For the past several months I have been working on commissions at Window Studio. My first was of the Michael family back in the fall. Then for Christmas, Carla commissioned a portrait of herself with her three sons – who happen to be the same ages as my sons – from a graduation photograph. Carla has a daycare center in her home around the corner, and I’d gotten to know her from last summer when she would bring the kids by on their way to and from the park. Many people in the neighborhood know Carla, including the kids who come to Window Studio for workshops, so they were excited to watch the progression of the portrait. I finished it just in time on Christmas Eve!
Next, Victor asked me to do a portrait of his brother and his (i.e. his brother’s) wife. I was struck by the chemistry between this couple in the small photograph that Victor left with me. I tried to paint them as a single whole, rather than two individual faces. While I was working on it Hassan, a tall gentleman from the shelter across the street came in on several occasions to watch me at work. He particularly liked the interconnectedness of the faces. Hassan was raised Muslim in one of the Bed-Stuy congregations though he says that he is not always as devout as he should be, his relationship with his wife is sometimes difficult, and he has no use for the pompousness and self-righteousness of some of the preachers. He was interested that I had lived in Jerusalem, the “Holy Land” to Christians, Jews and Muslims. We agreed that religion was more often used to divide the working class, just as race was, which is why I said I was now an atheist. He said he could understand that.
Then Mr. James, who back in the fall had commissioned a portrait of his wife on their wedding day, commissioned a second painting of his wife’s granddaughter on her graduation from college. It was almost done in time for New Years.
Next, I set to work on the more challenging portrait of Sonny and his three sons, ages 13, 12 and 6, when he stopped in with the boys after their visit to the barbershop. It has taken me a very long time, partly because the photos where taken on Sonny’s phone. (But I’ve enjoyed that in the picture the boys all have really short hair!) I have had to redo it several times though and the kids keep teasing me: “Aren’t you finished with that one yet!”
Eventually I had to put Sonny’s portrait aside for a bit to work on the portrait for Saul. He came in one of the many cold Sunday’s we had last winter to commission a portrait of the Rebbe of Bubov from a magazine of a large Hassidic wedding. I just completed it last week and Saul came to pick it up yesterday. Now back to Sonny and his sons! (You can see them in the background behind Saul.)