I am reminded of British poet Thomas Hood’s beautiful description the meaning of Valentine’s day, “Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine!,” every morning, as I turn on the light and see the reproduction of Branson artist Tom Crain’s magnificent painting, “”Home of the Brave” on the wall. In terms of adding reality and meaning to Hood’s loving prose, if the “hearts of love” that Tom puts in his paintings to show his wife Susan, “thou art every day my Valentine” doesn’t do it nothing will.
Tom and Susan Crain have been married since November of 2000, but prior to that, as their budding romance developed, Tom discovered that Susan, because of their symbolic relationship to “the heart of man” loved and collected things with heart shapes in them. As one of the ways of showing Susan how much he loved her, Tom decided to incorporate hearts into his paintings and has been doing so ever since in the vast majority of his works. His first “heart of love” was a heart shaped U.S. Flag on a watch he had.
In June of 2000 he painted his majestic and breathtaking “Home of the Brave,” which is a compilation of his memories of a special fishing trip into the Colorado Rockies with his son, his love and appreciation of the majesty and grandeur of God’s creation, love of country and his love for Susan. It is one of his most popular paintings, toured China and the Orient and is the first of his major paintings incorporating Susan’s “hearts of love.”
The true wonder of the “hearts of love” is the loving and unobtrusive way they are incorporated into his works. In a testament to the artistry and skill of this wonderful artist, although in most cases there is more than one “heart of love” in a painting, Tom’s love for Susan is shared so subtly that one really has to know what they are looking for to find one, let alone the other hearts for his “Susan” that are in the painting.
In the illustration of Tom’s “Home of the Brave,” used with his permission, this writer has loosely outlined the major “heart of love” with a pink heart that is not in the original painting. Notice how subtly the artist has woven the heart into the fabric of the painting starting just to the left of where the waterfall meets the eagles wings and follows ridge lines and shadings to complete its form. There is even a heart within the heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day!