Ashes To Art: Shoals Artist Uses Paint, Brushes, and Cremains To Honor Departed

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) - When a family member passes away, the pain and grief can be overwhelming.

Now, a unique art form can honor your deceased loved one by keeping the person around in memory and on canvas.  A Shoals artist pays respect with his paint, brushes, and the person's cremains.

In Sergio Protillo’s Florence art studio, every work of art tells a different story.  Some pieces, realistic; others abstract.

Portillo's paintings take you on a visual journey.  However, as Portillo mixes paint for his latest work of art he blends special life into the portrait.

On his painter’s pallet, Portillo adds acrylic color with a person's cremated remains, turning ashes into art.

"The artwork, to me is like an additional memory to the person`s life, you know the pain of missing someone can be overwhelming and I like to believe the loved ones art can help ease the pain in a lot of ways,” said Portillo.

With Sergio's artwork, every brush stroke brings new color to the canvas adding layers of life to the painting.

"It`s not like the traditional urn, you know, some people just receive a container with the ashes.  I think it`s something additional.  They like to get close to their loved ones," said Portillo.

According to the artist, these soulful works of art serve as a permanent tribute to family members, reflecting on the life and how the loved one will always be remembered.

"Anything over a lifetime that has come to define that person`s life," said Portillo.

In order to envision a portrait with the pigmented cremains, Portillo first discusses the design with the family members.

"It allows me to have a deeper connection as I`m creating the painting," said Portillo.

Portillo then plans the self-portrait, or landscape.  Sometimes families want an abstract design or even a sculpture.

Whatever the layout, Portillo says he crafts every painting with honor and respect.

"I like to incorporate the beauty of their lives and all the beautiful things they like to do,” said Portillo.  "I feel like it’s something very special to me."

But for the recipient, the emotions can fall at all ends of the spectrum.

“In the middle of the area, he started crying when he saw it,” said Portillo as he reflected on a recent painting he did for a family.

Now with the finished product, in hand, Sergio Portillo's remembrance project gives his paintings ever lasting life and the family, a special work of art to display, so their loved one will never be forgotten.

The artist first painted pictures of pets with ashes then Portillo says people started calling for pictures of family members.

If you would like to contact Portillo about a work of art you can email the artist at: or call the artist at 256-436-1453.

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