January 13, 2015

 

Yesterday I celebrated my 56th birthday. Since I am not teaching now and I do not have any pressing deadlines, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to spend my day. Maybe I can paint a self-portrait? Why I haven’t done one of those in years, and it would be fun for me to document my 56th year.  I painted one for my 40th birthday. That was the year when I was about to become father for the very first time. Wow, just look at me– a LOT has changed since then!

So I am in my studio, setting up my easel next to the mirror and I before I begin to paint I take off my glasses. I am blind without my glasses and I start off by blocking in the colors of my out of focus face. It may seem ridiculous to paint like this, but it keeps me loose– no need to get bogged down in details, just concentrate on the shapes, the color and the light. The rest will follow.

I don’t know why, but whenever I paint I always become reflective. Maybe the painting process unlocks another part of my brain (I never get this way when I am painting on the computer. I wonder why) and I start to reflect on the crazy events from last year…


2014 started off with a bang. The US Postal Service released my Poinsettia stamp (originally part of my series, Winter Flowers), which led to a series of interviews with local papers and a Christmas interview by Virginia Tan from LI News 12.


On Valentine’s Day, the Postal Service released the rest of the Winter Flowers stamps and Newsday interviewed me for their July 4th issue.

 

 

 

On April 1, Macmillan Publishing released The Last Days of Jesus, by Bill O’Reilly. Mr. O’Reilly is quite adept at working that promotional engine and he appeared on Imus, the Today show with Matt Lauer and on the Tonight show with Jimmy Fallon. My cover art appeared nationally on NBC!


The MTA released the book, New York’s Underground Art Museum, featuring works from their permanent art installations and I was interviewed by NY1 in Parkchester Station, in front of my glass project, A Day in Parkchester.

The MTA chose the Moonrise portion from this project to accompany a poem by Maya Angelou for an updated version of their Night Map. Here I am, standing in front of the Moonrise window holding the new Night Map. The Sunrise portion of this project was used for their ongoing series, Poetry in Motion and this will appear in subway cars throughout the city.

 

I also had an exciting year as an Associate Professor In the Fashion Institute of Technology.  Wacom Technologies sent a camera crew to visit the campus and to do a video piece about our new Cintiq lab. I am so proud of our students and the way they conducted themselves during their interviews. They are the face of FIT and the future of our industry!  I was also interviewed for this video and was surprised when Wacom decided to do a special piece on me. I cringe when I see myself on film and I hate the sound of my voice, but I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.

 

Throughout this craziness, I created almost 20 oil and acrylic paintings for the picture book,  Feathered Dinosaurs by Brenda Guiberson. I haven’t used “real” paints for a picture book in almost 20 years, and I am having so much fun painting these dinosaurs! This book will be out in 2016.

 

After one hour of painting “blind,” I decided to put my glasses on and I am startled by what I see. It’s not the painting that takes me by surprise, I am staring in the mirror and I see myself as I am– my 56 year old self. These types of paintings are always a challenge, but I refuse to succumb to vanity. Yes, I am getting older. I am okay with that.

After 2 hours, I stop painting…  but I plan on finishing this soon.  I have to leave the studio to meet my wife for lunch. The lunch date was my idea, which is unusual because I really don’t like leaving the studio when I am working. I guess that I’m feeling a little reckless today.

This old man deserves a break!

William