By KAITLYN LEWIS
CANTON, Ga. — His shoulders are draped in tattoos, each telling a unique story. He ties his long, black hair in a bun and rests his foot against the wall while cradling his violin—his most prized procession.
This particular massage therapist had caught the attention of Linda Maphet, an award-winning Canton-based portraitist and art educator.
“I was just so intrigued with him,” Maphet said. “He had a very particular way of holding the violin that intrigued me.”
Maphet teaches oil and acrylic painting at the Cherokee Arts Center in downtown Canton. Throughout her career, she has received commissions to paint realistic oil pastel paintings of people and places she has found intriguing and special. She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary.
“A lot of my portraits are just asking people, ‘hey can I do your portrait,’ because there’s something there that I just want to preserve for other people,” Maphet said.
In one of her portraits, titled “Mother and Son,” Maphet attempts to convey the love shared between a caring mother and her severely disabled adult son. Maphet said she had met the mother and her son at her local park and was inspired by their love.
“She’s such a hero to me,” Maphet said. “She comes out every morning and parks in the shade [and] brings him his toys. I don’t think he could hear or see, much less communicate. But she is so in tuned with him, she so loves this guy, that her sweetness and her love for this boy is just awe-inspiring.”
Maphet approached the mother and her son, and later they set up a photoshoot in the park so she could start painting their portrait. Now, that a photo of that portrait can be found on her website among her other commissioned works, some of which include paintings from Haiti.
“I heard a minister speak in a church who was from Haiti, and I was just so intrigued,” Maphet said. “And it just breaks your heart, because they’re just so totally devastated.”
She approached the minister after her church service and asked, “What can an artist do?”
In October 2010, Maphet spent an entire commission check on art supplies and joined the minister and an organization called Reformation Hope in Haiti. There, she taught arts and crafts at an orphanage, painted a mural of Noah’s Ark in a school building and drew portraits of the people she met in Haiti.
“When [the people] found out I was taking pictures of them to draw their portraits, they could not line up fast enough,” Maphet said. “They were absolutely delighted for me to do a little drawing of them. It meant that I actually cared about them. That was really important to me.”
For the past six to seven years, Maphet has been teaching oil and acrylic painting at the Cherokee Arts Center in downtown Canton, Georgia, where students of all ages learn about drawing, painting, photography, weaving, pottery and writing.
“Our number one mission is to promote the arts among the community residents and help enrich the lives of the community,” said board member Dr. Mary Ursits.
Maphet mentioned that art is a means to an end. It has not made her rich and famous, but it has allowed her to help people.
“In the grand scheme of things, my paintings may imminently forgettable,” Maphet added, “but if they bring encouragement and joy to somebody, that’s just real important to me.”