A year long project that began with “Big Blue”…

A year long project that began with “Big Blue”…

If you know Melany B. Robinson, you have experienced firsthand the ball of excitement, energy and creative vision, leadership and ZEST of this rare human. She’s a story teller and a champion of great thinkers and doers, and she came to me in October 2022 with a request beginning with the phrase “Meet Big Blue.”

“Big Blue” is one of those grande dames of a portrait, depicting the matriarch of Melany’s family and was something she gazed upon her whole life as she sat by her grandmother’s warm fireplace in Bristol, Tennessee. 

Meet Big Blue, pictured here. 


So Melany had been thinking for a while of a vision that captured the essence of this mid century sort of portrait, while depicting the unique spirits of her own mother, Dr. Patricia Pulliam Bundy, her husband Drew’s grandmother Edna Grace Robinson, and Melany and Drew’s daughter Patricia Grace… and she connected with me when she saw my painting “Medusa,” pictured here:

Not many people would see the common threads of these two portraits. But Melany and I did. And that’s where the magic began.

Next came the stories, the photos, the memories and smells of each of these women. Their spirits in colors and foods and family reflections. I visited Melany in her home, gathering visual artifacts and references as she made me fresh cashew milk. She shared her stories with me as we swirled through her living art collection, passing me spoons of Coconut Cult yogurt (manna from heaven!!) as I scribbled all my favorite notes on candles and rare incense

We are the knowers of cool, the tellers of stories, the open source books for what is thrilling and just plain GOOD. After pressing her cherished copy of Sally Mann’s autobiography into my hand, swearing it would move me (IT HAS), our time together came to a close and the deep work of the project began. 

Melany packed up her family for the adventure of a lifetime, relocating to Maine. And I began an underworld journey of losing my mother to Alzheimer’s. 

Life is gorgeous and heartbreaking all in the same breath. 

Melany sent me the stories of Patricia, Grace and Patricia Grace so I could know these women better:

Dr. Patricia Bundy, Patty, Mom, Pepper. A woman that heals hearts and minds. Family is her north star. Kind, interested in others more than herself, and the consummate teacher. Always knitting or needlepointing. A puzzler and a feminist. Obsessed with tote bags and plastic organization containers. Can fit more in a car than anyone. Loves others deeply. The best laugh. Not so good at goodbyes. Independent and a teacher of self-sufficiency. The best Mom and grandmother.


As a young woman Edna Grace Robinson was beautiful and brought up to socialize and entertain, as was customary to her generation. But living through the Great Depression, life taught her thrift, and resiliency. She married, had two children, and helped her husband, Claud, run a business as white owners in the black part of Birmingham during the Civil Rights era. After Claud passed, she slept with. a .38 special under her pillow, and a two-way radio by the bed to hear what the truckers and police talked about at night.
 Despite the lessons in toughness that she learned well, what she reflected out to those close to her was love. Grace’s gift in the kitchen is the kind of stuff that fuels the legends of Southern women. Her Christmas Eve table fed family that outnumbered the seats in her home. But everyone left full. As did anyone who ever visited, because she wouldn’t let you leave otherwise. One of her most delicious treats was little bowls of late-night peppermint ice cream she would feed to her grandchildren when they would spend the night. They always went to sleep knowing they were well loved.  

Our daughter Patricia Grace Robinson wakes up each day with a carpe diem mentality. Grace is the embodiment of a sassy 6-year-old who loves to push the limits to see how far she can go;  she is also curious about all the possibilities life puts in front of her. Grace loves to go on “adventures” to new places, fly on airplanes, ski down mountains, and explore. She loves to swim, dance, listen to music and learn. She likes to know the plan and keeping things organized. Grace like to work hard. More than anything she loves her family and her friends, especially her “BroBro”.


I painted Patricia, Edna and Grace concurrently. Their stories and energies flowed all at once, with certain aspects jumping and connecting to me in distinct moments as I painted and internally explored and processed my own womanhood, motherhood, experience as a daughter. And on the back of each canvas, I wrote Melany’s words above for each woman. 

Below, the photos of each portrait and my reflections as I painted.

Patricia’s steadfastness. The green is the color of the heart, that healing heart energy. There’s a sort of 60s era portrait quality to it that is soft and undone.
Edna’s resilience. I see deep blues all around her when I saw her photos. The brushstrokes around her are like a Van Gogh sky and I can smell the vapors of her food magic swirling around. 
And Grace’s true joie de vivre.  She is a rainbow, all the colors and all the light expressed at once. Her hair is the expression of her spirit that cannot be contained. 
It was an honor to paint these generations and to reflect on who we are, where we come from and what stories will matter to us and our future generations as time goes on. 
If you are interested in a special commission, please email me: morgan@ruggedandfancy.com


Back to blog