Here Come the Waterworks: The Custom Portraiture of Nancy Julson-Rieley

Earn "instant star" status this holiday season by ordering a custom pencil portrait for your loved ones.
Publish date:
November 8, 2011
art, gift, artwork, custom made, portraits

So, I lost my Mom two years ago, and by "lost" I mean she died. It shattered me many ways -- we had a very complicated relationship and I still feel guilt that things didn't necessarily end on the best terms.

She hadn't been sick for long and when she went, it was sudden. There was no time to say goodbye, or to start to try healing all the hurts we both felt. It sucked. It still sucks.

If I try to look on the bright side (which sounds so trite, I know), losing her has caused my Dad and I to grow much closer. I don't say this to be a whiner, but like many of men-of-a-certain-age, I think he left a lot of the family relationship maintenance up to her -- so if she and I weren't talking, he and I weren't in touch either.

I feel like her death made us both realize how much we stand to lose by not working at our relationship on a regular basis. We now talk on the phone (honestly and affectionately!) once a week, which may not sound like a big deal but for us is a huge change. It's one I've really been enjoying.

Anyway, Pops is coming out to Los Angeles to visit me for Thanksgiving, and I wanted to surprise him with an early Christmas gift while he's here. I decided to commission an original portrait of my Mom from a local artist named Nancy Julson-Rieley.

I just received the piece today and it came out so beautiful it makes me want to cry. I think she would have loved it, and I know my Dad will.

I'd sent Nancy a copy of my Mom's high school graduation photo, which she used as a reference. Here's the original:

Yep, a pretty amazing likeness. The drawing is done in pencil on acid-free archival paper, and she gave it to me in a simple, low-profile frame (though I'll probably pop it into a larger/fancier frame with a matte for my Dad). She was also nice enough to send me a high resolution scan of the drawing in case I want to print a copy out for myself -- which I will absolutely do for myself and Mom's siblings. Pops gets the original, though!

(Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm putting this on the Internet when I haven't shown it to him yet, that's because he still doesn't know how to work his cellphone and he's had it for several years now. Suffice it to say he doesn't really "get around" online, and will never see this.)

Nancy also offers pet portraiture, which I think is incredibly sweet. Anything that bolsters my obsession with my pets, I'm 100 percent in favor of. She'll draw couples, too -- can you think of a better anniversary gift? C'mon, try. It can't be done!

If you live in Los Angeles, you can stop by the shop ReForm School to see samples and order a custom portrait in person (she's part of a pop-up shop there that lasts through the holidays). Or, you can get in touch with Nancy via her website to order online, and she'll get you all the info you need about deadlines and such.

Prices vary by size and number of subjects, but just to give you a baseline, the piece I ordered was $125 and measures 5" x 7". Extremely reasonable, especially for such a memorable and one of a kind gift ... that will very likely bring the recipient to tears.