48” x 32”
4’ x 12’
24” x 36”
5’ x 5’
“The Red Room: Matisse”
5’ x 10’
6’ x 6’
Oil on canvas
6′ x 5′
I don’t usually include commissioned work in this online portfolio. However, this piece is very close to what I would have created without any constraints of the commission. In fact, I would be hard pressed to say what is causing me to qualify that statement with “very close.” I think it is that I always paint pictures of people I know or that I choose for a particular project. These people came to me and asked me if they could pay me to paint their picture.
Perhaps by the time you are reading this I will have created a section in this archive of commissioned works. But at the time of this writing it has not yet been created. I include here because it was part of how and why my work shifted to more realistic portrayals and less singularly about the figures sculptural presence. In fact I would go further and say it was increasingly about these particular individuals than about their sculptural presence. This is a likeness of two particular people. And not so incidentally, the 2 people who were paying me to do the work.
“Landscape: Franz Marc”
24” x 24”
8’ x 10’
“Annie Get Your Gun”
6’ x 4’
“Merry Go Round”
48” x 96”
It is amazing what one will do for money. But there is more to money than the love of it.
Careful inspection of this painting will reveal that I did not sign it. And I would have gladly forgotten it. However, a few days ago (April 2023) I received an email from a man who bought it from the restaurant I painted it for. He bought it 10 years ago when the restaurant was closing its doors. Now he is selling it because he is getting a divorce and downsizing his life. He wanted to know if I knew anyone selling art and how much he should sell it for. I do not.
Ordinarily an artist would rejoice at the news of his/her painting being bought and sold in what is known as the secondary market. Unfortunately this isn’t even second rate decoration. So I made no recommendation. With a little luck some young artist will buy it as a cheap ready stretched canvas and paint over it.
In my defense it turned out to be exactly what they wanted; an ole fashioned looking painting for an ole timey restaurant. I was given old photographs of Merry Go Rounds and asked to add some red white and blue bunting.
$80 a square foot. Done.
No one was blown away or gained a whole new way of seeing the world. But they were all happy. And that counts for something. And it helped fund the more noble and less lucrative efforts.
Ok, I’ll write back and tell the fella, don’t sell for less than $100 a square foot.
oil on canvas
40 in by 34
This was unequivocally a vanity piece. In fact, this piece was the most unabashedly vain painting I was commissioned to do. The guy was a body builder and very proud of his body … most of it anyway. He was self conscious about his conspicuously thin calves and asked repeatedly if I would take pains to beef them up. With some effort I found a pose which was both slightly flattering and yet truthful of his calves.
I also did my best to add a little depth to the piece by hinting at a famous painting from an earlier period, a piece well known to my gay art lovers: a painting of a beautiful boy painted in 1838 by an artist named Flandrin. I had also recently done my own interpretation of this painting with my own model and fewer calf constraints.
The one strange thing about this commission was the size. It’s small. And the model was huge, easily 6’ 4”. And even though the price was higher for a smaller work because I hate small paintings, he elected to have it this size, less than half life size.
40” x 30”. Approximately
This piece was commissioned by the woman in the painting. She had seen my work in a number of places and found her way to me through a mutual friend. She wasn’t sure what she wanted but definitely of her and nude. She agreed to do a photo shoot and because of her schedule I did the painting from the photos. To hedge my bets I did 2 paintings and she chose this one.
6 x 4′
Oil on panel
The title of this painting may seem strange for a title but that is what this was about more than the man or the painting itself. This commission was a big deal for me. By this point in my life I had been painting almost non stop in my studio under the freeway for 5 or 6 years. I was a full time artist and had not had a job in years. And, I was broke. But I was beginning to see my way out of abject poverty.
Along with the help of a patron and friend, I was able to take my first trip to Hawaii. And while there I got my first real commission….that is to say…someone commissioning me to do a painting like I would do a painting. To be sure the man in the painting is the commissioner and he had some ideas about the piece. He was insistent on the painting including a coconut and him of course. But he didn’t even stipulate how the coconut was to be included or how he would be depicted. It was implied, although not stated, that the painting would flatter him.
This was also the first time I was to do a painting outside my studio since I had really become an artist. Frankly I was worried and curious about whether I could even do it. Another friend offered his garage, showed me where to get materials and off I went. Even with the time crunch of a return ticket I was able to complete the work.
The results are a stunningly accurate depiction of the man who commissioned the piece as well as an over arching and undeniably Hawaiian feel to the piece. He was absolutely pleased. And frankly, so was I. It looks a bit brittle here in this miniaturized format. And to be sure it is sharper than work I had been producing in Seattle. But that was the point, to include the light that was intrinsically Hawaii; bright, clear and sharp.
While painting it I did a second spin off piece that became a signature work for me and which became a mini phase unto itself with many others to follow. I called it “Fire.”
6’ x 4’
4’ x 6’
It’s hard to believe, in retrospect, that this was a commissioned piece. This is a bold piece by any measure and I’m surprised I had the courage to do it. I was in my late 30’s. I would like to think I have at least that much courage now 25 years later, but I’m not sure that is true.
Steve was a successful business man and had a reputation within the gay community that was in part based on his panache, brazen non gay way of speaking and his big house parties. If you didn’t know better, or look around at his friends you would think he was a mid-level donor to the RNC with his own little Superpac.
Perhaps that’s why he liked this piece so much. It pushed people’s expectations of who he was to new limits. And one thing I remember about Steve was that he liked pushing people’s buttons.
I was very grateful to him for the opportunity to be paid to do my boldest work. I don’t know what happened to Steve or if he is even still alive, but I learned a lot from him, more than I realized at the time. I hope this painting is still providing him with some joy or at least amusement as he watches new guests encounter it for the first time.
These are not really sculptures. I never thought of them as art. But I include them here because creating these was an important part of how I learned about concrete and mold making. It’s also how I fell in love with concrete as a material and began to dream about making art with it.
I was 31 or so when I made these. I was working in a shop owned by a nutty old Italian guy who had a flair for business and an even flair for being an Italian but had no artistic skill whatsoever. He did own a shop making concrete statuary and art. He hired me to make sculptural originals in clay. He then has his team of guys make molds and cast them by the hundreds.
Once in awhile someone would want a custom project. In this case I designed and built the fireplace surround and other features for this house. I even cast these pieces and was involved with the instal. I went on to do some of this work for my own clients but did not love it enough to create my own business doing just this work. Still, without these opportunities provided for me by Marco I would never have have learned so much about concrete.
40 x 50”
This was a study for my first large commission. The commission was from my boss at the Holiday Inn restaurant where I worked as a waiter. He thought it would be a great idea to have a large wall sized painting of the ski resort that was near the hotel. We shared a vision of a painting that would feature a Swiss Chalet like lodge seen up close and from below with snow covered slopes and pine trees around for decoration.
I received my $200 advance on the $400 agreed price and I headed off to the art supply store. After stretching a very large canvas roughly 6’ x 8’ I decided I needed to do the painting out in the field. So, I found a suitable spot in a cow pasture with a view of the ski slope and set up camp. I pitched a tent and strapped my giant painting to stakes and began painting.
The key flaw in the whole concept revealed itself quickly. The ski resort had no Swiss Chalet like lodge. In fact it had no real lodge to speak of. Instead it had a series of ramshackle shacks that appeared to have been hastily assembled without building permits or proper plans and were in fact abandoned for most of the year. They were hardly picturesque.
The other challenge was that in central Pennsylvania there was rarely enough snow for skiing so they had to make snow and blow it on the slopes when it was cold enough. This worked for skiers but they didn’t blow the snow over the surrounding forests for aesthetic pleasure as that would have been a waste of resources. So the trees were not covered with snow.
In order to find a more suitable and pleasing composition for my painting I had to keep moving further and further from the ski resort. In fact, I eventually moved so far from the resort that one can hardly see it in the picture. Since I wasn’t exactly enamored with the resort I personally didn’t mind it’s diminishment in the painting. And so I proceeded.
Unfortunately when the painting was unrolled for my boss to see it he was so angry at my departure from the agreed upon composition that he could not only not see the beauty of the piece but he also refused to pay me the balance of $200 more for the piece. He stopped short of demanding the deposit back but refused to take the painting. Fortunately I didn’t lose my job.
“My Cubist Crucifix Commission”
Oil on canvas
60” x 26”