Sunday, December 29, 2013

A bittersweet success story

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a former client in Connecticut and asked to paint her cats, one of whom had recently died. I had painted portraits of her three daughters years ago when I lived and worked in New York.

I have painted people's pets before. Why not: I have three dogs and five cats myself and love them to bits. The trouble is capturing the spirit of an animal that means something really special to someone... from a photograph.

The most difficult portrait I ever was commissioned to paint was of a friend's brother. The trouble was that I would never meet the sitter because he had died, and even worse, the reason that my friend wanted a portrait of him was that he didn't have any good photographs of him. He had two Polaroids to give me to work from. One was blurred and completely useless. The other was in focus, but an awkward, cropped shot. I promised to try.

A week later, my friend stared at my painting for a long time, before nodding and saying quietly, "You got him."

The following Saturday, he drove the painting up to Massachusetts to present it to his parents for their wedding anniversary.

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