In the last year or so I have been fortunate to receive a number of commissions, personal paintings for both patrons and colleagues. The request for a commission is not taken lightly from either side, the patron’s or mine. It typically requires a certain amount of vulnerability and openness in order to have a chance at success. A commission affords me an opportunity to stretch beyond my own vision and include that of another. But for that to happen the “other” needs to reveal a bit about themselves, often their loved ones too, and ask themselves questions they might never have. And I need to call upon skills that I sometimes doubt or, embarrassing to admit, are hidden from me. It becomes a collaboration of desire rather than advantage.
Early last year a couple who I’ve never met contacted me out of the blue with the request for this painting—“Mimo” 32” x 40” oil on wood 2020
It incorporates not only their fine and special cat Mimo, but a beloved magnolia and one of their collection of old, beautifully inlaid Hurdy Gurdys. From their home in Southern California they provided me with photographs and after a number of emails regarding the process we had a great phone conversation which gave us the opportunity to hear the nuanced thoughts and emotions that come with voices.
Another couple, who already owned two of my originals, requested a painting that might somehow represent and enshrine their beautiful and meaningful collection of personal objects which reminds them of their years spent in Europe, their family members, happy events, their love of sharing delicious food and of course their dear late cats. There was a space constraint on the dimensions of the piece since their existing collections take up almost every wall in their home!
“ The House of Hightower” 24” x 36” oil on wood 2020
Not wanting to leave out Popcorn, another beloved cat, they asked if I would paint his portrait in a pose similar to one of a previous painting of mine.
“Popcorn” 16” x 20” oil on wood 2020
Near the end of last summer a major collector of my work, slightly giddy with excitement, asked me to quietly paint a portrait of one of their departed pets as a surprise for his wife. Beauregard the budgerigar was a special and frequent drinking partner as well as all around good fellow by all accounts.
“Bird Behavior” 16” x 16” oil on wood 2020
I mentioned that some of the commissions were for colleagues, not necessarily patrons. These are friends to whom I am indebted for their expertise and support and who I can only repay with something from my heart.
I suppose I can never avoid a reputation as a painter of cats… this one is still alive and enjoying the best life with my friend, sleeping warm and cozy inside, as well as roaming alert and wildish in the woods when he goes outside their door.
“Oakley” 20” x 20” oil on wood 2020
When asked what she would like me to paint, my other friend reminded me of our shared love of telephone poles. Ah, yes. Born out of peripatetic childhoods, we both are fascinated by roadside poles of all kinds, the ones whizzing past the windows as we travelled in the backseat on highways to new cities or past empty stretches of mid-west horizons with our parents. She is a painter too, and I think somewhere in our nascent visual strongholds they were planted—lines, connectors, perspective-makers, definitions– growing smaller in the distance, unseeable up close in a glance. They linked the sky and the earth. They carried communication long distances and they held power.
“Friendship” 18” x 24” oil on wood 2021
Lastly, I made a gift for my grand daughter Larken, who turned ten this February. She’s playing the violin these days and gave us a concert in the front of our house on a sunny afternoon at Christmas. A rare moment in a child’s life, and in the life of a pandemic bound grandparent. This of course was not a commission, but an outpouring of delight.
“Larken Playing the Violin at Huckleberry Farm” 8″ x 8″ oil on masonite 2021