OIL ON LINEN 26 x 30"

I spent a good part of my youth in smoke filled bars located in the South side of Chicago. My father shot pool most of the evening and I remember the faces of the customers coming and going as the hour grew late. To some it was a refuge from the hard realities of the outside world. Marriages gone sour. The daily grind of working tough jobs. The repetition of day to day life making ends meet feeding the family. The beer made some forget their labors and kick back for a while as others fell deeper into depression. I learned a lot about people there.

I most often sat near the pool table and drew on napkins. Lots and lots of napkins. I started sketching the posters on the wall featuring name brand beers with beautiful mountains and waterfalls in the background. They looked like great places to live as the images of far away locations stood out against the dark walls. Sometimes the customers would go outside to have a smoke and lean against the building to talk so I sketched them as well. So many faces and personalities. I learned no matter how a person smiled, talked, or walked, their eyes would reveal their inner soul—the gladness or the sadness.

There was one guy who came in regularly just to get into a fight. His life was on the down turn and the atmosphere around him was dark. He was doing a slow burn and waited for someone—anyone—to start something. He would come by from time to time with the same predictable outcome. I never knew his real name but when he entered the bar everyone knew there would be trouble. That was a long time ago when I was in grade school. I have no idea what happened to him but his lifestyle could only have gone on for so long.

This oil painting depicts the man as I remember him standing outside the tavern by the back door like a desperado. He seemed to own the wall alongside the gangway which led to the alley. He would stand there and wait. Burning. I heard he lost his woman but I don't know how. Fighting was the only way he could feel anything again and it seemed to be what he did best.


I suppose our past shapes us and drives us to succeed or fail depending on how we decide to face the challenges life throws at us. As it turned out, I would use my art to leave that world and live in a house surrounded by nature—wetlands with a beautiful lake teaming with wildlife—just like those posters promised me so many years ago.

I've included shots of this painting in progress. I usually start out with a thumbnail done in a sketchbook and then refine it for emotional impact. Once I find a model, I sketch it out all over again and then project that finished layout onto a large canvas for the final painting. The small sketch then becomes my base for a color key if I feel one is needed. If so, many keys are painted until I find the right color space and lighting scheme. Once the charcoal is sealed with a thin spray of fixative, I apply a color wash over the entire canvas to cover the white ground and work as a unifying color when the canvas shows through the brush strokes.



Every painting I do is drawn from my life experiences. There is a story woven within the image which, I hope, gives a deeper insight to the character's soul and personality. If I grew up in a different place and time I might be painting daises set against a beautiful sunset but I have to be true to what I know. What I have personally experienced. I think that's why artists get better with age—there is a deeper sense of life to draw from and an understanding that at certain times in our life there is a little bit of a desperado in all of us.

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