Old Hickory


Tony Salerno, a dear friend of mine, posed for this oil painting. He has battled several forms of cancer over the years while living an amazingly active life which includes a full time job, working in several ministries, and devoting himself to his adult children—two lovely daughters.

We have served together in prison ministry for years where I have seen his gentle heart touch so many people with love and hope. He's the type of guy who will always be there for you. No matter who you are. No matter where you end up. He'll be there with hat in hand wearing a gentle smile. You might give up on yourself but he won't give up on you.

Within the emotional tones of this painting, there is a visual thread that hints to his past life of living hard. He once told me he has a lot of grace to give to people because he has received so much of it himself. These days, few preach it and less give it, but when you see grace in action there is no greater force on earth. With this said, we are left with a simple statement of a man who has faced life head on and has not only survived but thrived.


I chose a warm color palette for this painting with a strong light source and defined shadow pattern. The light moves across the form of the figure creating a sense of movement which helps to frame the focal point of the image. He is posed in a way that speaks of his gentle manor with people. Holding his hat over his heart also added a visual cue to his respectful nature humbled by years of living life. Tony's smile is ever present as it contrasts his rugged features that remind me of old hickory.