Thursday, May 29, 2014
Portrait of Alan Cohen, M.D.
Painting a portrait is always a unique adventure. When I get a commission and I first meet the person I'm going to paint, I feel like I'm entering unknown territory. I might know a little about the person from an online biography or things people have told me, but nothing prepares me for the actual face-to-face meeting. When I first met Dr. Cohen we talked about his career, his life and family, and what he wanted in a portrait. As usual I was taking notes in my little black book while trying to really look at him and get a feeling for his personality. Since I'm not a multi-tasker, this can be really difficult because I have to switch between writing, listing, and observing at top speed.
I imagine that the experience of entering unknown territory is similar for the person being painted. Dr Cohen chose me as his artist, but that's just the beginning. He might have decided he liked my work from looking at photos of other portraits, but will he like how I paint him? And what's the process like? Most people only have their portrait painted once. So not only do they not know what to expect, but also they are feeling this is a big deal for them, and as an artist I have to keep those things in mind.
The commission is a partnership between the artist and the client. The client will tell me what he or she wants, and I have to take that into consideration. On the other hand, I am inspired to paint someone a certain way, and I have to follow my own inspiration. So you could say that both the artist and the "subject" have a responsibility to respect themselves and the other person. It's important that they continue to communicate through the entire process if the result is to be a success.
The portrait shows Dr. Cohen in his office with Buddy, the unofficial and beloved therapy dog. Behind him are several significant objects: a baseball, a photo of his granddaughter, and a globe which is rotated to show the location of his many travels. In his hand is an old VCR tape of "Hemo the Magnificent," the TV show he watched as a kid that inspired him to become a hematologist.