Q: You have sometimes spoken about your early work as a portrait artist. When and why did you start making portraits? Do you still do them?July 27, 2013
A: In 1989 I was a Naval officer working at the Pentagon and I hated my job as a computer analyst. Although it was terrifying to leave the security of a paycheck for the uncertainty of an artist’s existence, I made the leap. In retrospect it was one of the best decisions of my life. When I resigned from active duty (I remained in the Navy Reserve, which provided a part-time job and a small income; in 2003 I retired as a Navy Commander), I needed a way to make a living.
Prior to this career change, I worked hard to develop my portrait skills. I volunteered to run a life drawing class at The Art League School in Alexandria, VA, where I made hundreds of figure drawings using charcoal and pastel. I spent a semester commuting between Washington, DC and New York to study artistic anatomy at the New York Academy of Art. I spent another semester studying gross anatomy with medical students at Georgetown University Medical School. So I was well prepared to devote myself to making portraits.
For a time I made a living making commissioned photo-realist portraits in soft pastel on sandpaper. However, after about two years I became bored. I remember thinking, “I did not leave a boring job just to make boring art!” Furthermore, I had no interest in doing commissions because what I wanted to accomplish as an artist did not coincide with what portrait clients wanted. I completed my final portrait commission in 1990 and never looked back. To this day I remain loathe to do a commission of any kind.
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