catcher in the Rye” painting I’m working on for him.  This has been a new type of custom-art making experience for me, as usually someone just gives me a photo and I turn it into art.  Which has always worked out just fine, and my clients have always really enjoyed the art they’ve gotten.  However, Jeff didn’t give me a photo; he gave me a book to read (The Catcher in the Rye) and his story.

Jeff had selected about 20 pages for me to read that explained the scene he wanted painted, but I decided to read the whole book anyways.  I think reading the entire book helped me to get a better vision for the feeling of the painting.  It was a sad, pessimistic, sort of hopeless feeling.  After sketching my idea onto paper, Jeff and I talked more about the vision he had, so I made a few adjustments and began work on the canvas.  As I progressed in the painting, I’d email Jeff photos to get his input.  This was his painting after all, and I wanted to make sure he was getting what he envisioned!

Brigitta (my wife) and I have had Jeff over a few times over the past few weeks as well, to talk, have a beer, and see the painting in person to make sure it was coming along to his liking.  Jeff actually has kept telling me that he doesn’t want to deter my “artistic” vision, and to paint it how I see fit.  However, I know how important this is to him, and I know he’s just trying to be nice since he tried working with another artist before on this, and the guy was really intent on doing it his way.  Not surprisingly, that didn’t work out.  So I’ve been trying to encourage him to have an open mic and speak freely about what he wants, likes, and doesn’t like in the painting.

I’ve gone back a few times to make some adjustments after speaking with Jeff, especially with the dark sky.  It wasn’t dark or dangerous enough for him…in fact, I re-did the whole darker half of the sky.  I suppose that since I didn’t have the same type of experience as him, I couldn’t feel inside of me what he felt inside of him, and that translated into my initial version of the sky.  So it’s been good to keep going back and forth with Jeff.

Instead of painting Holden Caulfield (the main character of The Catcher in the Rye) on the cliff, Jeff had me paint his Dad.  He wanted his Dad to be trying to catch a child that would be running to jump off of the cliff.  I couldn’t make an exact replica of him since he had to be smaller to align proportionally with the scenery, but I assured Jeff that what I painted would resemble his Dad.  My first attempt (which Jeff told me definitely resembled his Dad), showed him stretching his arms out to the child, but it left some doubt as to whether he would actually catch him or not.  After seeing this, Jeff decided he wanted his Dad to actually be catching the child, so I painted over it to show that he would indeed be catching the child.

This was the last part of the painting that I did the other day, so it’s now complete (pending Jeff’s final approval).  We’re going to meet up again soon to take the painting over to his place.  He’s going to have it in his home for a few days and let his feelings and thoughts marinate, then decide if there’s anything else that needs to be done.  If so, I’ll make the adjustment, and if not, we’ll be done!

So sometime soon I’ll post pictures of the completed “Catcher in the Rye” painting, along with details of Jeff’s personal story and how this has been a therapeutic process for him.

Published by Artist Dave White

I'm an Artist in Ashburn, Virginia. You can find my artwork at,, and

2 thoughts on “The Making of Therapeutic Art

  1. Can’t wait to see the final painting. It must be nice to know that you are creating something that will have so much meaning for another person, that’s what great art is all about.

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