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 did.
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
© Artist's works, scans and web design protected by copyright.