A Portrait as a Wedding Gift

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Many artists shy away from doing portraits, preferring not even to try to capture an emotion, a mood, or a moment as it flickers across a human face. Portraits abound on the living room walls of a Marion home owned by a brave, self taught portrait artist and his wife. His prized piece is called "Faces," a huge montage of the faces of an American tap dancer, an actor a scientist, the composite between three famous comedians, the traditional cast members of a long running science fiction TV series, a former TV reporter, various rock stars, athletes and entertainers, and his friends. The process starts by capturing a frame from a video, from which he gets all sorts of expressions. Only people who touched his life during the year and a half he spent painting the montage were included.

Then he has other portraits, individual ones, of the lead singer of Babes in Toyland, a Russian gymnast, and a songwriter. His favorite tools are pencil, graphite, and charcoal. Conte crayon and colored pencil pieces were next. The subjects of his first work in colored pencil were himself and his wife, a native of Kobe, Japan. He mixed and matched American and Japanese wood block print styles. He drew his own version of their close up wedding photo, taken in City Hall in December 1996, with personal and Japanese symbols as an added touch.

Though not present at the actual wedding, he included their three cats. Because it is known to ward off evil spirits, he drew a Japanese opera mask on the face of the first cat. In order to attract good luck, he drew the second cat in the position of luck.

Kimonos are the outfit of the day for the couple in the drawing. He decorated his wife with the kikyo flower, which is her matriarchal symbol. He drew a gingko tree outside the room, behind the vertical blinds, past the third cat. The University of Iowa has a tree that inspired the gingko, a sing of longevity.

In fact, the couple first collaborated on this 1997 drawing. He delegated brainstorming and testing to his wife. The drawing is their prized possession, according to the wife. He says he would like to see his art evolve more into landscapes, but with people in them because that's what he likes to draw the most.

It doesn't matter that his pieces have not been exhibited, because four have found their way into books and one on the cover. It was a staff member who pushed his artwork to the book editor. The editor emailed him to praise his work for its color, shading, composition, combination of portraiture and architecture, intelligence, humor, and complexity. Whereas action heroes and rock stars were his primary subjects as a child, his present subjects are much more complex. His skills are so refined that he can portray on paper any image or impression. Anything he sees, he enhances with his own changes.

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