Behind the Scenes

Originally, "Maman" was a painting intended as a large Mother's Day card. At this point, I was well on my way to completing it. From right to left, you can see the completed school photos of me and the first two of my four siblings. I was in the process of painting the photo of my eldest brother. My sister was next.

This was the original completed version of the painting "Maman". Like a greeting card, we were supposed to sign the painting in the white areas and present it to her on Mother's Day. It was heartbreaking for me to sand off the painted photos and put a basement background instead. I loved those photos.

Here I am posing for the pair of "Dysfunctional" paintings. This was taken in the stairs between the first and second floors of the house. I installed a spotlight at the base of the ladder. With the hot temperatures outside, it must have been well over 100 degrees in there. I was sweating profusely. I also ended up with a sore neck.

This is my brother posing in the reaper's black robe with my father holding the cross for the "Death Denied" painting. This is my somberest project to date because it dealt with my father's cancer at the time, and my brother, who posed for me in the robe, passed away four years later in 2004.

The cross (above photo) was made with pieces of wood that I found in my basement and it was attached to a chain that I bought at a hardware store. The skeletal hand (left) is a plastic model kit that I built and painted. Although bones are whiter in reality, I gave the hand a darker and more sinister look.

This is an in-progress shot of the painting "Claus". After the background is painted, his white silhouette is added. Next, the details are penciled in and the application of paint begins. At this stage, I have completed the face. The hair is next. The pieces of paper taped beside and below his face protects the surface of the board from my dirty and oily hand.
For the painting "Bus Stop", I had my parents get on their kitchen table and look down at the coin in his hand as I took pictures of them with a camera. It would have been next to impossible for a younger couple to keep this pose for a long period of time so you could imagine how difficult it would have been for a couple their age. It is for this reason that I relied heavily on photographs for this painting.

"Visions of Spain in a Paranoid Russia" was a tribute to Salvador Dali and it may explain why I did this painting in reverse. I painted the large background russian flag after painting most of the foreground objects.

As you can see above, I basecoated the large panel with red watercolor and then added the following objects in acrylics: the bread, basket, Nathalie, arms, knife, my father, flower, and fish. With the acrylics done, I painted the following objects in oils: the large Russian flag, wrench, glove, blood, wine glass, wine, barbed wire, bees, eyes, and shadows.

Most of the props for the painting were attached to cords and hung from the ceiling. This made it possible for me to meticulously place the objects exactly the way I wanted them to appear in the painting. To paint the eyes, I drew a couple of circles on a table tennis ball to represent the pupil and iris and then positioned the ball at a designated angle every time I wanted to paint its corresponding eyeball on the painting.

These are photos I took of Sophie for the "Crossroads" painting. She had bleached her hair white at the time. I changed her hair color to black in the painting. I asked her to pose in a 'cool' way, the way James Dean or the Fonz would be proud of. When Sophie leaned on the wall, I noticed the right part of her collar pop up and point away from her. She noticed this as well so she put the collar back down, but I thought it looked better with it up, so she put the collar back up. It was a great decision because it eventually played a part in the painting's narrative. This is the most exciting pose I have ever painted. The jacket is amazing. I like the way the zipper curves into the upturned collar. The jacket was a delight to paint. So much detail, texture, and highlights to capture. I like the way she is holding the helmet on her right hip, tucking the other hand in her left pocket, and curving her body ever so slightly. She nailed the pose. And how about the 'Peace' belt buckle with dove. Perfect. She was an incredible model. She was so calm and in total control when she posed for me, almost blase, exactly the way I wanted her to be perceived in the painting. That's what I like about the painting. What you see is what you get. She's a natural.
This is an early in-progress shot of the "Fusion" painting. Originally, I had the more ambitious idea of fusing the drum skin with both his hands and drumsticks. I actually finished that version but it looked rather awkward with all three elements turning white and morphing into one another. It looked like an unfinished painting. It just didn't work. I redid it fusing only the end of the drumsticks with the drum skin. There was also the question of whether I should include the drum stand and legs of his seat in the painting. I decided to omit these elements so I could further heighten a certain level of surreal intimacy between Marek and his drum.

1. Final painting, Miss Longueuil (below).
2. Final pencil sketch, 6 1/2" x 5" (right).

3. Time it took to do the painting.
33 x 25cm