I rarely paint real people, an occasional commission (most of which are very personal and private), and of course, many renderings of my companion Gina (some of which are also private). But a few weeks ago, I knew Melissa Greene and I were getting together for a day at Kalien Retreat. I felt compelled to do a painting of her as a gift of love and friendship.
I am writing a new book The Quest, and a portion of it discusses the concept of anima, at the risk of oversimplifying, the feminine side of a man. In many ways Melissa symbolizes my anima—a deep part of me that few people glimpse or know. We have known each other for twenty-seven years and our relationship has had its normal ups and downs as we live our lives in different ways and in different places geographically. But over the past few years we have grown much closer together—relationally and philosophically. She has been an unwavering friend and support to me through some of my most devastating days. She has been an intimate ally.
When an artist truly captures a person on canvas, it is like portraying a window to their soul. But you never know how the subject will react. For the creator, it is a vulnerable and scary time, as you show the person the painting for the first time. Perhaps that is one reason most of my paintings are not real people—I have recently come to realize that almost all my paintings are self-portraits, portrayals of my anima.
On rare occasions as I paint, there is a transcendent awareness that I have captured the essence of my subject. I can’t adequately describe that emotion other than intense enjoyment. I felt that transcendence with this painting and it was confirmed when I presented the painting to her. She felt that I saw her. And I feel seen when I am with her. What more can an artist and a friend ask?