In describing my works, I usually spend a lot of time talking about the making of a painting, and the process of coming to know the individual who is sitting for me. I can’t always share the backgrounds of the individuals, as some people might be uncomfortable sharing their story. I will say, however, that this fellow, Michael, is one of the most admirable individuals I have ever met. He was from Manchester, England, and when he posed for this painting he had only been in New York for a few months. He was a resolute man, someone who was unswerved by circumstances, and yet was still able to enjoy life. I hope to have him pose for another painting in the near future.
At first, I had Michael reading a newspaper as he posed for this painting. The newspaper looked fine, but I just wasn’t that excited about it. I suppose that it didn’t work because I had intentionally downplayed the emphasis on his face, by casting so much shadow on it. Having taken some attention away from his face, the newspaper didn’t say enough. And so, the work was lacking. I experimented with a few different options, all of which did not work. While on break, we went for coffee to the Starbucks in Islip. As we sat at the table in the front of the store, the steam was lifting off his cup. Suddenly, I knew what to paint.
I actually made him a cup of tea in the studio, and had him hold the cup just as you see. The steam would only last for about thirty seconds, so I had to work fast. It is fortunate for me that the steam was only short lived, and always in motion, because I had to paint quickly. Using a lead white mixed with loads of canada balsam medium, I was able to paint the steam in just about a minute.