Theodore Ryken in Bruges (30″ x 40″. oil on wood) was the first portrait commissioned by Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA. Seeing as I’d posted sketches for this piece last year I thought I should follow up and show how it came out.
Ahhh, backgrounds. While I was painting this I kept asking how I got here, and wasn’t this initially commissioned as a portrait of Theodore Ryken? Why am I still painting all of these bricks?
Well, that’s what happens sometimes. This portrait was well received, and I’m pretty satisfied with my brick renderings placing Ryken (as a colleague commented), “in his natural habitat.” Ryken was responsible for the formation of the Xaverian Brotherhood, a group Catholic teachers focused on bringing education to the poor, hence the open book and outstretched hand. It was important to the client that the religious garments were accurate to the time, down to the detail of which side Xaverian brothers wear their rosary beads, and the proper height that the crucifix would be worn.
This 30″ x 40″ oil on wood portrait (icon?) of Saint Francis Xavier was commissioned by Saint John’s High School in Shrewsbury, MA, photographed and transferred to a banner for use at school events.
I’ve always enjoyed Asian landscape paintings, and have experimented with Sumi-e technique, so it was fun for me to work in that style using a completely different medium. We (the headmaster, and a few trusted members of the administration, and myself) went through a lot of different ideas of what sort of background setting would suit St. Francis, and I was pretty happy that we settled on this one! As a result, not only was I able to paint some of those mountains, but I also enjoyed mixing a lot of symbolic imagery in to the piece. For example, I’d wanted to add a young plant or tree of some sort to the foreground, representing the new growth that would come from his work, and chose bamboo because of its symbolism in Asian culture having to do with perseverance. There’s also the water flowing from his sleeve (virtually) representing Baptism… but I won’t go on anymore! See for yourself and if seems strange (the footwear, the Shinto gate, the red obi etc…) know that there’s probably a reason for it, and don’t hesitate to ask!
Also, this is probably one of the last fine art posts I’ll be making to the mcnemesis blog. From now on I’ll be posting a strictly fine arts related portfolio at mcm-enemy.com and keeping all of my comic book / illustration work here at McNemesis. The Fine Arts site is still somewhat under construction as I re-organize files and add to the portfolio, but take a look there if that’s the sort of stuff you’re interested in, should be completed soon!