‘I’m proud of us in the picture’: a family portrait captures laughter in lockdown

Alice Gage’s family portrait originated as an idea to celebrate family life post-lockdown.

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“Like all families, we went through a lot during Covid – when the pandemic started our daughter was three, and our son was only five months old, so we basically spent his first two years in our back yard,” says Gage, who lives in Sydney’s Arncliffe. “It was really hard, but there was a lot of joy in it, too. David built a treehouse. We pitched the tent and had fires. We cooked a lot outside.”

“I wanted to have a family portrait painted for my husband’s 40th birthday that celebrated him as a dad, and everything we are as a family.”

She hoped a painting would “capture us on the other side of the lockdown – that we had thrived, and managed to find laughter within the daily struggles”.

Gage had commissioned art before, when she was the founder and editor of Ampersand magazine.

But the family portrait was next level. Like staring into the sun, Gage still gets a shock when she sees it in the living room.

The artist, Melbourne-based Edie Atkins, “is an old friend of mine and I adore her paintings. I saw on Instagram that she had done commissioned work for someone else, so I approached her.”

Gage sent Atkins a strip of photobooth pictures to work from. “She put together a bit of a composite of them. I also sent her photos of the back yard when our unmistakable orange trees were in fruit. We worked together on colouring and detail, but mostly I trusted Edie and let her do her thing.”

On David’s birthday, the gift was gratefully accepted. “He loves it too,” Gage says.

“There is a naivety in it – a sweetness – that reminds me of childhood. To me, it represents a distinct moment in time, when the children were so little and we were stuck in the backyard. I’m proud of us in the picture and I know it’s something I will grow even more fond of as time passes, and one day the kids will cherish [it] also.”

Given the work’s success, Gage is keen to try again.

“I hope it’s not the last portrait we’ll commission of ourselves – why stop at one?”