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Here is a sampling of my custom and non-custom portraiture.
Some are painted from life, others are based on either clients' photos or my own.
You may notice that each figure is associated with a particular setting
which enables the viewer to define something specific about the subject's personality.
When I paint a custom portrait, my efforts are centered around this premise ... that

our uniqueness can be illustrated by the way we respond to our surroundings.

What's new in the gallery ...

"Rm. 217"

"Rm. 217" Oil 14" x 22"

During my traditional birthday lunch at the Fitger complex last year, I realized I'd never actually seen the rest of the historic building.  Walking a circuitous route via the restaurant, I happened onto the old hotel lobby and was instantly transported into a different era.  The people milling about, with their cellphones and contemporary clothing, were the only reminder of modern life.  Duluth history was literally woven into the carpeting beneath the feet of the customers checking into their rooms.  I asked the staff if I could take a few photos to use as the basis of a possible painting.  Normally, people are a bit shy about such things, but they went out of their way to accommodate me.  In fact, they instinctively posed themselves in normal work-like positions as I took the photos.  At some point, I may paint other images from that photo session.  Thanks to all of you for being such great sports.  By the way, the title of this painting is an homage to the great Stephen King.  Thanks to him as well for the subtext I experienced that day.
"Food Group"

"Food Group" Oil 18" x 11"

This is my father.  He hasn't seen this yet.  When he does, I have no doubt he will make a joke about his head being cut off.

Turning 89 last year, I wondered about his secret to longevity.  On a recent trip to my brother's home on the west coast where they both reside, late one night I was awakened by the sound of a loud hissing noise, then a thud.  I darted out of bed to investigate.   I was drawn to a single light in the kitchen where my father stood cooking.  Relieved, I thought, at 4 am, this must be a clue to his well being ... up early and a good breakfast.  I asked him, "So, what are ya cookin'?"   The voice behind the cabinet replied, "Oh, the usual."  The beam of light from above the stove showcased the smokey splatters filling that part of the house like a search light in the rain.  Later, my brother warned me to NEVER mess with "the" pan.  Apparently, every morning, my dad wakes up, pre-dawn, to fire up the inch-thick grease in his pan and, when it heats to near combustion, he slaps into it a hunk of cold Jimmy Dean sausage.  I felt obligated to pass along to all of you his secret.  Now you, too, can live to a ripe old age.

"Incident" Oil 16" x 12"

Occasionally, I paint based on strong images in my head, most of which are left over from particularly intense dreams.   This is one of those paintings.  It was the residue from ingesting the paranoid behavior of the government post 9/11, suggesting we all duct tape sheets of plastic over our windows to keep deadly chemicals from seeping in.   Most often I like to paint images that are intriguing to some degree with a hint of levity.  But, sometimes it's tough to find the humor in it all.

"Fresh" Oil 28" x 20"

This is a custom piece I did for the young woman in the painting as a gift for her husband.  According to the woman who took the photo, the two of them had slipped away from the others into the cabin of their boat for a nap.  I thought the photo was artful in itself.  My contribution to the image was to add texture to the canvas giving the illusion of seeing the two sleepers through a thin veil. Fortunately, both subjects truly enjoyed seeing the image as a painting.  Textured canvases can create some wonderful and unexpected results.
"Heavy Metal"

"Heavy Metal" Oil 30" x 40"

This is not a brand new painting, but it's new to my website.  The main image is of a taconite plant in Minnesota, between Grand Marais and the Canadian border.  One very cold November, I hiked up a steep, icy hill to catch the view of the plant with the semi-frozen Lake Superior in the background.  If you look closely, you will see 5 young men in the painting.  These guys were not actually there, but, the fact that I was trespassing on plant property to get the photo inspired their inclusion.

Heavy metal is the product.  At the apex of the roof of the building in the foreground is a vague likeness of Curt Cobain of the grunge band, Nirvana.  The others I imagined to be similar young musicians whose lives were cut short as was his.  As spirits, rappelling a giant taconite processing plant in November might well be a fun pastime for them.  I suppose a psychologist might say I've painted my alter ego here.
"Beaming Miranda"

"Beaming Miranda" Oil 30" x 34"

This is a recent custom piece I did for the girlfriend of a student of mine.  The challenge of this painting was perspective.  It's common for me to extract images from different photos supplied by the client and "assemble" them onto a single painting.  In this case, the client generously provided several good photos.  We discussed the possibilities and agreed on basing the painting on three of them.  The difficulty was that the three photos were taken from varying heights: one looking up at the baby's head, the second looking down on the elder sister's head and the third straight on to their bodies.  It may not be evident in the resulting painting, but, trust me, it took all of my wits to balance it out.  My client and her brother, the recipient, fortunately, were both very pleased with the portrait.

Foreign Exchange

"Foreign Exchange" Oil 14" x 11"
This young woman was a foreign exchange student, living in the home of the lady carrying the groceries. The image was selected from a pack of photographs the family showed me. As a photograph, it wasn't that interesting. As a painting, the image is much more dramatic and intriguing. What is their relationship? What is their mood? What was said just before the lady turned to walk away? Portraiture can amount to more than someone's likeness.

"Souls" Oil 18" x 22"
These two confidants are seen here discussing what was about to befall the homestead. Within an hour of this conversation, the old farmhouse, its outbuildings and everything else on the premises were demolished to make room for a new high school. Today, I believe, somewhere on those high school grounds, remnants of these souls linger. The background in the painting was purposely left in a monochrome to imply its temporary nature in contrast to the vivid and colorful human energy left behind.
Anthony's Altered States

"Anthony's Altered States" Oil 24" x 20"
This painting illustrates the contrast of the bustle of city life to the still of a pensive mind. On a beautiful, unusually warm November day in the uptown area of Minneapolis, I caught the vision of a stately figure ... almost statuesque ... standing before a vacant storefront window. The intensity with which this individual was absorbing their own likeness was interrupted only by the flow of the dress, nudged by a gentle city breeze. This person could have been deep in thought about fashion, femininity, aging, a relationship or maybe the stock market. The beholder is left to decide.

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER ... I specialize in figurative subjects, but have overall artistic skills which allow me to paint nearly anything of interest to my clients. Although humans (or animals) are generally the focal points of my portraits, particular landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes or interiors can, conversely, serve as the primary focus, the figure as secondary focus (see an example).

Girl Studying

"Girl Studying" Oil 16" x 20"
Some young women choose a "beach party" lifestyle, some are bookworms. The image we see here reveals an intense desire to learn on the part of this young lady. It was a particular pleasure for this artist to attempt to communicate that admirable aspect of this subject.
On the Rocks

"On the Rocks" Oil 40" x 24"
This fairly large painting captures the essense of the subject, I think. She is, by nature, extraordinarily energetic and dives into the unknown with confidence. A vital, caring and loving mother and wife, she occasionally takes time for herself as well. Here we see her in a rare pensive moment, following a vigorous hike on the North Shore of Lake Superior. I was with her that day and asked her permission to take a few photos. Later, in the studio, I decided to include the element of a small flask on the rock behind her head (we were actually sipping from a bottle of wine that day). Not any too subtle, I know, but I couldn't resist the pun. My intention was to, hopefully, turn out a fine art painting that I could enter in an upcoming contest. In fact, this piece was accepted into the coveted Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Exhibition of '06. Thanks, my friend.
Next in Line

"Next in Line" Oil 20" x 16"
This was our model for the session. He very patiently sat for all of us while we worked at our easels. It so happened that the music playing in the studio was the soundtrack from Ken Burns' Civil War documentary. As the lively and scratchy recordings from long ago filled the void between the sound of brushes on canvas, Rick's expression seemed to change. It was subtle, but reminiscent of an actor preparing to play the role of Othello. In an attempt to isolate that intense resolve in his face, the "background" was painted as being flat, insignificant, drawing the viewer's eye not to his likeness, but to his intent.

"Spinners" Oil 36" x 28"
The parents of these two great kids told me that the older brother was very protective of his sister, always there to show her the way. In the photographs they offered me to use as a basis for the portrait, the children's focus was always on the camera, not each other. I thought it would be important to try to show their special relationship in the portrait, so, with their parents' permission, I paid them all a visit. With camera in hand, I was able to snap a few shots as their parents engaged the kids in a few normal activities, such as this rousing game of "Spinners". After a few minutes, the kids barely knew I was even in the room and got down to the serious business of playing the game. At one point, the sister made an especially good move, to the pride of her brother, the tutor. The photo taken of that particular moment captured the subtle, but unmistakable expressions of the boy's mentoring and the girl's satisfaction in learning the game. Once in my studio, that photo became the basis of the portrait, using the other photos as reference for facial features, skin tone, background, lighting, fabrics, etc. The whole family was very pleased with the result.

"Layover" Oil 14" x 11"
The Seattle Airport was fairly uneventful on that weekday. But, near the concession area, I discovered two brothers filling the time between flights with milkshakes and, of course, the sugar coma to follow. Their mother, who was standing watch nearby, was kind enough to allow me to photograph this and granted me permission to one day paint this visually lively scene. She chuckled at the fact that I would find such interest in this otherwise common sight. But I found the body language of the boys combined with the interplay of the warm light from the overhead heat lamps with the cool, bright light from outside fascinating. So I painted it. In February of 2005, this piece won the "Jurors Award" in a national fine art show.
Sleeping in Seattle

"Sleeping in Seattle" Oil 48" x 24"
Down the concourse from the boys in the "Layover" painting was another scene of interest to me, much in the same spirit. The difference was cultural. In the foreground sat a lovely, young woman of indigenous heritage, mostly asleep. The viewer's eye is pulled into the distance by the cold, faux leather chairs lining the windows, but is gently interrupted by a teenage girl in the distance, leaning on a chair, looking onto the tarmack with great interest. Then the eye is drawn left to two elderly travelers and, finally, rests again in the foreground to the warmth and calm of the sleeping subject. Her features, dress and posture suggested to me classic American assimilation, a theme that is difficult to capture.

Works in Progress ...


"Fret" Oil 22" x 30"
This subject is the grandson of a neighbor. He had been anxious to earn a bit of spending money for a church trip to Jamaica. That's how he came to accept my offer to sit for a few paintings. I asked him to bring to the session something tangible, a "prop", something associated with his passions. Without hesitation, he chose his guitar. During the session, I encouraged him to allow the guitar to guide his thoughts and to forget about "posing", forget about whatever he might think I'd want him to do. At one point, his expression turned deeply pensive, which became the center of the resulting painting. We see in his face and posture the seriousness of a maturing individual of 17, about to face the world head on. Later, he sat for me again ... continuing the theme.
Pre Pre Med

"Pre Pre Med" Oil 38" x 18"
Another passion of this young man is the study of medicine ... or, better said, the promise of medical school. At our second session, he brought medical books as his "prop". Again, I encouraged him to allow the books to guide his thoughts while I painted. I asked him to project his mind into the future, as he might imagine himself studying for finals in college. The resulting expressions and body language were classic. His good nature, fortunately for me, tempered the guilt I felt asking him to even think in those terms on the last week of his summer vacation before his senior year in high school.
Camping Feet

"Camping Feet" Oil   22" x 30"
This subject is also a grandson of my neighbor. He aspires to be an actor and a firefighter. For several days leading up our session, he and his buddies had been on a rather exhausting camping trip. On this early morning, his eyes were a bit puffy and he was understandably tired. I admired his determination to fulfill his obligations, though. At one point, I asked him to remove his shoes and socks (since I like painting hands and feet). He did so with a bit of concern about his current state of hygiene. I smiled and reassured him that it didn't matter at all. In fact, his "hiking feet" provided the center of interest for me for the painting. If I had it to do all over again, though, I would have positioned the chair on a platform with his torso much more reclined. That angle would have allowed us to view him "through" his feet, placing more focus on the point of interest. Maybe next time.

"But, why would I bother having an artist's interpretation of my photos?   I have the photos already!"
Please click the "Why Bother?" link below for some answers.


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