The Story Behind My "Princess & the Frog" Painting

I just completed a lesson for an online class I've been taking - Ever After 2016 by Willowing Arts (life changing for me, seriously!) - that referenced the fairy tale "The Princess and the Frog."

The original Lesson version by artist Rachelle Panagarry for Ever After 2016

The original Lesson version by artist Rachelle Panagarry for Ever After 2016

My version of Rachelle's lesson from sketch to color.

My version of Rachelle's lesson from sketch to color.

I did not realize how close to home this would hit for me until I was doing the lesson and started thinking about my favorite version of this story, which happens to be the 2009 Disney movie, "The Princess and the Frog." I absolutely adored this movie when it came out - it's set in New Orleans, it has voodoo, it's funny, and the story was great.

What also hit hard for me - unexpectedly, because I thought I had "processed" it all long ago - was the reality that when I watched the movie when it was first in theaters (November 2009), I was going through one of the worst experiences of my life.

In fact, the night I went to watch the Princess and the Frog movie was the night I was forced to accept that my marriage was over.

A Date Night With a Stranger

We (my ex-husband and I) took our 3-year-old daughter to see it with a 3-year-old little boy who was a friend from her preschool. This little boy also happened to be frequently babysat by a woman who was a teacher at the preschool (where I also taught). I had considered her a friend for over a year.

The night of the movie, we arrived at her house to pick up the little boy. I'll never forget the moment the reality of my life hit me. It was cold that night, and when I stepped out of the car, it was dark and you could see your breath in the air when you exhaled into the cold. I was standing beside the car as my friend came out of her house wearing a red sweater. She was going to sing at her church that night, so she was dressed up with full hair and makeup. I remember watching as my husband looked at her like he should have been looking at me.

In that one look, I finally understood that all my suspicions had been right. I was an ostrich with my head buried in the sand, hoping that my reality wasn't real. But it was. And I knew what was going on between my husband and my "friend" was much more than appeared on the surface.

Then we had to go - to eat and to the movies - with me pretending as though everything was fine. It gets worse. Over dinner at Applebee's, the little boy - out of the blue - started talking about when he was with my ex-husband and my friend while they were kissing beside the lake.

On hearing that, I think a small part of me died. To say I was devastated would be putting it mildly. My ex tried hard to make it sound as though the little boy was mistaken, but I knew.

I just knew.

We still went to watch the movie - for the kids - and it was beautiful and funny. I loved it. Even though I felt the weight of a boulder crushing my chest and battled the tears all night, the movie took me away from my shattered reality for just a few hours. The ending was hard, sitting in the dark theater with true love on the screen, knowing my husband was arms length away, but not for long.

(The line, "She is my Evangeline" nearly destroyed me. I wanted to cry knowing how desperately I wished I had someone that would say that about me, knowing it wasn't the man I was married to. Somehow, I managed to keep my composure.)

Using My Painting to Deal With My "Stuff"

Doing the Princess and the Frog art lesson, nearly seven years after that night, brought all this old stuff up for me. After I finished the lesson, I thought about what my own version of the lesson might be. I really felt I needed to watch the movie again to decide what I would create.

I knew it would be painful, the painting I was thinking of. But also, healing.

Because things have changed greatly in seven years. I'm with someone today who would absolutely say, "She is my Evangeline."

For my own painting of the Princess and the Frog, I took some aspects of the movie: the bayou setting, and the Shadow Man, Dr. Facilier, as my frog. I then put a woman with her child, mourning a man who was leaving, along with the quote from the movie that best sums up for me that time in my life:

You got what you wanted . . .
but you lost what you had.”
— Disney's "The Princess & the Frog"
My version of the Princess & the Frog. 4 by 6 watercolor, pen, and colored pencil on paper. Artwork by Jaime Leigh Hebert

My version of the Princess & the Frog. 4 by 6 watercolor, pen, and colored pencil on paper. Artwork by Jaime Leigh Hebert

What do you think? Have you ever had something unexpectedly trigger a memory or time in your life? How did you deal with it? Please let me know in the comments!