99 paintings inspired by 99 year-old artist

Jun 8, 2017

Rebecca Childs’ grandmother-in-law painted and sketched right up until her death last year. Her name was Evelyn Henry, and she was 99 years old. And Evelyn changed the way Rebecca thought about her own art.

“You can’t have an excuse if a 99-year-old woman is sketching in her bed, you know, the last week of her life,” she says.

Rebecca Childs has sold all but a couple of her paintings in '99 Paintings for Evelyn,' including this one. This piece is #48.
Credit Rebecca Childs

Ninety-nine is also the number of paintings Rebecca Childs’ is working on. It’s a project she calls ‘99 Paintings for Evelyn.’ 

“She passed away about a year ago in January,” explains Rebecca. “And she was a prolific painter throughout her whole life.”

Rebecca knew Evelyn for almost two decades. As Rebecca got busy with married life, kids, and a job, she found that she didn’t make much time for her art. At family events, Evelyn would ask her about it.

“I would sort of sheepishly say like, ‘Oh, I haven’t really had time to do anything lately,’” says Rebecca. “Or I’d mention a project I had done six months ago.”

Rebecca says inside, she knew she should be doing more. Evelyn, on the other hand, never quit. When hand tremors prevented her from holding a paintbrush anymore, she finger painted.

When she passed away last year, Rebecca and her husband Tom decided to use their inheritance from Evelyn towards renovating an art studio in their Traverse City home.

But Rebecca realized the way to really honor the memory of her grandmother-in-law would be to paint more – a lot more.

“Just produce a volume of work — to not have any excuses,” she explains. “Put it out there and tell people what I was doing. There’s nothing like announcing that you’re doing a project, to force you to finish the project.”

Rebecca Childs says she often takes suggestions from fans in determining what to paint next.
Credit Rebecca Childs

And since February, Rebecca Childs usually paints at least a couple paintings a week. And she’s practically been giving them away. That’s because she wants other people to enjoy them.

A couple years ago, Rebecca had a series of paintings that hung for over a month at a gallery in Lansing. Even though she got some good feedback, she only sold four of them. And that was discouraging.

So, with ‘99 Paintings for Evelyn,’ she knew she wanted to do something different.

“I wanted this series to force me into just walking into any fear that I might have, and just overcoming that,” she says. “I wanted it to be in people’s houses, not collecting dust.”

So, painting #1 was just $1, painting #15 sold for $15, and painting #45 is selling for $45, and so on.

It’s helped her connect with fans. All but a few of the pieces have sold so far. She says people who might not normally go into a gallery and buy a painting feel less pressure, when the prices aren’t so high.

“It created this buzz because it was so crazy and out there to sell original art … for $1, or $5, or $6,” she says.

When asked what she thinks Evelyn would think of this project she's embarked on, Rebecca replies, “I think she’d be really proud.”

Rebecca Childs is currently working on painting #51 of ‘99 Paintings for Evelyn.’ To view more of ’her paintings, click here.