Secret Room

Originally, "Maman" was a painting intended as a large Mother's Day card. At this point, I was well on my way to completing it. From right to left, you can see the completed school photos of me, my brother Larry, and my brother Willie. I was in the process of painting the photo of my brother Dennis. My sister Frances was next.

This was the original completed version of "Maman". Just like a greeting card, we were supposed to sign the painting in the white areas and present it to her on Mother's Day. It was heartbreaking for me to sand off the photos and put a basement background instead. It angered me. I loved those photos. I'm still saddened by it.

This is where Steeve (yes, that's Steeve with 3 e's!) and Nadine posed for the pair of "Dysfunctional" paintings. Close personal friends, it was hard for them to keep a straight face while posing. Wielding a samurai sword can be dangerous so I attached a small ball of duct tape to the tip of the blade to protect them from serious injury.

Here I am posing for the pair of "Dysfunctional" paintings. This was taken in the stairs between the first and second floors of the house. I installed a spotlight at the base of the ladder. With the spotlight and hot temperatures outside, it must have been well over 100 degrees in there. I was sweating profusely. I also ended up with a bit of a sore neck.

My brother is posing in the reaper's black robe while my father is holding the cross for the painting, "Death Denied". This is my somberest project to date because it dealt with my father's cancer at the time, and my brother, who posed for me in the robe, passed away in the spring of 2004. This is the basement where "Maman" was set.

The cross (above photo) was made with pieces of wood that I found in my basement and it was attached to a chain that I obtained at a hardware store. The skeletal hand (left) is a plastic model kit that I built and painted. Although bones are whiter in reality, I gave the hand a darker and more sinister look. After all, we are talking about death here.

This is an in-progress shot of the "Claus" painting. Basically, after the background is painted, his white silhouette is added. The details are penciled in and then the paint is applied. Here, the face is completed and the hair is next. You can see the penciled markings in the hair. Capturing the essence and likeness of the person through the face is the most important step in a painting. Without a dead on likeness, there's no reason to continue. The pieces of paper taped around the face protect the surface of the board from dirt and oily hand residue.
For the painting "Bus Stop", I had my parents get on their kitchen table and look down at the coin in his hand as I took pictures of them with a camera. It would have been next to impossible for a younger couple to keep this pose for a long period of time so you could imagine how difficult it would have been for a couple their age. It is for this reason that I relied heavily on photographs for the basic forms and then asked them to pose in more comfortable positions later on. For instance, I sat my father in a chair and positioned the lighting similar to what you see above, the way the sun would hit him if he were in a kneeling position.

"Visions of Spain in a Paranoid Russia" was a tribute to Salvador Dali and it may explain why I did this painting in reverse. I painted the large background russian flag after painting most of the foreground objects.

As you can see above, I basecoated the large panel with a red watercolor and then added the following objects in acrylics: the bread; basket; Nathalie; arms; knife; my father; flower; and fish. With the acrylics done, I painted the following objects in oils: the large Russian flag; wrench; glove; blood; wine glass; wine; barbed wire; bees; eyes; and shadows.

Most of the objects in the painting were attached to cords and hung from the ceiling. This would make it possible for me to meticulously position the objects exactly the way I wanted them to appear in the painting. Having this painting set up in three dimensional form helped in reassuring me that it would be balanced before ever having to lay the first brush stroke. To paint the eyes, I drew a couple of circles on a table tennis ball to represent the pupil and iris and then viewed it from different angles. Below, Here I am with Sophie (from the paintings, "Crossroads", and "Fear") standing in front of the painting.

On the left is the exquisite Nathalie. I took a picture of her after she finished posing for the "Visions..." painting. She is the epitome of femininity. How can one describe her in one word? Hmmmm..., so many words to choose from. How about, "splendid"! Yeah, that sounds good.

Below are pictures I took of Sophie while she was posing for the "Crossroads" painting. She had bleached her hair white at the time. She looks very sexy with white hair. Actually, I'm sure she looks sexy in any hair color! I changed her hair color to black in the painting. I asked her to pose in a "cool" way, a way James Dean or The Fonz would be proud of. I had Sophie lean on my studio wall. When leaning on the wall, I noticed the right part of her collar pop up and point outwards. She noticed this as well so she put the collar back down but I thought it looked better with it up so we went with it up. It looks like an index finger pointing away from her.

This is the most exciting pose I have ever painted. The jacket is simply amazing. I like the way the zipper curves into the upturned collar. I like the way she combines holding the Netherlands army helmet with the tilt of her hips. Sexy! On the other side, we have her left gloved hand in her pocket with the wrist strap hanging down. This subtil left side counterbalances the more exciting right side. And how about the "Peace" belt buckle with dove. Perfect. Magical. She was an incredible model. She was so calm and in total control when she posed for me, almost blasť, exactly the way I wanted her to be perceived in the painting. That's what I like about this painting. What you see is what you get. She's a natural.
This is an early in-progress shot of the "Fusion" painting. Originally, I had the ambitious idea of fusing the drum skin with both the drumsticks and hands. I actually finished that version but it looked rather awkward with all three elements turning white and morphing into one another. It looked like an unfinished painting. It just didn't work. That's when I decided to undo the fusing of the hands with the drumsticks and limit the fusion to only the drumsticks and drum skin. The end result is perfectly sublime. Sometimes you have to know when to stop. There was also the question of whether I should include the drum stand and legs of his seat in the painting. I decided to omit these distracting elements so I could further heighten the intimacy between Marek and his drum.

1. Final painting, Miss Longueuil (below).
2. Final pencil sketch, 6 1/2" x 5" (right).
3. Time it took to apply paint.
33 x 25cm