Many know me mostly for my commission portraits. Does that make me a hired gun? Before I dig into that, here’s a gentle reminder that I am free to paint whatever strikes my fancy, including commission portraits!
Honestly, I don’t think of myself as a hired gun. Early on, I’ll admit, sometimes it did feel that way. I used to get a lot of criticism from fellow artists and galleries for being a “sell out.” I recall struggling over the image people had of me as a gun for hire. But like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, I persisted and rose above; I shined a light on making portraits vital.
I was raised and trained by a father who taught me to see beauty wherever I looked. My dad, renowned portrait artist, Joseph Maniscalco, was always collecting stuff. Growing up, piles of weeds lay on our ping pong table in the basement, because he thought they were beautiful. He loved making arrangement of dried weeds; they were everywhere in our home. We had barn-wood stacked in piles along with trash he thought was interesting. He often stopped on the side of the road to photograph barns and whatever struck his fancy. He was a distracted driver, long before cell phones. A good sunset was enough to nearly cause an accident. And, of course, his magnificent portraits, painted right before my eyes, taught me how to see deeply into the human form.
For me, commission portraits are a fantastic opportunity to make fine art. And not just because of the legacy of great artists who came before, who turned to the human form for inspiration. I am overwhelmed with the beauty and inner dynamics of my fellow beings, who are with me, my contemporaries, in this particular time in history.
My goal when I paint portraits is to reveal the soul of my subject. Everything has meaning and significance. When I create a portrait, every object, every stroke is the result of my deep response to my subject and the sensuous beauty of painting. The process is nothing short of a spiritual exigence. I estimate I’ve painted or sketched over 80,000 faces in my lifetime. But I’ve never experienced the same face twice. I always find something new, though often intangible or indescribable. I encourage the viewer to wonder what the subject might be thinking. I want people to be able to somehow connect to the portrait, as if the subject were in the room with them. I have no problem saying, love painting portraits.