Julian & Rosa, 2011 Oil on linen 30 × 22 inches
Julian & Rosa, 2011
Oil on linen 30 × 22 inches

Julian was our German Shepherd who lived about 14 years, and Rosa his constant companion—a sort of wife—who also, while outlasting Julian, just recently died last year at about age 14. We loved these dogs so much; truly they were like our children. We got Julian when we were living in midtown at a dangerous, deserted loft above gangsters that were running a bordello that the cops were in on. He was for protection, but Andrew had also grown up with shepherds and loved them, and I always wanted one too. Julian never took to the city much, but loved being inside nesting with us like another roommate, and he and Rosa slept in our bed and shared most of our waking moments with us as family. He was smart and kind—never chewed through a toy, and the blissful time we lived in the California desert we raised chickens and ducks from chicks and ducklings, and Julian never harmed any of them—it was one of those pictures where the little chicks would jump and rest on his head. In fact, for a short couple of years we had adopted an aged cockatiel a friend’s friend found outside their window, and it would ride on the back of Julian shrieking "Julieeeen! Julieeeen!" and Julian kept his cool.

In the movie Rembrandt, with Charles Laugh ton—who really looked like Rembrandt—loses his beloved wife Saskia, when it is time for her funeral, he is painting a portrait of her, and his friend rushes in and exclaims "Rembrandt, why aren’t you at Saskia’s funeral!" and he shouts back "Go Away! I’m trying to paint her while I still remember her!" This painting is a momento mori—Julian had just passed away, and I was mourning his loss by painting him while I still remembered every aspect of him, petting him through each stroke of my paint and thinking deeply about our companionship (and my love for our apricot poodle, Rosa too, who adored him). This painting isn’t for sale, but when art world people come to my studio, many times way more than any canny postmodern "smart" art that I may have on my wall they turn to this and ask and love after it. I sometimes really do believe at the end of the day painting what you love, the old trope, is really true and important. Sometimes the image is really just a talisman to bring out what is best and most emotional in you, and as you are transcribing with your brush, something truly special comes out.