Portrait of Ron Lemen, Oil on Canvas, 16x20, Fall 2006
Ron and I have known each other since we were kids. We have painted each other’s portrait a ton of times, but to describe the past 25 years of knowing him would take far too long here in this blog. Regarding this particular portrait, maybe it should be noted that in the many years that we’ve known each other, I have rarely, if ever, seen him look scared or unsure. (The one other time that comes to mind is when he asked me to his senior prom in high school, but that look was less intense than the look in this portrait and he didn’t have any sideburns or facial hair then). At this particular moment in our lives, there were some major changes happening in our surroundings that brought about a different set of feelings than we were used to in our 5 years of marriage. In hindsight, it’s easier to say that it was during this time that we were beginning to better understand that even though we had known each other for that amount of time, there were still things about each other that we did not know yet. This was a turning point in terms of understanding and compassion for our differences as individuals, and how that understanding helped us grow as a married couple and support each other as we continue to grow as individuals at the same time. This portrait of Ron and the self portrait (see the Self Portrait post below) represent a wonderful and empowering self-discovery and evolution that we were both encountering. I have heard so many different types of descriptions of the emotions we wear on our faces in these portraits – contemplative, sad, worried, scared, nervous, thoughtful, insecure, unsure – and it makes me happy to know that the subtle storytelling in these portraits is evident, even if the comments are meant as criticism. I have also over the past few years, began to understand that negative reactions are just as important as positive reactions, and in this case, the viewer who says “it doesn’t look like you (or him)” might mean that they don’t usually see us in this light, but rather in a more positive light, and these portraits seem off to them. This kind of reaction is exactly the reaction that would make sense, and the impact that it made is the more important issue to pay attention to. I since have new ideas for portraits of us that would show us in a much different light, and I am gaining more confidence to speak with even less subtlety than I have been in previous work. Without the challenging moments and without speaking of them through my paintings, I would not be able to truly recognize the importance of that. These two portraits currently hang side by side in the back room of our new business, Studio 2nd Street. This studio is our baby, spawned from a lifetime of our experiences. The main room in front is filled wall to wall with incredible work that our students have produced and that we are so honored and proud to showcase. (when you click on the image below, scroll left to right too...and just fyi, you can click on all of the images on this blog to see them larger)... At the opening of our studio a year ago, there was a man who was very insistent on buying the portrait of Ron. As flattering as this was, I let him know that this portrait is not for sale. (It was a gift to Ron, and anyway, I don't think I have to explain why it's not for sale really).
...and this is how he reacted...
“You don’t want to sell your work?!”
There are many things I could say back to this comment. At that time I think I told him “you’ll have to fight my husband for it.”