In 1972 I became a firefighter with the Santa Clara Fire Department. My decision to make this my career was greatly influenced by my older brother John who was already on the job with the Mt. View Fire Department. I had listen to all the stories and witnessed the camaraderie he and the guys on his crew shared and thought, thats what I want to do.
Shortly after becoming a firefighter I started doing highly detailed pen & ink drawings of antique fire apparatus. That then evolved into doing still life drawings of firefighter’s personal helmets, turnout coats, pants and boots. The first one I did was a gift for my brother when he was promoted to captain. Not long after that, I started receiving commissions from other firefighters or their wives to give as gifts. Every drawing was unique with added personal touches. To this day, I think I must have drawn close to 300 of these.
A number of years ago I was commissioned by a firefighter for a painting instead of a pen & ink. He wanted it for his father, a retired fire chief, and wanted his own gear included in the painting as well. He planned on giving this to his dad on Fathers Day. I suggested, for a few dollars more, I can have the original scanned and have a giclee print made, so they both could enjoy it.
That friends was the start of what I now refer to as Legacy Paintings.
The O’Brien Legacy
I never took the time to do a pen & ink drawing or a painting for myself so when I retired I figured if I wanted one to remember my time on the job, I would have to do it myself. Boy was I wrong…My son Kevin who was 16 at the time, and on his way to becoming an amazing artist, surprised me with his twist on what I had been doing for years. Fresh minds are never limited and it was evident in the drawing he did for me. Instead of a still life of some inanimate objects he brought life and fun into the frame that makes me smile every time I look at it hanging above my desk. He used the kids of my one of my guys, wearing our turnouts to model for the drawing. It reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting and how he masterfully captured the kids in a joyful moment. He had prints made and gave them to my crew as well.
SCFD Truck 7, C Shift
Pen & Ink by Kevin Walsh
In 2007 I decided to do a Legacy painting for my family. At that time my son had recently been hired by my old department as a firefighter/paramedic. I planned to use his gear with mine as well as my brother’s and his 3 sons, who were all firefighters. Unfortunately years before, my brother had passed away from a job related cancer and then 4 years later, my nephew Bobby, passed from the same. I wanted to do something special for the family after having gone through the sadness of this loss. After completing the painting, I had giclee prints made for everyone in the family and presented them as Christmas gifts in 2007. Needless to say there were a few tears that night.
I used my nephew’s coat on the left and my brother’s on the right. Helmets from left to right…My nephew Steve, John, and Bobby, my brother John, my helmet. and my son Patrick.
If you are looking for that unique one of kind special gift that will become a family heirloom, please contact me. Whether it be fire, police, paramedic, military, etc…, I would love to discuss this with you on how we can make it right. I am currently taking commissions for Fathers Day.