Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vandalizing the Barnes Foundation.

Anyone who appreciates Art, and lives in the Philadelphia area, surely has heard of the fabled Barnes
Foundation, and its' massive treasure-trove of  Impressionist and Post Impressionist Art.
For the past two years or so, I have been contributing "Cartoons of Protest" to the Friends of the Barnes, the group of concerned citizens attempting to keep the collection from moving to Philadelphia. Here is one of my
initial cartoons, showing the "Money Hole" the planned move has become. Money that could have been used to preserve the Foundation at its' beautiful original site, in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania.

Here is a daily view I've had of the Barnes Foundation for the past forty years or more. A few weeks ago my
morning jog was interrupted when I saw the sign protesting the move, across the street from the Barnes, had
been sprayed with bright red paint!

My first reaction was to laugh, as I looked at my huge cartoon depicting a concerned Dr. Barnes, and various
artists whose paintings are in the collection, each peeking through the drips of paint.

Here is the original cartoon, before the spray-painting. When I eventually found out the Barnes had had their Annual Holiday Party for donors the day before, the artist in me knew there was another cartoon that had to be done. 

And here is my response to the act of vandalism to our sign, and my cartoon. Events depicted here are, of
course, purely a "pigment" of my imagination.

Ironically, the zealot who felt threatened by our message, and emboldened by darkness, has created a visual metaphor for the even greater act of vandalism that is being perpetrated on the legacy of  Dr. Barnes, and one of the world's most important collections of Art.

In its' present state of colorful vandalism, the sign now sends a much more powerful message than any cartoon I could have come up with.
But I'll keep trying!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Trials of John du Pont.

John du Pont, great-great -grandson of  the founder of the world famous chemical company, was one of the wealthiest men in American history to be found guilty of murder.

This past Thursday du Pont was found dead, just before 7 a.m., in his prison cell. He had been serving a 13 to 30 year sentence for the 1996 murder of  Olympic gold medalist wrestler, David Schultz, in 1996.

During my more than 40 years as a television courtroom artist, the du Pont trial was one of the most sensational. Sometimes I take my "Artist's Eye," and envision the view from another part of the courtroom.
In reality, artist Susan Schary and I were  seated in the upper left of this image, drawing furiously.

The month long trial was presided over by Judge Patricia Jenkins.

Most of the psychiatrists testifying agreed  that du Pont suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. During the trial one of the people who worked on his estate told me, "If you're rich, and have mental problems, you're not
considered crazy, just "eccentric."

Those of us who do courtroom art usually find ourselves sitting on the far side of the courtroom, away from the defendant, so we can at least get a "profile." view. As a result we are near the family of the victim.
This is my drawing of the family of David Schultz, who were incredibly stoic, while "bearing witness" for their son and husband, during the trial.

In this close up of an unfinished image, you can see the process I go through to create my paintings. First I rough it all in with pencil, then do the ink drawing with a "Sharpie" pen, followed by watercolor.
About 40 minutes from start to finish. I love trying to capture the ambiance of the really old County

John Du Pont was found guilty of murder, but mentally ill. David Schultz's father said, after the verdict,
"I did forgive the man for what he did. I never forgave the act."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sargent, Portraits, and Me.

Supposedly John Singer Sargent's definition of a painted portrait was; "A picture of someone in which
there is something not quite right about the nose." Well, for the past month and a half I have been wrestling
with getting noses, teeth, rocks, folds, flesh, etc, to look like there is nothing wrong with the way in which
I have depicted them, in a commissioned portrait.

Back in the middle of the summer, I took the "Bolt" bus to New York City, to discuss the working procedure
and other aspects of creating a double-portrait of my subjects.

As usual on long bus rides, I passed the time secretly sketching my dozing fellow passengers.

My clients live on the Upper West Side, in one of those beautiful, old, and historic "Brownstones."

Although the interior of their home would have been fun to include as a background for the portrait,
they chose instead to be painted out in their quiet garden, where they spend most of their  time
during the spring and summer. This was a "test shot;" one of many I took on my first visit.

The following week I took many many more photos of them, and the details in their garden, to refer to
once I returned to my studio to do an initial but rough sketch, in the same size as the final portrait, for their

After their approval, I did an even more detailed sketch, this time to pin down every element of the painting,
before transferring the drawing to the canvas. In this detail, you can see the "code" I came up with, to guarantee getting the darks (B) and the halftones (H) where they actually were, in the rock wall. 

With the drawing in reverse on my lightbox, I once again went over every line, this time with a soft pastel pencil, then flipped the drawing into position onto the canvas...and traced everything one final time,
then sprayed the drawing with a "workable" fixative. (whew!)

Finally, I actually get to lay out my colors, and start painting. My goal is to keep moving around the canvas,
getting all the values and colors right, so they will function as a FOIL, for the main stars of this pictorial
event, my clients, who I leave to the very end.

Taaa-taaaaaa! After about 3 weeks of painting, I am satisfied with the final portrait, and I feel I captured
the likeness of my clients, and their environment. The BIG question, of course, is whether they will agree?

This past Saturday I once again made the trip up to New York City, and delivered the painting.

My clients/friends LOVED IT. We celebrated with  a relaxing and delicious brunch, and I ended my day in New York over on the east side of Central Park, where there is a wonderful showing of the "Impressionist" paintings, of the Master himself,...John Singer Sargent.