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The Hamilton King Award 2009

FEBRUARY 7, 2009
The Scrum
Friday night, February 6th was the opening for the Editorial and Book portion of the Annual Exhibition at the Society of Illustrators. It was a great crowd filled with my heros and friends and as always, new faces. Many Drawger artists were in attendance and a few won medals. Edel Rodriguez won a silver and Adam McCauley won a gold. Marc Burckhardt won a medal too, but in Advertising and Institutional. Edel's parents were there and I got choked up watching Edel give some love and honor to his parents and their huge sacrifice to provide him a life of art and comfort. John Cuneo was the MC for the night and worth the price of admission alone. If Johnny Carson was still around he would surely get booked.
At the end of the award ceremony, Anelle Miller, the director of the Society, started her introduction to one final award. For the first time they were going to announce the Hamilton King Award at an opening. That award is given to an artist for the best piece in the whole exhibition by a member in a year. It's also kind of an award for a body of work through one's career. As Anelle spoke I thought of my conversation with her last week. I had a meeting with her and in it she asked me a variety of things about the exhibition and gala. As Vice President and ornery, I sometimes help weed through some issues. She asked if I had an opinion about when the Hamilton King Award is given. Should it be given at the gala or the Presidents' Dinner in June? I said, "Why not both?" It would be nice for the artist to get it in front of his peers AND also be able to have family and friends at the dinner and say something more prepared. She said that it seemed like a good idea and I left that meeting sure that it wasn't me who won.
So last night Anelle begins to talk of the winner. I prepare myself for disappointment all the time. When I get a big job I think about it not running and get my mind used to it. I usually hear of the Hamilton King Award winner in a meeting at the Society. I have always zoned out for a few minutes after hearing it. My thoughts are that it would be great to win this award but I don't do huge paintings or that my best stuff does not always get into the show or that I have too old a style to win favor. As Anelle gave the award's introduction I looked down to the lower gallery through the stairwell. I watched a woman's shoe as the spoke to another person. My preparation thoughts took over and I SNAPPED out of it when I heard her say that this year's winner was a portrait painter and illustrator. I call myself that, and she went on to read my bio. I turned to Elizabeth who had tears in her eyes. "IT'S ME? I won? You KNEW???" I kissed her and began to see people turn to me and smile. I won a few awards before and the way it goes is that you find out ahead of time. This was the first award given at the Society where the artist had no idea. I kind of decided that we would do it this way. Man, did I set myself a nice trap. As I walked to the stage I wanted to see people's faces, drinking in the moment. Smiles and pats on the back as I walked and weaved through the crowd. On the stage a screen was showing an image of me after the marathon holding my medal and looking kind of crazed. I'm sure the guy ON the stage looked even more crazed. I was given a stand in medal since I'll receive it at the President's Dinner.
The piece I won it for is titled "The Scrum" and it was done for the World Cup Rugby in Ireland. Someone said it was funny that I'm known for painting portraits but won this painting asses. So true. At least they're Irishmen. About this art I wrote earlier on Drawger:
"The final painting was quite unexpected. This was the one I was afraid of. "The Scrum" as it's described by Wikipedia is:" ...formed by the players who are designated forwards binding together in three rows. The scrum then 'engages' with the opposition team so that the player's heads are interlocked with those of the other side's front row. The scrum half from the team that did not infringe then throws the ball into the tunnel created in the space between the two sets of front rowers' legs. Both teams may then try to compete for the ball by trying to hook the ball backwards with their feet." "I knew they liked a low point of view and all I could think of was how hard this one was going to be. As it came together I could see that this one had real potential. I loved the final art. Ad jobs are usually very art directed and though the client may have chosen me because they like a certain work of mine, they have to sell soup, hot chocolate or cars. The Irish guys at the agency were terrific to work with and very supportive throughout. I've been an illustrator for 20 years and have done advertising jobs throughout. This has to be the most satisfying advertising painting I've ever done by far. It has to be an Irish thing."
On the stage I don't remember what I said but my heart was beating super fast and I was just so psyched to have won. I do remember saying that out there in front of me were all friends. Amazing. There is always a little talk about awards and if it is unseemly to write about them and announce them on websites and this blog. I am guilty as unseemly. I am so happy and blown away and HAVE to write about it. Thanks to everyone who sent me a text at the opening and e-mails all day. My friends make this career so much fun. Now onto Gary TaxaliGary Taxali who is at the Grammy Awards with his Grammy nomination for Aimee Mann's Album, '#@*$*&$ Smilers!'
A close-up of this piece. It ran as a billboard in Ireland.
Here I am at a loss for words.
Here is an Update.  Jessica at the Society sent these over.
I think I said something but I forgot what it was.
I was thrilled to see Mark English in the house. When I first walked through a Society of Illustrators gala legends were everywhere. Mark is a legend and super cool too.