Sometime around the middle of December, I finished painting a portrait of Martin Sheen. More accurately, the portrait was of his character, Tom, from the movie The Way, written for the screen and directed by his son, Emilio Estevez. While the painting was done purely for my own enjoyment, sometimes a seemingly innocent pursuit will take on a life of its own. Since the movie inspired me to paint the portrait, as did their father/son memoir ‘Along the Way,’ I wrote about that when I posted the painting. Click here, if you’d like to read it.
As is my practice, I posted the link on social media and also tagged Estevez’s account on Twitter, especially since he has used that vehicle to promote the film. I thought that if he saw it, he might like what I wrote and painted, but didn’t actually expect anything to come of it. Twitter is a busy place and it’s impossible to keep up, so a lot more gets missed than noticed.
Imagine my surprise when just a couple of hours later on that same Saturday, an email arrived from Estevez via my website. He thanked me for my support of the film and then asked about buying a print, with the intent of giving it to his father for Christmas. With just five business days remaining, I had to tell him that even a rush job would have been impossible by the 25th, especially considering that I’d want to be meticulous about the proofing, given the recipient. I told him I’d be happy to set things in motion in January, if he was willing to wait. He was very gracious, completely understood, and we began talking about it again after the holidays.
In the meantime, his mother had seen the painting and wanted him to inquire about buying the original. Here’s the technology hiccup when you start talking originals and digital painting. A digital painting exists only on a hard drive and screen until it’s printed, so there really is no original in the traditional sense. One solution is to supply documentation that certifies a specific print to be the original. Mine are always printed on canvas and I gave Emilio the option of choosing the size. After a month of proofing, printing, signing, and packaging, the original 18″X24″ stretched canvas shipped last Friday. I also certified the canvas itself by writing the title of the piece and an additional signature on the back. Incidentally, until all of this occurred, I hadn’t titled this painting, but decided it needed one before it shipped. Yesterday, “Tom’s Road” arrived at Martin’s home.
The reason for this piece in the first place was to take a small break from the commercial work, as every image I’ve created lately has been a product. The whole point was to get away from everything being about money and marketing, if only for a moment. I wanted to paint my best portrait work, for no other reason than that. I am a commercial artist, no doubt about it, and I make a good living at it. This is my business, my livelihood, and my career. But this piece was special, inspired by a movie I loved, which was, in a way, a light at the end of a tunnel. My gut instinct told me that to try and make money from this would have tainted the whole experience, something that was worth much more to me than a paycheque. So, when Emilio asked to buy the original, I chose not to put a price on the work, but still offered the painting, charging only my printing and shipping costs.
Sometime in the near future, I’ll be receiving a paper print that I’ve asked them to sign. I’ll have it framed for my office, a souvenir of the experience, and a constant reminder that I must make time for personal work. I’ve also asked Emilio to have Martin sign one more print, something I can reserve for a charity auction sometime in the future. He was happy to oblige, and you can bet that I’m going to be very picky about which cause benefits from this unique item.
There is no doubt in my mind that had I attempted to orchestrate any of this, had I painted the portrait with the intention of bringing about these events, none of it would have happened. I created this portrait for me, to remind myself why I paint, and since I truly enjoyed working on it, that was enough. But to have it appreciated by his family, was a wonderful and unexpected bonus, not to mention a validation of my recent choices.
If all that weren’t enough, the greatest compliment I received was something offered by Estevez in one of his e-mails this past month. He said, “…the image is gorgeous and you have captured my father in a way that few have.”
It just doesn’t get much better than that.