The Elements of Style


This is Michele, my one-time copy editor and a good friend. It’s the second portrait I painted of her.

The first was painated shortly after her successful bout with breast cancer. She commissioned a painting of herself sitting on a couch in front of the window of her sunny apartment on Prince Street in Soho. It was a portrait of a peaceful, beaming survivor. The painting above was done a few years later. I’d asked her if she wouldn’t mind posing again—I was in a portrait phase, painting any friend who agreed to sit still (I would spread out canvas tarps in people’s living rooms on which I knelt and painted them, fast, on 9” x 12” canvases). She agreed to sit, but only if I let her wear her Halloween costume. My instinct, of course, was to withdraw my request until she told me she had a dominatrix costume with a red wig. I suddenly became very interested in painting her again. For one thing, she was a pretty tough copy editor, and the costume seemed appropriate–it was kind of a fun idea, given the copy editor’s role at a weekly magazine. When she mentioned that a riding crop would be involved, I really had no choice.

I see a lot less of Michele these days—she moved to Brooklyn and I work in New Jersey now. About a year ago, we went to the theater to see a way-off-Broadway production of Einstein’s Gift, a play more about Fritz Haber. Then she took me to dinner.

Michele, who has long brown hair, is a great model, an incisive editor, a beautiful woman, and a wonderful friend. We get each other’s jokes and finish each other’s sentences. She corrects my sentences. I found this picture in the basement last night in a pile of the 9 x 12 portraits. I also found my living room tarp–I may soon be back on the lookout for people who can sit still.

Now—speaking of things editorial, I am finishing a cover story under pulverizing deadline pressure. Above is a portrait of me—I found this drawing of a cassowaryesque journalist via a Google search for journalist images. Most of the others that came up were a lot uglier. Where I’m working now, by the way, there are four people who do the job Michele did single-handedly. Yep. She’s that kind of tough.

[Editor’s note: No, I don’t smoke like the cassowary scribe (I know, it’s a vulture, but close enough). And despite various items you’ve seen in my studio photographs, I do not have a severed human hand on my desk at work. Where, oh where did this cartoon come from?]

8 Responses to “The Elements of Style”

  1. mrschili Says:

    I bet I’d like Michelle. I’d also be totally up for sitting still for you, if we ever have an opportunity…

  2. Todd Says:

    That is a nice painting. I’d really like to see you paint her again.

  3. kenju Says:

    Wanna travel? I’d sit for you and I could even provide the tarp!

  4. colleen Says:

    But you probably do have a little sull on top of your computer like the one in the basement. Is that a little skull I see.

    I’m glad you explained the context. I was wondering before I read about the kind of dress she was wearing and the whip. You’d laugh if you could see what paintings can do to me. This one gave a spastic little chill. How can paint do that? I asked out loud. Well it’s not the paint of course but what you do with it. I love the way the background rains down like hair.

  5. colleen Says:

    I first typed scull and then took out the c but forgot to add the k! It ain’t easy being me.

    Add a question mark at the end of my second sentence while you’re at it. I’m not even going to look at the second paragraph.

  6. Birdie Says:

    What a gorgeous moment, looks like the room swallows her, she fades into it, but it’s an illusion, she’s dominating it, making it bend to her will.

  7. Weed Woman Says:

    Take Chili up on her offer if you can. She is a great model whom I have passed many a happy hour drawing. She likes challenging poses! Yoga! And she will entertain you as you paint.

  8. Rick Says:

    I’d really like to paint Mrs. C. It’s on a list of thing that I generally get around to. I predict it will happen.

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