Saturday, December 5, 2015

Why do I have to die to be seen?

Don't get it twisted, I have no suicidal inclinations! I'm an artist and I live to create life. But don't wait until I'm dead to see me.  And read this article in the NY Times. I remember having to seek out Black art history while I negotiated a white dominant discipline.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I Still Paint....As Black Men Die

There's no explanation for why this paintings is still in progress. No deadlines are looming and retirement is less than 35 working days away. I was down with the flu last week and thought the time home would motivate me but it didn't. Too much negative news in the media involving Black men and the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago is discouraging. Today I painted because I needed to paint. Under painting is relaxing too. I hope the month of December will be productive and no one dies. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

CMN 340 Visual Politics

This is the final two weeks of (In)Visible Men at the YMCA. I received this wonderful note from an instructor in a communications class at the U of I who attended the show with a class. I appreciate the feedback.

Mindless Monochromatic Meandering

Spent the evening with the men. Progress is slow since my deadlines are my own. It was very relaxing to sit at the easel this evening. I had lower braces placed Tuesday so the distraction from mouth issues were welcomed. Sucking on pretzels is the only way to eat them. Almonds are out of the question. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Three Gentlemen

As I was sketching Shawn, Rodney, and Mashawn on the canvas today I reflected on the thought that these men wanted to be seen. They sought me out. I'd been attracted to Mashawn for more than a year. He's Hatian and his size betrays his attitude. He's a very humble man. He stopped by the office with Rodney and Shawn. I had never met the others but I was surprised when Rodney shared he was a graphics major. No information on Shawn yet but I loved his indifference when we took the pics and his stare into the distance in contrast to Rodney and Mashawn's gaze. Yogi will have to wait. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Deidre's Acquisition

I'm so proud of Deidre. She was 12 years old when her parents reproduced Mother Africa in 1994 as a limited edition. 21 years later she became the owner of the original. I'm going to miss that painting but I know it's in good hands.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Dark Horse

Dark Horse is the brand of cigarettes in Yogi's shirt pocket. I noticed the label as I was completing the sketch on the canvas. The warm pinks in the background is to duplicate his sunburned skin. When I was sketching his sweat strewn clothes and hat I could still smell the stench and the irony that I found him going to the laundromat with a cart loaded with clothes. 

I met three students this week that I invited to join the (In)Visible Men. I asked Shaun to bring his friends by my office next week to chat. I may be working on these simultaneously. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015


I'd seen Yogi on Constitution Trail over the years and he'd always say hello when I'd pass him either running or biking. And I'd always want to hear his story. Since I'd planned to do a series of portraits of homeless people I knew Yogi would be a part of the series. I finally ran into him as I was driving on Clinton Avenue. He was pushing a grocery cart filled with laundry despite being unbathed himself. I stopped and this was when I learned his name and invited him to model for a painting which he obliged.

I'm taking a short break from the (In)Visible Men to explore (In)Visible People. Yogi's sunburned skin inspired this first layer of coral pink. If you look closely you can see the first sketch of Jonathan when his portrait was originally intended to be a single portrait. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"I thought you had forgotten me!"

These were Aaron Spiller's words when I ran into him in the concourse returning from his summer break. I had not seen him since he posed for the painting and we're not Facebook friends. He was totally unaware that I'd completed his painting so we walked to my office to show him on my iPad. When I opened the pic his face glowed and you knew "he had been seen." I didn't want to take a pic of him today because I wanted to save the memory for myself.

Irma from Michael's called as I was doing my stair workout to say the frame for Jonathan and Nate was complete and how impressed she was with the piece. She asked if she could watch me paint. A year and a half ago we were total strangers on different paths and our trajectories intersected changing our lives forever.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Champaign will be seeing Black men!

I received an invitation to exhibit (In)Visible Men at the Champaign YMCA September 17-October 30, 2015. "Jonathan and Nate" will get their first public viewing. I'm liking the idea of shows in spaces that make art accessible to people who would not typically go to a traditional gallery space. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Love Illinois

Well, not the winters but the state has embraced me in my career at Illinois State and now with my art. I was selected Illinois Artist of the Month for August and featured on a web site.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Educating Illinois, too

The University included a profile of me and my work in the strategic plan progress report. Cool. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jonathan and Nate Join the (In)Visible Men

I'm amazed at how fast this work went. I started June 10, 2015 and finished five and a half weeks later. I have no recollection of the time spent and the pics of the process is the only evidence. All that remains is erasing stray pencil marks, signing, and varnishing.

I love the tension in the space between Jonathan and Nate. Here are the pis that show how this piece developed.

Artist Talk at the Foster Gallery, First United Methodist Church in Peoria

The artist talk was a wonderful engagement for the church congregation and friends in attendance. Robert Braswell, one of the models attended and participated as well as former student Lester Hudson and his family.  My good friend Erin Thomas and her family also attended as well as Bradley English faculty Dr. Jeannie Muzzillo. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

All That's Left is Pants

Second layer of base paint applied and vacation is about to interfere with completing this next week, ugh!

Peoria is Seeing Black Men

(In)Visible Men opened in Peoria this week. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Nate continue to get close to completion. 

Here is a pic of the Sunday Arts section of the Peoria Journal Star.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Alone With Three Giants

There is something exciting about seeing a figure emerge from a canvas. Jonathan's head was first to be completed. I love the espresso colors of his skin and the look of defiant indifference in his face. When I invited him to pose he emerged from his apartment looking as if I'd just woke him up. Nate on the other hand had been eager to be included in the series and is here for the summer working the Shakespeare Festival. He is a gifted actor having performed a spoken word piece at the Milner Library exhibit in February.  When he rehearsed the work in my office I was amazed at his emotional delivery. I probably confuse my colleagues when students who major in performance arts come to my office and I invite them to demonstrate their craft.  

Without a deadline I'm free to work on this piece at my own pace. Yesterday I spent the evening painting Nate's shirt and touching up his arms. I don't remember talking once I entered my apartment for the evening after work so painting allows me to be alone with my thoughts and The John Coltrane station on Pandora. 

Ironic update...Jonathan just dropped by my office to say hello. He's working in the Barnes and Noble bookstore in the building. He was smiling as he asked about the painting and happily mentioned Nate's addition to the piece. Jonathan is a good student.

Update part 2...Jonathan stopped in again at the end of his shift and we chatted longer. I learned he lives in a dangerous part of the southside Chicago with his mother. He's an only child and said he never ventures out at night for fear of getting shot. College is his escape and he seems eager to bond with positive male role models and wants to be one. He met Nate when he arrived on campus and Nate introduced him to My Brotha's Keeper, the organization I advise and how our paths crossed. He said Nate is is mentor, wise choice. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Jonathan and Nate

The day was spent mixing flesh tones and laying undertones on the men. I'm loving this painting. 

I Was Visible Today

The African American Forum Committee of Bloomington Normal recognized me for my contributions to the community through my art at their annual Juneteenth Celebration. I'm humbled. Then I returned home to paint.

Friday, June 5, 2015

I see you Jonathan

Jonathan was finally selected to join the (In)Visible Men.  I wanted to have two men in one piece but my second guy was not available when I was ready to shoot. Jonathan had a deep dark espresso complexion and a long sleek posture that I've wanted to paint since I met him. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

President Dietz is Installed

I can't believe I walked into a meeting this morning in the Founders Suite and walked past my own painting. President Dietz was installed this week at the foyer entrance.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rain Delay Aaron Completed

I was scheduled to golf this morning but overcast and wind with rain on the radar wasn't encouraging. I don't need a windy round to play poorly so I stayed in to complete Aaron Spiller. I'll wait to varnish later after reviewing it more but it's good to have him join the series. Aaron has a very sad face and a less than optimistic outlook that seems to go well with the blue theme.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Wrapping Up Aaron

Aaron is nearing completion and my run today confirmed my next (In)Visible series will be homeless people. 

While out on my 8 mile run I stopped for water at the Atwood gazebo and met a Black man at the fountain. He was standing there with his shirt open and backed away to allow me a drink. 

It was then I noticed a hotel size bottle of shower gel and realized he was cleaning himself. After we spoke I continued on my run to the Uptown Station.

When I reached the Atwood gazebo he was still there talking to another Black man. I stopped for water and after drinking approached the men. We chatted and I asked the man who had washed in the fountain if he would be there long and told him I wanted to give him something but needed to get home. He generously offered his bicycle but I wanted to finish my ray and asked him to wait 30 minutes for my return. 

At home I gathered a shirt and t-shirt and stopped at the Dollar Store for toiletries and placed it all in a bag. In the side pocket I put $100.

The men were still at the gazebo when I returned and presented the bag. He was very gracious as I explained who I was and why I wanted to help him. His friend was thankful and said he didn't need anything. We talked more and I gave them my card and asked to keep in touch. 

I'm awful at names and hope to see them again. Maybe I'll paint his portrait...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Close to completion

We're almost there Aaron. Maybe another week before you join the (In)Visible Men series. I love the blue tone of this painting and the expression on your face. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Painting like a man headed to vacation. May is a short month of easel-time and a July show in Peoria featuring (In)Visible Men is around the corner and I need to finish Aaron in June. 

If my artist life is ever chronicled the periods will be divided into two categories, Before Gel Medium (BGM) and (After Gel Medium). Glazing is so much easier. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Joy of Experimentation

Aaron is progressing as I try a new technique of painting all over and building transparent layers of pigment. At times it has the feel of watercolors without the fear of immediacy or mistakes. Or maybe it's my Zen approach to painting. 

Today I wondered if my attraction to single isolated firgures in an existenialistic space has something to do with my introversion...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Aaron Progresses

Laying down base color this past Thursday as Aaron begins to take shape. 


Someday I hope to sit down and list all the people I'm grateful for in the support for my craft. The Dougs, Kens, Harolds, Kates, Julies, Angies, Larrys, Kathleen, Jons, Sarahs, Jennys and hundreds of others who contributed in their own special way. But right now a special thanks to Sue Sawyer without whom I wouldn't have this very nice chair for the studio. I'd been looking for months since I set this space up trying to find the perfect chair. I think I'll name her "Sue."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Aaron was sketched on March 30 and I've begun to layout background colors. Painting has been a lot more freer in brushwork but within the tradition of color theory. I don't want to get too "Rothko" and end up with a portrait overlapping a Rothko imitation. 

I realized today I miss my (In)Visible Men and the Dietz portraits. So I dropped by Milner Library to peek at the men and by the President's office to see the portrait. Maybe I needed to see them to build my confidence...

The web site launched yesterday and responses have been positive. Check it out at  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Pantagraph is seeing Black men

Top of the fold front page story on the (In)Visible Men Artist Talk. The men raised some critical concerns about how they are treated in the classroom on my campus. I hope faculty will read this and reflect on how they engage all students of color.

I could not have predicted the response to this body of work...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Artist Talk at Milner Library

The Artist Talk at Milner Library went very well (from the comments others told me). I'm usually oblivious to the moments and focused on ensuring most of the issues get addrssed but of course an hour is never enough for a topic as racism. I'm most proud of the models who served as panel members and especially the spoken word performance by Nate Aikens.

The day also included an interview with the Pantagraph and President Dietz in preparation to release the portrait commission news. It will probably run as a secondary story to the Artist Talk that will have Pantagraph coverage.

Photo courtesy of Doug Johnson.

Monday, March 30, 2015

WGLT Made Black Men Visible Today

I continue to be humbled by the support from the ISU community for my (In)Visible Men series. Jon Norton's interview aired today and I was very pleased with the show. He had a lot of material to edit and I don't envy his work. I appreciate his honesty and authenticity during the interviews with the men. What began as a story on the works and the show turned into a moment for us all where we released the fear we cling to when discussing sensitive topics and allowed ourselves to be human and "see" each other as human.

The audio can be heard at this web site

Friday, March 27, 2015

Commission Accomplished

President Dietz and his wife Marlene were very pleased with his portrait. Because he's so affable and unpretentious it's easy to capture his characture. They loved the detail I placed in the painting and placing him in a well lit space rather than the dark tones of previous presidential portraits. Chief of staff Jay Groves scheduled an interview with our local newspaper for Monday to release the story so I have to wait until then before making it "Facebook official." In the meantime, here we are together as I presented the painting to him yesterday.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Landscapes Are Portraits of the Earth

While I was in NC in January 2015 I had lunch with my mentor and the person responsible for my going to college Dr. Ray Kuhn. Dr. Kuhn hired me for my first job after high school graduation and no college plans. After a week on the job he invited me to his office to get to know me asking my interests and hobbies. When I told him I liked painting he asked to see my work and bought the piece I brought in the next day. He asked, "Why aren't you in college?" This question was the start of my journey as an artist. He bought this painting I completed during college in the early 1980s. I was a fan of Andrew Wyeth and Bob Timberlake. 

Wonderful Write Up in the Daily Vidette

The Daily Vidette published an article on (In)Visible Men. Kathleen Lonbom has been a joy to work with in this project. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015


The University awarded me the commissionto paint the 19th president Dr. Larry Dietz. Dr. Dietz and I became good friends after he was hired as Vice President a few years ago. He said he'd be honored to have his portrait painted by me but I believe the honor is more mine. I've been working on the painting since mid-December and will complete it this weekend. This will be one of the highlights of my 30 year career at ISU since it is my intent to retire in December 2015. More pics to come from an unveiling later in April. Gotta give the U the privilege of releasing this but figured by the time anyone discovers this blog it will be public.

(In)Visible Men at Milner Library

Milner Library at Illinois State University installed (In)Visible Men on Monday and more students will have an opportunity to see my work. After the first day a student reporter emailed me to interview for a story.  Because I paint realism and used student models, my work attracts the attention of students and I hope they're reflecting on my intent to gaze and see the men. Dominique saw his painting for the first time in person and posted this pic on Facebook. This is the first time I've seen him actually smile.