"Between Coincidence and Providence: The Power of Destiny"
Stefan Kiefer, AD and friend at Der Spiegel asked me to do their New Year's cover. I worked up to Christmas day and sent it the day after. He wanted me to use a figure from Michelangelo,
Delphes Sylphide from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, but newly painted without the headband. The background, a starry sky whose stars make up and form the gears of a clock.
A stencil of each gear airbrushed on a blue gradations was the beginning of the process and then painting wet into wet, I began to paint the stars. Paint, fan, repaint, fan and so on until the sky looked like how the eye sees it. Faint stars blurry and close ones bright.
They printed it a bit juiced but I kind of like it. That's seems like the only way to get me to use bright colors. It's either that OR channel Staake, Enos or JD King.
Not bad when your reference is Michelangelo.
I get many jobs a year taking some well know old master image and twisting it in some way. They are always great learning experiences.
Sadly, I learned on the 26th of the unexpected passing of my portrait professor, Joe Funaro on Christmas Eve. I was asked by my painting teacher Robert Zappalorti to write a few words for his ceremony.
I came to Paier College in 1983 hoping to learn how to paint and perhaps make a living at it. This is nothing out of the ordinary other that I DID learn how to paint and I AM making a living doing it. Not only am I an illustrator, but I am known for my portraits.
The Paier College I attended was a GREAT experience. These instructors knew each other and in many cases were taught by each other. Bob Zappalorti, my first painting teacher and good friend still had a bit of that 'kid' in him in the mid eighties, but he shared stories of the kind of instructors he had as a Paier student. Of course they sounded far more demanding than any we had, all except for Joseph Funaro.
Joe was the real thing. He was a super serious and focused man and one of few words. To have had years of portrait classes under him is one of my life's great fortunes. He taught me the human from the inside out and then how to see it's varied colors. He did this with very few words.
I recall a typical interaction as this:
Joe standing behind me as I pushed paint around and tried to render my way forward on a portrait. He would then move to my shoulder and 'assume' my brush and turn my canvas over as I stepped aside. He would dip my muddy brush into the pool of equally muddy paint and draw a circle, then a jaw, then eye sockets and so on and so on. NO words were spoken but he would do a very basic drawing, tell you why he did it in one sentence, hand you the brush, and walk on. This may sound cruel, but it's not. It's actually very respectful of the student. He assumes you KNOW why you were going wrong and that this basic knowledge is just that important. For a hot shot like me, these lessons sunk in. I was determined not to have that happen again. They did and sadly would still to this day if he had access to my studio.
Joe Funaro taught me how to think of a portrait and his lessons provide me with great comfort as I teach my course at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, figurative illustration. With that course, I am allowed to do whatever I want.
After one or two weeks of life drawing I move on quickly to paint and then onto primarily portraits. Every week for six hours I am Joe Funaro, but with way more words and probably half as scary.
This is the highlight of my week.
Joe was an amazing painter and a powerful influence on my life and career.
My thoughts and condolences go out to his wife and family, both at his home and at Paier.
This is a portrait by Joe Funaro.
I repeat his lessons in every head I draw.
"Indicate the plane on the side of his nose."
"The white of the eye is not white!"
"Hair is made up of light and dark shapes."
"Don't over accentuate that fold or wrinkle, you'll make the model look old!"
I never got to tell him that I'm teaching a class based on what he taught me.
Call your teachers and professors today and let them know how much they meant.
Thanks for listening
I had the honor of painting his portrait this year for a Rolling Stone feature. I am a fair to poor dancer, but James Brown is so great, that if I'm listening to his groove, I FEEL like I'm dancing and looking cool doing it.
From the AP
"Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him. His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie's "Fame," Prince's "Kiss," George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" and Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" were clearly based on Brown's rhythms and vocal style.
If Brown's claim to the invention of soul can be challenged by fans of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, then his rights to the genres of rap, disco and funk are beyond question. He was to rhythm and dance music what Dylan was to lyrics: the unchallenged popular innovator."
This is the audio description of the assignment I posted previously.
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Cassius examines crumbs left by Santa Claus, a bite out celery from a reindeer
This particular holiday, for me, is filled with complexity. A life of surprises and disappointments not only for me but for all of us, can turn Christmas into a trip down sad-sack lane. I've been down that road; it's a dead end. The only other thing I could do was to submit to it.
Cassius has turned my whole life into an adventure. Sometimes a treacherous one, sometimes frustrating but mostly extremely entertaining. Christmas through his eyes is marvelous. I want him to love it and think of it as magical. Am I creating an expectation he will pine for someday rendering all his holidays as disappointing? I hope not. The job he and all of us have is to take stock and enjoy.
To my Drawger friends and lurkers, Happy Christmas. This community has been a wonderful addition to my life.
I hope you all have a great time.
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Why do I blame Ralph for the Iraq war?
Here is my Nader from a time long ago.
Having gone through a windshield after being hit by a drunk driver in 1981, I might not be typing this if it weren't for seat-belts.
So, I have a neutral opinion of the man.
I found him to be a fun portrait, though I don't think it looks much like him anymore. His eyes are more irregular now.
At Thanksgiving I visited my mom in Connecticut. It's the house I grew up in. When I stay there, I sleep in my old bedroom. My mother puts my old illustrations on the walls except for the Ben Gurion which I gave to her. Other than that, she has my early works all over the walls. Some things are still as I left them when I moved out. One funny remaining token of my youth is the door to my bedroom. When I was wild and angry, mostly at my brother, I would punch everything.
This door still bears the fist holes and I covered them at the time with a large press proof of a Brad Holland painting. I loved his work while I was trying to figure out what to do with my realism. Many early works were influenced by Brad's clean, clear ideas.
So this is the poster and below are the fist holes.
It all means something that it's still there, thought I can't figure out the significance. I do know mommy visits drawger and will be angry and my post.
I like the door just as it is. Across the hall is my brother's door, it was disfigures so badly that I had to replace it.
What a jerk I was.
But I wasn't always a jerk. This photo was given to me by my aunt. It's an amazing photo to me, because it's a place I visited every week until I was 21 or so when it was sold after my grandparents died. This is their kitchen. It's December 1969 and I'm there as well as my sweet grandmother in the center and my brother Dan is in the lower left. It's a Rockwell of a scene, a birthday and we are apparently about to eat cake number 2 judging by the dirty plates. I have been zooming into this scene and see all kinds of details; Budwieser beer, Ivory Soap, orange pull-top soda can on the table and all my sweet cousin's faces.