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The Highlights of 2013

All things considered, I’m pretty happy with the work I accomplished in 2013.  I wanted to focus more on painting, so I turned down more illustration gigs than I accepted this year and about that, I have no regrets.  Along with the daily editorial cartoons, I worked on a number of pet portrait commissions, added more Totem paintings to my portfolio and managed to squeeze in a couple of portraits of people, too.  Regardless of subject, each painting was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and as soon as I finished one, I was itching to start another.

If I were to choose the top three personal highlights of this year, they would be two portraits and one Totem.

MartinSheenAt the very end of 2012, my painting of Martin Sheen as Tom from the movie, The Way, had come to the attention of his son, Emilio Estevez, who wrote and directed the movie.  I had tagged him on Twitter, but didn’t really expect anything from it.  Much to my surprise, he contacted me the same morning asking about buying a print, then the original.   He said, “…the image is gorgeous and you have captured my father in a way that few have.”

Over the next few weeks of back and forth and having the canvas produced, it was delivered to Estevez at the beginning of February and he gave it to his father as a gift.   I had asked them both to sign a paper print for me as well, which I’ve now framed and have hanging in my office.   I was pleasantly surprised to later receive a copy of their co-written book ‘Along the Way,’ personally signed by both of them and a ‘Thank You’ note from Estevez.  The card is still tacked to my bulletin board.  What can I say, I’m a fan.

While the story received some attention in a number of media outlets, that sort of thing is fleeting and in the long run, just another blip in a rapidly changing entertainment news cycle.  But, what I enjoy most about the experience is that each time I come up the stairs into my office, the first thing I see is the signed painting and it frequently makes me smile.  It is still one of my favorite pieces both for the enjoyment I had painting it and the story that goes with it.  And I still love that movie.

ChrisHadfieldIn the Spring of this year, astronaut Chris Hadfield became the first Canadian to command the International Space Station.  With his daily tweets and seemingly endless supply of jaw dropping photos taken from a place few have ever been, he captured the imagination and excitement of the world, including me.  I was inspired to paint his portrait and was thrilled when I received a complimentary tweet from space from Hadfield himself.  If that weren’t enough, I drew an editorial cartoon about his taking command and in the toon, I mentioned Flin Flon, Manitoba.  This prompted an interview from that town’s local paper which again caught the attention of Hadfield and I received a second short message from the I.S.S..  Apparently all it takes to make a 43 year old man feel like a ten year old kid again is getting messages from an astronaut in space.  That was just cool.

CoyoteTotemFinally my favorite painting from this year was the Coyote Totem, because it’s one that’s been waiting to be painted for 20 years, even before I knew how to paint.  For reasons I don’t wish to share publicly, and couldn’t even explain if I did, this is the most personal of all of the Totems I’ve painted and the only one I’ve had printed on canvas and framed for myself.  It hangs in my office on the wall to my right, where I can easily see it.  I look at it often and it reminds me how fortunate I am and how I got from there to here.

I just wasn’t skilled enough to do it justice until this year, but of any image I’ve created, it’s the painting I love most.  And I’m grateful that the personality showed up.


I would like to give honourable mention to my most recent portrait of Anthony Hopkins as Bill Parrish from ‘Meet Joe Black.’  This was another personal painting because I did it just for me.  I started the year focused on a painting of a character and actor I admire, an image that got a lot of attention and ended the year with a painting of a character and actor I admire, an image that got very little.  And yet, I loved working on both portraits equally, the work itself brought me the most joy.

That’s the lesson I learned this year and the one I’m taking into the next.

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Anthony Hopkins – Portrait

BillParrishMy latest painting of the character William ‘Bill’ Parrish, played so brilliantly by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the film, ‘Meet Joe Black.’

I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy painting characters from movies, rather than just the actors who play them.  The primary reason is that I believe I can know characters, but despite what the tabloids would have us believe, I don’t know the actors who play them.  When Anthony Hopkins was filming ‘The Edge’ here in Canmore, however, he had a reputation of treating everyone he met with kindness and sincerity and is remember fondly around here, so I must confess, this one was also about painting the actor, simply because I like him and his work.

Meet Joe Black is a loose remake of ‘Death Takes a Holiday.’  Anthony Hopkins plays the role of Bill Parrish, a very wealthy man of character and presence who finds himself reluctantly playing tour guide for Death, played by Brad Pitt.  Knowing he is about to die and not having any real idea of how long he has to make peace with it, Hopkins expertly runs the gamut of emotions, with the character sworn to secrecy but trying to say his goodbyes, nonetheless.

The movie received mixed reviews, with criticisms that it was too long (the run time is just under 3 hours) and that it dragged in places.  As it is one of my favorite films, and I frequently disagree with critics, I’ve watched this movie a few times and have never been disappointed.  I believe the story lends itself to the slower pace and the movie contains a wealth of well played characters brought to life by a very talented cast.

ParrishCloseFor this portrait, I watched the film again and made notes in different places where the emotion of the character touched me most and I settled on six different possible references.  In the end, it came down to two, the final scene with Parrish dressed in a tux at his birthday party, or the scene when he is finally committed to accept his fate and tells Death that he is ready.  I chose the latter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this painting, listened to the musical score a few times while working on it and I was sorry to see it end, knowing I could have spent another week nitpicking every little detail and still not wanting to put it away.  But to quote Bill Parrish in his final line of the film. “Well that’s life. What can I tell you?”

For those artists who always like to know the technical details, the final size for this image is 15″X20″ at 300ppi.  Painted on a Wacom Cintiq 13HD and a Wacom Cintiq 24HD in PhotoshopCC.  Photos were only used for reference and the painting consists entirely of brush work.  No textures or photos were used in this image.  As for how long it took, I didn’t keep track, but I would guess about 10-15 hours.