When Margaret and had just arrived back in New York, I was in the stage of restarting the engine of my business, which had been sitting idle for the months we had been abroad. It’s not that business in New York was completely gone, it’s just that I needed to change some of the belts in the engine, pull some bee’s nests out of the radiator, etc. And so, as I was painting a self portrait and dwelling on this problem, my phone in my studio rang. I picked it up, and a familiar voice said “Hey Kev, it’s Paul, how’s it going?” Paul and his wife have already bought nine paintings from me, ranging from small still life work to enormous figure paintings. He proceeded to ask me how business was, and quickly said “Well, if that’s the case, let me help you out by commissioning a painting which I have been thinking of for a while now. You paint it, and just let me know later how much it will cost.” What a godsend.
Paul went on to tell me that, every year, he and his wife make a trip up to some obscure harbour in Maine. There’s a commercial fisherman up there, by the name of Wally, who takes Paul out on his boat during his annual visit. I believe that Paul simply asked him if he could give a hand for the day, and the captain was glad to have him on board. And so, Paul simply set traps, cleaned up, etc. While on board, Paul snapped a bunch of shots with his digital camera.
The painting which Paul commissioned was that of his friend, the Captain Wally. The only problem was that the captain was not able to pose for the painting, for reasons that I can’t state here. And so, Paul volunteered a photograph. Now, I categorically do not work from photographs, except in the instance of an extremely young child, or a death, etc. But being that the circumstances were indeed extenuating, I agreed to look at the photo. It turned out to be an incredible photograph, absolutely stunning. Paul terms himself as a simple businessman, but he has a rare ability to capture light. And actually, as of a month ago, he won his first award in a nationwide photo competition.
I set to work, painting from this photograph. The painting was a new challenge for me, in that the colour scheme was so dramatically different. I studied Sorolla a lot, looking at his works in The Hispanic Society of America, located in Harlem, to get an idea of how to implement the idea of chiaroscuro in an outdoor setting.
A few weeks later, the painting was finished, and I dropped the painting off at Paul’s house. I really enjoyed painting the sunlight on the captain’s face, and painting a figure in a dramatically different setting. I struggled with the idea of “finish” in this painting, in that I had to be very careful of overdoing it. I couldn’t erase all brushstrokes, or the painting would descend into a banal copy of a digital photo. And so, I wrestled with the idea of leaving things in a suggested state. Overall, I am happy with the final result, and I am glad to hear that some people consider this as being one of their favorites of all my works.