|"Today I am grateful that
the hurdles I faced only
made me stronger as I
pursued the dream of
human imagery and all the
beauty of nature on my
Although my work was first published when I was a four-year-old
kindergarten student, I can't say that I was aware of this. But this I do
remember. That drippy watercolor running down the front of my easel in the
classroom frustrated me. I wanted to be able to control my paint.
As I advanced to the superior medium of colored pencils in the third grade, I
couldn't constrain myself from rushing through the required lessons to make
time to respond to the beautiful faces around me. Thus, as an eight-year-old,
I did my first portraits by looking across the aisle at some of the prettier girls
in my class. This was the beginning of a personal quest to pursue and record
the beauty and dynamics of personality and expression.
It was an odyssey fraught with obstacles. In elementary school, the primary
source of discipline was to cancel the art program, which consisted of a mere twenty minutes once
per week. I went on to attend a high school whose mission was to prepare students for the rigors
of a university education. While studying such subjects as Latin and advanced science and math, I
longed for an art program, which was not offered. The dearth of an opportunity to pursue my
passion made me all the more hungry for it.
I soon realized that I must develop my artistic abilities
and decided I would apply to art school after I earned
my high school diploma. However, I knew that I would
be far behind others who had had the benefit of art
instruction throughout their school career. I had no
choice but to teach myself. Therefore, equipped with
sketch pad and pencils, I got on the bus and headed to
the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee where I
spent my high school summers doing twelve drawings
a day of a variety of people who were willing to pose
for me. After three summers of this, I could draw the
face in any position, especially reclining. I remember the comment of one young Italian visitor. He
talked about the “expressiones,” remarking that my work had expression, which usually was
absent in the art work he had viewed. His simple words confirmed that I was indeed striving and
often succeeding to express artistically the dynamics and subtlety of each person I chose to
portray. During this time, I did not accept money for my work and retained every drawing that I
When I arrived at art school, it at first seemed like heaven. The opportunity to draw for eight hours
per day filled the void left by my previous schools with a pursuit that was exactly designed for me.
However, after completing the first year foundation course, I found myself in a painting department
where the emphasis was on innovation and producing “modern art.” To buck the tide and to paint
realistically was something my instructors refused to encourage or support. Instead, they actively
tried to dissuade me, telling me repeatedly to “loosen up” and
to paint in a more non-objective and abstract manner. They
also informed me that only a handful of artists in the entire
country could make a living at portrait art. My considered
response to this bleak outlook was that I would soon be the
sixth, or that my opening would come with the demise of one
of the five.
While attending four years of art school, I earned my tuition by
spending each summer drawing portraits of passengers on the
clipper ship that ran between Milwaukee and Muskegon,
Michigan. Here I did twenty drawings per day, four days per week, each a mere half hour sitting.
While this opportunity provided invaluable experience drawing thousands of faces from life, I
always longed to dwell on each face long enough to produce a breathtaking masterpiece.
My opportunity came when I made my first easel and
invited friends and relatives to pose in my basement
studio. I found that oil paint had unlimited potential,
and that my real teachers were the models who posed
so many long hours. Thus began my lifelong,
unwavering pursuit to produce lasting images. For
every hour spent, potentially centuries of people could
appreciate my labor of love. I also devoted myself to
the study of skeletal and muscular anatomy, in addition
to my art school courses. While still in school, I
accepted my first commission. For the first seven years
of my career, I insisted that every subject pose for his
or her portrait. This background of working strictly
from life taught me to portray each person with depth and three-dimensionality.
As I perfected and defined my painting ability, on the side, I played with photography. Eventually, I
raised my quality and understanding of the photographic media enough to eliminate the need for
the model's posing sessions. I also took it upon myself to master the craft of framing so that I could
maintain direct involvement in every aspect pertaining to the final installment of the grand
portrait. I consider everything I do to be monumental in a quiet way.
After serving the Milwaukee and Chicago area for more than a decade, seeking a new challenge, I
moved to Cleveland in 1975. That year I also married my wife, Karen. In the years that followed,
we were blessed with three daughters and a son, three of whom still live in the area. We also have
three grandsons. Cleveland has been good to us in many ways. As in Milwaukee, my work received
immediate acceptance and support. While private families have always been the mainstay of my
clientèle, in recent years, an increasing number of corporate concerns and educational institutions
have chosen to honor their presidents, CEOs, or alumni with one of my portraits. I am also honored,
as a living artist, to have 145 paintings in the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame in St.
Louis, a creative venture that has spanned over three decades of my career.
Of course, painting portraits of breathtaking quality alone is only part of the equation. Serving my
customers and working with them every step of the way to produce a masterpiece that they will
treasure is of tantamount importance as we work together to complete this satisfying landmark in
It was in Cleveland, too, that the opportunity to convey the
depth of my knowledge about portrait art opened up for me.
In 1983 I established the Westlake School of Portraiture to
train and encourage a new generation of artists.
Today I am grateful that the hurdles I faced only made me
stronger as I pursued the dream of creating outstanding
human imagery and all the beauty of nature on my canvases.
Having completed forty years enriching the planet with my
artwork, I remain thrilled by any canvas that is real, natural,
and awesomely three dimensional with rich color and the
dynamics of excellent composition. This appreciation has not waned but has grown and developed
over the decades. Looking back on art history, I find that I am not alone, for the tradition of realism
has always been there. The “isms” that make up the art world come and go, but the realist pursues
excellence, and others have always supported that inspiration. I consider myself privileged to be
counted among them.
© Artist's works, scans and web design protected by copyright.