Jonalyn's Watercolor Blog

Who Tells Your Story?

We can all remember certain stories that define us. When you think of your favorites stories growing up, were any about you?

Who told your stories?

Dinner Table Stories

Growing up my dad would tell the family stories around our dinner table. I’ve heard all the family stories so many times, I could tell them with all the right pauses.

Visiting my 95-year-old grandmother, Mama Grace, this February in Whittier, California. She is also featured below in this painting from the Saving Lives Gallery “Reunion”.

But as an adult, I learned the prickly side to my family lore. I found out the real reason one uncle was shunned and another aunt was included. I’ve learned why one grandparent refused to respond while another always greeted me with an open door. I also figured out that if I didn’t learn how to tell my story, the patriarch and matriarch would gladly fill in the silence.

Through sheer energy and repetition of one set of stories, my story would disappear. This is how some villains are created.

Creating the Villain

I’m reading a murder mystery by Josephine Tey about King Richard III, The Daughter of Time. In Shakespeare’s play, Richard III smothers the two princes to death clearing this way to the English throne. But in this mystery, Tey uncovers a line of logic that presents Richard as a victim of a smear plot. The Tudor line of kings had to justify their usurpation and right to the throne, against King Richard, hence the villainizing of the man. And he didn’t have a hump on his back, either.

While there are enough problems with Tey’s novel, based on history, to make me doubt King Richard was quite this innocent, it illustrates a common enough problem. The rulers often write the stories we learn as history. That’s one reason studying Civil War history in the Special Collections of Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, reading the diaries from the southern “losers” was so enlightening.  The person who rules the world often writes all the stories, too. We don’t often hear the losers’ point of view, unless we dig, or learn to listen very carefully.

Telling My Story

The grandmother is my Mama Grace. Painting is titled “Reunion” 21 x 30″, original watercolor on paper.

Our stories tell us who we are. My Mexican grandparents, my Mama Grace and Papi, told me stories of how I acted as a baby and toddler. The stories they told revealed rather than concealed who God had made me to be. These were the true stories, unadorned by keeping up appearances. They were shared carefully and privately around laughter and questions.

Connecting with these grandparents over the years gave me an appetite for the true stories from others about the world.  Because of them, I could begin to distinguish between the false stories and the true. I learned to find the good books after my other grandmother, Grandma Taylor, introduced me to good literature. Jane Eyre, Jane Austen and Jane of Lantern Hill (L.M. Montgomery) gave me stories to live up to; they explain a part of why I’m still faithfully married, still romantic and still hopeful about my family’s prickly roots.

When I read biographies in my 30’s and 40’s about men and women who found joy despite overwhelming odds (Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, George Washington, Amy Carmichael),  I’m plowing the soil around my own life, showing my boys how to dig for nourishment, despite our crooked roots.

“Beauty from Prickles”, 11 x 7″, original watercolor by Jonalyn, available in Shop here.

In home educating my boys, I’m always looking for stories that aren’t just inspiring or entertaining. I want stories that are true regardless of how inconvenient or politically incorrect. Many stories I tell my boys spring from my own experiences. I want them to learn how to tell their own stories, too. But, without seizing a pen or a brush, without writing down what has happened to each of us, we would lose our own history.

If you don’t tell your stories, someone else will tell them for you. This history-making, the personal and pivotal work of writing down our stories is why I painted the COVID years. I wanted to tell the stories others had silenced. You can witness these stories in the “Saving Lives” gallery, now open to the public at any time. Learn more here.


News and Paintings

I’ve finished my final LIVE event for the Saving Lives gallery. Now, I’m pleased to offer my full length feature film for viewing at any time. The film is available on YouTube. Grab the link with your ticket in my Shop. 

Enjoy all the available Saving Lives paintings and read the backstories as a way to prepare for the film experience.

Jonalyn Fincher in her studio with “We are All in This Together” from the “Saving Lives” Gallery.








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