Years ago I worked at a home for the mentally disabled. It was a gloomy-happy place, a kind of box that locked away all, so that the world would garner no joy from its residents. The building had all the characteristics that come with such institutions: flickering florescent lights, wide dark hallways, and a quiet foreboding paleness. Yet, I have good memories of the people and the place. Despite their dire circumstances, they were, for the most part, joyful. Joy could be seen on their faces, in their eyes and in their unpretentious laughter; there was no one to impress, there was no one ingratiate, they had the freedom to be themselves.

I will be forever touched by the men and women that could not take care of themselves; by a people who could never grow up. People are not less honorable because their minds and their bodies do not grow at the same rate. There is a dignity in the face of a child-old. There is hope in a simple faith. God is not bound by our circumstances.

This is a thirty-nine-year-old painting of one of my charges. Painted alla prima, a method that helps produce fast oil sketches, impressions of impressions. It is done in one sitting. It doesn’t have to be thought about too much, doesn’t have be over-planned. I love this painting.

He speaks to me even after all the passing years. I can still hear his soft stammering mumble, see his gentle eyes and feel his big fingers softly touching my shoulder. His smile filled his face. He was a good man.

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” — Mark 10:14-15


Oil on Canvas © rl busséll 1982

© rl busséll Portrait Oil on canvas. (Detail)

© rl busséll – 1982 Portrait Oil on canvas. (Detail)