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.

2/3 done with painting

Just have to add some more depth with the rye, make the sky a bit darker and more dangerous-looking, and add in the main character (possibly my client’s father, in this case), on the cliff.  Until then, here’s what it looks like right now!

"catcher in the rye", art, "art with meaning", "dave white art", "catcher in the rye art", "catcher in the rye painting", "oil painting"
about 2/3 done!

Progress on painting…a skyscape full of emotions

The sky-scape in the Catcher in the Rye painting I’m working on gradually changes from a sunny, happy temperament to gloomy and bleak.  The darkest part of the painting is on the far right side, where Holden Caulfield will be standing on a cliff.

Holden Caulfield’s unsettled state of mind is revealed in the opening paragraph:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me…”

Here are  a couple pictures of the canvas; one of the upper left, sunny side, and one of the upper right, dark side.  I’ll be adding more details as I go, and will be starting soon on the cliff and rye field.


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Sunny Skyskape


"The Catcher in the Rye", "skyskape", "sky painting", "oil painting", "custom art", "custom artist", "art with meaning", "Holden Caulfield", "dave white art", "JD Salinger"
Bleak, Sad Skyskape

Love in a troubled inner world…The Catcher in the Rye

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I’d do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.  I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.  I know it’s crazy.”

This is the scene I’m currently painting from the novel The Catcher in the Rye. When Holden Caulfield, the teenage protagonist of the novel who has had a very troubled and traumatic past,  is questioned by his younger sister Phoebe, regarding what he would like to do when he gets older, this is his response.

This large oil painting measures 30″ by 48″ and will be the centerpiece in the living room of my client!  He’s given me his interpretation of how he envisions this scene, I’ve added some input, and this vision is currently being transferred to the canvas!  I’ll be posting a few pictures as I progress with the painting.

Mixed Media Surf Art

Lots of surf art lately, and here is another piece to add to the collection!  This is a custom-made, 8″ by 12″ mixed-media piece done on a Canson Illustration Board (a museum-quality paper).  Below is the original photo, accompanied by 2 shots of the artwork!

To commission your own special art piece, please view my Commission Custom Art page!

"Inner Surfer Art", "Christina Marie Bays"
Original Surf Photo

"California surf art", "inner surfer art", "surf art", "surfer art", "ocean art", "art with meaning", "by dave white", "mixed media", "custom art", "custom artist"

"Inner Surfer Art", "Art with Meaning", "surf art", "surfer art", "California surf art", "by dave white", "mixed media", "custom art", "custom artist"
Custom Surf Art

Surf Art in Maui!

This is a recently completed painting of surfer Arnie Smith hitting the waves in Maui, Hawaii!  The painting is 8″ by 12″ and custom framed in a 12″ by 16″ black metal, archival-quality frame with UV glass protection, and an acid and lignin-free mat board!  Thanks Jenny for giving me the opportunity to provide you and your husband with art for your home!

"surf art", "maui art", "hawaii art", "surfer art", "art with meaning"
Maui Surf Art


"surf art", "surfer art", "Maui art", "Hawaii art", "custom art", "art with meaning"
Arnie Smith surfing in Maui!

Family Portrait Drawing – Father and Daughter

Here is a father-daughter portrait drawing that I recently completed. This portrait drawing really shows off the innocent energy and playfulness present in the captured moment.  What she’s doing is slapping a sticker of Dora the Explorer on his forehead, just in case you’re wondering!

To commission your own special portrait art, please see the Commission Custom Art page.

"baby portrait", "father daughter portrait", "family art", "art with meaning", "baby art", "dave white art", "portrait drawing", "family portrait"
Father and Daughter Portrait!

finished Punta Uvita oil painting – Costa Rica art

…and I’m done!  This oil painting of the whale’s tale formation in Bahia Ballena (Whale Bay), Costa Rica.

"costa rica art", "bahia ballena painting", "punta uvita painting", uvita, "inner surfer art", "surf art", "art with meaning
Punta Uvita Oil Painting

Peace Corps Art

The past few days I’ve been taking the bus from Alexandria to Arlington.  We live in a diverse neighborhood on the north end of Alexandria, close to a large Latino community made up of mostly Central American immigrants.  Since I am usually one of the few gringos on the bus, it sort of reminds me of being in Costa Rica, which is where I first started making art for others besides myself.  Even though I worked in community economic development as a Peace Corps Volunteer with the local people of La Cruz de Abangares, I especially enjoyed collaborating with several of them on artwork for public display.  So I thought I’d post some pictures of that work, along with a few other non-art projects!


Grandparents – Granddaughter Portrait Art Drawing

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I recently turned this photo of baby Victoria with her visiting grandparents from Portugal into a portrait drawing that was given as a surprise gift to them.  Mario, the grandfather, is also a talented artist.  I’m glad they liked it and have some meaningful artwork to display in their home back in Portugal!

To commission your own special portrait art, please see the Commission Custom Art page.

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