Mr. Seda Ergun's daughter

"A lovely gesture"

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 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 Square Theater (see The Gordon Square Ceiling Mural on the Murals page). He assured me I had a couple of months so I made arrangement for the client to meet with me at the Theater.

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 I am, 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 color of their eyes and hair, complexion and so on, which is very difficult to perceive from photographs.


Mr. Seda Ergun's daughter. 2001. Artist's oils on canvas.

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 colors 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 colors 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.

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