Tim OBrien
December 2007
George Mitchell
George Mitchell. Looking back at this now, I made his jacked a bit soft and frumpy. I am more aware of such sartorial issues in 2007
Several years ago a series of events made it possible for me to meet and have dinner with former Senator George Mitchell. It was 1999 and I was illustrating full time and training boxers at the Y in Brooklyn. One student was a young woman who was really nice and seemed genuinely interested in learning how to box. I had a large group that I was working with and would spar with them upwards of 15 rounds non-stop. I was loving it. Illustration was also firing on all cylinders and I had done many Time covers and other prominent assignments. Unknown to me this young woman was a writer and was writing an article for the NY Times about my dual passion. She interviewed many people for the article and when it came out, it was great. Out of that I received a huge portrait commission I think because the writer wrote that I had a shamrock tattoo and was 'proudly Irish.' I think because of THAT comment and the quirky nature of my life and career, I was contacted by Irish American Magazine and told that I was named one of 100 top Irish Americans and would I do the cover? I accepted the honor and did a portrait of Senator Mitchell who had just helped push through the peace accord in Northern Ireland. I worked from reference and poured my soul into it. There was a gala on St. Patrick's Day and my wife and I went. I was briefly separated off into a room with the winners. I had a some Irish whiskey with an amazing circle of people; Frank and Malachy McCourt and Pete Hamill and Maureen Dowd just to name a few. I was one of the more civilian choices that year. Conan O'Brien was the famous O'Brien. After that we entered the ballroom where chairs were in rows before a stage and a HUGE reproduction of the cover. I was recognized from the audience as the artist and it was a blast. After it was over and we moved to a dinner, George invited my wife Elizabeth and I to have dinner with him and his wife. He was gracious and curious and talked about being a new father and the joy of that. He commented that he loved the portrait. I sent the piece to the Mitchells and have received a nice Christmas card from them every year. I was inspired to post this tonight after reading of Mr Mitchell in the NY Times and his work with the steroid investigation and report. Not only did he seem to do a thorough job with the investigation but upon releasing it on Thursday, offered this sage advice to Selig: "He recalled his time in Northern Ireland when he recommended that the players named in the report not be punished by Selig, except in the most serious cases. The transgressions are several years old, and more than half of those implicated are no longer active, he said. �I learned that letting go of the past and looking to the future is a very hard, but necessary, step toward dealing with an ongoing problem,� Mitchell said." Letting go of the past and looking to the future IS hard but it's the key to a happy life.
George Mitchell, Elizabeth, his wife Heather, and a more full faced me.
December 8th
My favorite Lennon look.

powered by ODEO Music reaches the memory in a powerful way for me. When I was about 14 or 15 I was forging ahead in my life, starting to mature and figure out who I was. The loss of my father at 9 was not hurting me anymore and with that, the memories of him faded. It's a survival tool to forget. It's as if the mind packs things away so you can move about the world without tripping on the clutter (insert messy studio joke here). At 15 I was lifting weights, hitting my speedbag, riding my 10 speed around, and thinking about girls, or in my case, Jennifer. Not much else got into my head. One afternoon I was hanging out with my friend lifting weights in his basement when he put on a scratchy Beatles album (for those under 30, 'Album' refers to LP records; the large circular discs the size of a dinner plate that you put on a record player). All the songs were familiar but it was 'Because' that resonated. I remember how my day was stalled in thought. My father played Abbey Road and perhaps that was the last time I remember him playing music. Dad flooded back into focus; his beard, his voice even the feeling of hanging on him in a swimming pool. The sound of Abbey Road still gives me a deep sadness. In college as I began to sit at an easel for long periods of time, music was my airplane and allowed me to travel to new places or old ones. John Lennon was the most honest and thoughtful artist I listened to and for me, in that time, I found each new Lennon album for the first time. Music is great like that as it waits for you to discover it and experience it like it's 1963, 1971 or 1980. On December 8th, 1980 John was killed. I wrote last year of my reaction to that event. Lennon remains a large figure in my world. Thanks to another Lennon fan, Stephen Kroninger, I have many more recordings of John this year. Of particular interest are demos. I like hearing the process and some of these official and unofficial releases reveal the genius as it evolves. This song is particularly raw and honest. Enjoy.
Hugo Chavez
Hugo Chavez
A recent assignment that I'm dying to show is this portrait of Hugo Chavez. The request was to paint Hugo as Simon Bolivar, who was was one of the most powerful figures in world political history, leading the independence movement for six nations, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia and liberating them from the rule of Spain. Hugo Chavez is the left wing President of Venezuela and with Venezuela's large oil reserves, has the cash to influence the region. That largesse, coupled with Latin America's sharp antiglobalization mood, is helping a stunning number of leftists win or lead in Latin presidential elections today. However, power is a difficult thing to have. Some choose to lead and some chose to rule. Chavez wants to rule. This weekend Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lost a tight vote in a referendum on giving him new powers and scrapping term limits on his left-wing rule. The "no" camp won 51 percent of the vote, compared to the pro-Chavez "yes" camp's 49 percent. Chavez conceded defeat, calling the vote "a photo finish," and saying he didn't want to subject the country to further tension. "To those who voted against my proposal, I thank them and congratulate them," Chavez said. The Venezuelan president claimed there were "microscopic differences" between the "yes" and "no" options on the referendum and hinted that he might try again, saying, "We could not do it, for now." Had the referendum passed, Chavez would have been allowed to run for re-election indefinitely, control Venezuela's foreign currency reserves, appoint loyalists over regional elected officials and censor the media if he declared an emergency. Chavez has said he wants to rule for life and turn Venezuela into a socialist state. But the defeat will likely put the Cuban ally under intense pressure to slow or halt his self-declared socialist revolution and step down when his term ends in 2013. That two percent difference was a big difference. Every vote counts.
A portrait of the legendary leader, Simon Bolivar (I don't know the artist)
The approved sketch. I liked it but hoped to juice the color a bit to mimic the vibrancy of the Simon Bolivar piece.
A close up. I loved painting his face. Corpulent and colorful.
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