Mary Lynn Machado makes her clients cry.

The Realtor, with Macdonald Realty on Bowen Island, B.C., says her clients have been moved to tears when she presents them with a meaningful, personal closing gift – a painting of the house they have sold and are leaving behind.

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“Most people selling on Bowen Island are leaving the island. It’s not like they move from one street to another, so it’s meaningful. You can’t get any better than a beautiful memory as a piece of art. You can pass it down for generations.”

When she sold her first client’s house after she went out on her own in 2019, she wondered what she would give as a closing gift. She says having a relationship with the client made a gift basket with a bottle of champagne and chocolate somewhat lacking. She wanted a more memorable gift.

For her 50th birthday, her aunt had given her a gift certificate for a painting by artist Jose de Juan. Machado looked at the painting in her living room and knew it would be the perfect client gift, and one that could be personalized.

Madrid-born De Juan doesn’t usually paint from a photo, but “he does for me,” she says. The two had worked together in Los Angeles and again more recently in Vancouver.

A sample of de Juan’s work
A sample of de Juan’s work

The paintings are usually of the home’s front exterior but are sometimes customized. Machado says one client’s best friends lived next door. Both families had children the same age and were together constantly. It was emotional for her clients to leave.

Machado asked de Juan to include people in this painting – the family and their golden retriever in front of the house they just sold and their friends on their own porch behind them. “It was unexpected.”

In another house portrait, she asked that the family’s special pet, “a big Schnauzer”, be included. The dog has since died but they have that memory captured in their house portrait.

Machado has the 8×10-inch de Juan oil paintings framed by a shop in Vancouver – coincidentally, the owners live on Bowen Island.

She posts pictures of the portraits on social media and commissions for de Juan have resulted from the exposure.

All of the clients who list with Machado receive a de Juan painting, no matter the price point of the property.

She says it makes her feel good when she gives the gift and for the owners of the house, it is emotional. An artist on the side (painting and photography), Machado says the house portraits also give her a way to support her friend and his artistic endeavours. “It feels good to encourage his artistic career.”

Before she became an agent in 2017, Machado worked for 30 years in the film industry in computer animation. Georgetown, Ont.-born Machado attended the University of Waterloo and was in her second year when the movie Tron came out. She says the blend of computers and art fascinated her and she pursued the art side with a minor in arts degree. She then completed a one-year computer graphics course at Sheridan College.

In 1995, she began work at Rhythm & Hues Studios in Los Angeles, where she shared an office with Jose de Juan. On weekends, de Juan painted urban outdoor scenes. She was wowed by his work.

In 2013 Rhythm & Hues went bankrupt and in 2014, Machado sold her L.A. house and moved to Bowen Island, a place she had grown to love after visiting a long-time friend.

She worked in visual effects in Vancouver, commuting to work by water taxi, a 35-minute dock-to-dock trip. For a couple of years, she did the commute and worked long hours. “I woke up one morning and thought, I live on Bowen Island but I’m never there.”

It was time for a change. Her late aunt had been a Realtor and had done very well. “I thought I might become an agent.”

She got her licence and says Dee Elliott, the No. 1 Realtor on Bowen Island, also with Macdonald Realty, took her under her wing. In 2019, Machado decided to go for it and went out on her own. Business is good – so far she has commissioned 17 paintings.

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