Current Work: 2001-2003 "No Job Is Too Small"

CURRENT WORK: 2001-2003

No Job Is Too Small

A mural commission can take a lot of time - too long sometimes. And there are instances when no mural commissions come your way. In the first case one simply gets bored, and on the second situation you simply run out of money. So, one must do what one must do to cure boredom or pay the rent.

If you are an artist of good reputation someone will call on you to contract your services. But chances are that the work being offered is not the kind of work you are accustomed to. Here I present to you a few of examples of the type of requests I am talking about.


Loading Image...The first one comes from a friend who years ago hired me to paint murals in his travel agency, Panorama Travel, in Lakewood Ohio. Vladan, that's his name (he is Serbian), likes collecting antiques. He had this fancy for a painting he had seen in a catalogue, a very lovely painting of a blue basket filled with baby chicks surrounded by daisies. The painting had been done in 1907. And Vladan wanted a copy made; the original piece was beyond his reach.

For those of you who do not paint I have to inform you that making a copy of another painting is an acquired taste that demands a great deal of skill. Not only is it necessary to imitate another artist's style, but one also has to imitate the brushstrokes and matched the colouring. In addition, it takes several times longer to do a copy of a painting (a good copy) than it would take me to do a mural 20 times its size.

As much as I cringed at having to do it, there was no way around it (I get travel discounts). Vladan wanted those chicks. Two years later the copy of the painting was completed. I assure you it is a twin of the original. I am now Vladan's best friend.


Loading Image...A business lady from Cleveland was considering ways to expand an interior decoration business specializing in faux paintings. She was searching for artists with an interest in working the commissions that she would negotiate. My art experience is somewhat more sophisticated and I had no real need for decorative work at that particular time.

However, she was prepared to promote her business at the Cleveland Home and Flower Show - a huge event, and wanted to have a sample of the type of commissions she wanted to attract. So she asked me to at least do a mural for her display. Being busy with the Gordon Theatre commission I politely decline, but she is a persistent lady.

She showed me a picture in Architectural Digest magazine of a beautiful Mogul style villa build in the West Indies. It had surf and palm trees - I hate painting palm trees! But the elaborately carved columns were attractive. This is the completed piece, which was painted during evening hours over a three-week period (a rush job).


Father Michael is a patron of the Italian Village Restaurant - he enjoys good food. He introduced himself while I was working on the Venice mural and I liked him immediately. If I were to cast a daytime soap opera and needed a hunky priest, I would cast him.

Father Michael was going to be officiating at a ceremony were young novices (I think that's how they are called, I could be wrong) are ordained as priests. He explained to me that during the ceremony the novices have a type of linen 'scarf' with the symbols of their particular priestly orders painted at the ends. These scarf (which, incidentally, are made by nuns) are given to the mothers of the new priests as keepsakes of great significance.

Well, father Michael needed the symbols of the orders painted on the scarf. They were four in number. I have been at St. Peter's in Rome and blessed by the pope, but I am not Catholic (I follow no religion) nor have I any real clue about the traditions of the church. But I understood father Michael's predicament and I agreed to do the paintings, four images per scarf, as you can see below.

Loading Image... Loading Image...

Father Michael was very pleased with the results and so was I. The scarfs are about 6 inches wide. Painting on linen is akin to painting on a sponge so one has to have patience, especially since the process has to be repeated again to complete them all. I used acrylic paint for airbrush work because they have the fluidity of ink.

Hmm. I rather enjoyed doing it. I kept breaking out in laughter thinking about what would a catholic friend of mine, who is convinced I have a free pass to hell, think if she could see me -painting saints? Actually, she is a real sweetheart, and I confess I could use her moralizing influence.


Loading Image...My good friend Bruno Casiano called me one evening and asked if I would do a portrait commission for a friend, Mr. Seda Ergun. Bruno is an excellent artist himself and owns a fine gallery but portraiture is my forte and he thought I would be better suited for this job. I told him that if given enough time I might do it since I was busy painting at the Gordon Theatre. He assured me I had a couple of months so I made arrangement for the client to meet with me at the Theatre.

Mr. Ergun is an engineer and Environmental Project Manager with the URS Corporation in Cleveland. He is also a very intelligent person with a romantic side who wanted to surprise his wife with a painting of their beautiful daughter. Mrs. Ergun is from Puerto Rico like myself, so Seda and I hit it off sharing stories about his visits to Puerto Rico and my adventures in Washington D.C. with some Turkish diplomats (Seda if of Turkish heritage).

From that point on what we needed to do was to have his daughter come to the site so that I could light her properly and shoot some pictures for reference. I always insist in photographing the models myself because that way I get to meet with them. This way I can ascertain the exact colour of their eyes and hair, complexion and so on, which is very difficult to perceive from photographs.

Photographing the model also gives me the opportunity to talk to them and get a sense of their personality. All this helps tremendously when doing a portrait because I get the feeling that I am actually dealing with a real person. As I work on a portrait I simply imagine myself applying makeup to an actual face.

Seda's main requested was that I use no sombre colours and that I included something that reflected his heritage in the painting. So later on I did some research on Turkish art to find some examples of traditional Turkish colours and motifs. The research was quite revealing for the fact that Turkish people are nuts about tulips! The Dutch were so fascinated with the flowers that they imported them from Turkey and also made them a national symbol.

Once I had the information I needed, I proceed to I designed and painted an outfit of Turkish design on the portrait with the appropriate motifs. The gold thread design on the pink undergarment is a reproduction of a motif from a tunic that used to belong to Suleiman the Magnificent, the greatest Turkish Sultan of all time (the garment is part of a museum collection). Seda was extremely pleased with this choice and with the painting.

Some time later I receive a wonderful letter from Mrs. Ergun telling me how surprised and delighted she was with her surprise gift and how much she enjoys the painting. Normally I don't get attached to my work. Once a painting is completed I tend to move on and forget about. But Mrs. Ergun's words were so moving and genuine that they made me look back and reflect on how special a work of art can be when there's a sentiment of love behind it.