Endings and New Beginnings

Graduation was this weekend, grades are turned in, my office is almost fully packed up… and I only have a few more tasks left to do at the University of Saint Mary before I turn in my keys and equipment. It’s all moving so quickly that it feels a little surreal. I’m not the only one leaving, though; my Department Chair of five years, amazing mentor, and fantastic professional role model Dr. William Krusemark is retiring this year after 41 years of service to USM. That’s right - 41 years!

I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate what a good human being Bill is. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to work with and learn from him, and so I wanted to give him a really nice retirement gift. I ended up deciding on a very risky option: I would paint him a portrait of his daughter Abby. This was high risk for a couple reasons - the main one being that I’ve never met Abby and so I’d only be working off of a few small photos I got Bill’s wife Susan to email me. It was also the first human portrait I’ve ever painted (I am much more interested in wildlife and mediated nature, professionally).

I’m happy with how it turned out, and I hope that the time and effort I put into it are evident.

I hope Bill has a wonderful retirement. His tireless work and devotion has built an enduring legacy in the many lives he’s touched, and it’s time for him to start his own new chapter - beginning with a cruise to Alaska!

The Saga of My Most Recently Commissioned Amphiuma Painting

Recently, I was hired to do another commissioned painting of an amphiuma - an aquatic salamander with vestigial legs that looks like an otherworldly sea serpent or eel.  My patron saw my first commissioned amphiuma painting done for Dr. John Pojman (it hangs in his office above his amphiuma Chrissy's aquarium) and wanted an original piece for herself.

The new amphiuma commission.

The previously commissioned portrait of John's amphiuma Chrissy.

Unfortunately, after mailing the new piece off to my customer and tracking it through delivery, there was radio silence.  I worried that she didn't like the piece but also considered that she may have just been waiting to open it on a specific date (an upcoming birthday, for instance) so I made a mental note to send her an email in a week or two to check in.  Before I could, she emailed me, and it transpired that the package was, in fact, not delivered (or possibly, not delivered properly and stolen off communal property).

Queue multiple weeks of back-and-forth with UPS, but finally the insurance paid out such that I had been paid to make the commission and my client received a refund on never having received the commission, so we were both made mostly whole again.  Even though it's possible it's now lurking in a box in a UPS subbasement or was pawned for the value of the frame, I like to imagine the painting is hanging in a place of pride over a drug lord's couch somewhere.  Since I do have the digital image, though, I can at least run off reproductions, so it's not completely lost to the world.