In Memorium: Ethel Sweet (neé Weitz) 1911-2008

I suffered a personal loss today. And the world suffered the loss of one more artist.

My grandmother, Ethel, was an artist.
She wasn't a Georgia O'Keefe or a Grandma Moses. She merely painted for herself, her friends and local art shows her whole life. She garnered several first place and honorable mentions at local shows and growing up, my parents' home was filled with her artwork.

She spent countless hours sitting with me as a child teaching me how to 'draw' and always had fresh pencils, paints and paper ready and waiting upon our visits for me, my sisters and my cousins to play with. I couldn't wait to visit her, spend time with her and draw and paint to my hearts' content.

She never stopped painting until she simply couldn't do it anymore... and that was just a year ago at age 96. Just this year, 2008, her work was included in the Hyatt Classic Residence Artist Series.

She was married to my grandfather, Sol Sweet for over 60 years (he passed away in 1990 at age 85) and she was very close to her two sons, my uncle Bob and my father Larry, as well as her daughters-in-law and her 5 granddaughters and her great grandchildren.

She was Yoda-like in her wisdom. She spoke gently, but deliberately, and never judged people or was even the slightest bit catty. I don't think she ever once uttered anything remotely close to sarcasm. She often referred to her five granddaughters as 'cookie' or 'dolly'.

Always patient and kind, she made killer brownies and potato salad. She was the grandma who snuck me to the mall at age 13 to get my ears pierced, despite my dad's insistence that I not 'put holes in my ears.'

Despite being financially comfortable, she was never showy. She was modest in her dress and jewelry and didn't believe in spending money recklessly. She could have worn designer clothes and drove fancy cars, but she wasn't comfortable with that.

She liked beer, sourdough and candied ginger. She didn't like pictures of herself and bizarrely, never had any photos of herself in her homes.

Of all my family, she was the animal lover, the one who thoughtfully always asked about my dog (being her only granddaughter who didn't have children).

Being an 'artist' for a living made me feel a special kinship with her. But she was the type of woman who made each of her children and grandchildren feel that way. As if they each had a unique personal bond with her.

Her life in pictures:

She had a wonderful marriage to my grandfather Sol, for over 60 years:

Below: with my father, the eldest of her two boys

And in recent years:

above: July 2004

above: last summer, June, 2007

As an artist, she actually began her career doing advertising illustrations for department stores that ran in newspapers, so you could say she was the first 'art director' I ever knew.
She painted with oils and acrylics as well and in her later years became an adept water colorist.

Some of her early work:

Golden Gate Bridge, 1967

Honorable Mention winner, 1967

As she aged, she continued to send me handmade cards for my birthday and the holidays. Even last year, I received a handmade hand painted birthday card:

Incredibly talented until her final days, my gran even taught watercolor at her Senior Living home until her early 90s. And her work, shown below, was used on holiday cards printed by Hyatt Senior Residence at La Jolla.

I will forever have a hole in my heart now.
She will be greatly missed. And the world will be a little less colorful.


Jolea said...

I'm sorry for your loss, what a lovely lady.

Laura Sweet said...

thank you so much!

Joe said...

Laura -
So, so sorry to hear this news...I know she meant a great deal to you. Thinking of you and your family.

Laura Sweet said...

thank you Joe, that means a lot to me and my family.

Kristi VandenBosch said...

My dear, this is such a touching tribute to a remarkable woman. Clearly talent, and kindness, run in the genes. I'm so sorry for your loss, but the wealth of memories you have must be a great comfort. Thinking of you...

Sue said...

I feel terrible about your loss. Your grandmother not only paints so beautifully but is one stylish lady. She looks so elegant in all her pictures. May God bless her soul.

WendyB said...

She was really talented! Wonderful pictures. It seems she lived a very full life.

tula said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. She sounds like an amazing woman and her artistic spirit will forever live on with you.

I've been reading your blog for a long time, but have never commented until now. Thank you so much for sharing your grandmother's story and beautiful artwork with all of us.


Eva Trieger said...

While I never had the honor of meeting Ethel Sweet, I know that she has created generations of people who share her ethereal and beautiful qualities. One has only to know granddaughter Debbie, and great grand kids Zach and Sami to see the love of animals, artistry and people embodied in these three gorgeous souls. May Ethel rest easy!
Love, Eva

Kelley Moore said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing photographs and memories, opening up to the public. I know that is tough, I lost my dad last year. My best friend. I am still grieving. I miss him every day. He changed my life, like it sounds your grandmother changed yours.

I read your blog daily and it provides inspiration to me, as she provided inspiration to you.

erin@designcrisis said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. Sounds like she was an amazing lady, and a very talented painter!

Anonymous said...

hi cousin

our granny was so beautiful in all ways...yesterday was a perfect way to celebrate her life, with all of us together embracing our love and our love for her...she was the force that kept us loyal and loving to one another and now we must carry her torch...i love you and our family...we are all so blessed to have been touched by such and eloquent angel...debbie

lluvia said...

I will forever have a hole in my heart now...

I can understand you! my grandma passed away in 1984 but she's still in my heart and in my mind almost every year...

so you have touched my soul
thank you...

a spanish reader...

C'mon people, it's only a dollar.