Mike Portrait No. 5, June 2017

The fifth of this series of portraits of my brother Mike* is a bit different than the others. Mike would often display fits of rage, directed at himself. Some docs thought he was Tourettic, others thought it was a behavioral issue. The point is, Mike could be frightening. I weathered the storm and didn’t believe he would hurt me. My younger brother however was scared of him. My parents said they shielded us from Mike. I remember everything, but my younger brother, not so much.

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Mike Portrait No. 5, June 2017
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

Previous posts, Complex Motor Ticks?, and Another Film Strip (central image), provided the references for my portrait above.


*  Mike is my older brother, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. He was at home during my first 10 years.

Self Portrait with ‘Leave Door Open’ Sign

I almost left the doctor’s office without taking a picture of the sign. It’s not the worst door instruction sign I ever saw. The worst one read: “Keep Door Closed at All Times.”  I’m on the lookout to photograph that one if I ever see it again.

Photography: Sign - Leave Door Open

Self Portrait with Leave Door Open Sign

This one almost qualifies to be entered into the Department of Redundancy Department archives.

Mike Portrait No. 4, June 2017

I began this fourth portrait of my brother Mike*, with frisket squiggles to sketch out an eye and lips. Jarring the paper side to side and up and down created traces, traces that have meaning. This is almost a double portrait. Possibly it is a portrait of the space between two people, the channel that exists, an impossible channel to cross.

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Mike Portrait No. 4, June 2017
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

For those of you who are interested in other of my portrayals of my brother, I encourage you to see these posts: Young Mike Smiling, Mike Crying, Klee and Jawlensky-Influenced Portrait.


*   Mike is my older brother who is autistic, low functioning and has never spoken or communicated with me in any meaningful way.

Mike Portrait No. 3, June 2017

I began today’s study with compass and ruler, Kandinsky’s work in mind. Usually I have a couple of paintings going at the same time, so I had not planned this one to be part of my current portrait series. I’m not quite sure how it became one.

I drew on symbols and visual elements I had developed through previous explorations in portraiture, specifically about Mike*.

Watercolor: Abstract - Mike Portrait #3 062017

Mike Portrait No.2, June 2017
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I understand that Matisse removed all ‘scaffolding’ that indicated his process of creating, leaving only the perfected visual masterpiece.

I’m not sure how an explanation of the symbols, or my construction of this study would add to the visual experience, so this aspect of my scaffolding remains invisible (for now, at least).

The interested reader may find this series of portraits of my brother interesting: Young Mike, In Transition, Final Transition, Returning to Mike.


*Mike is my older brother, who is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. Currently, he resides in a geriatric group home.

Mike Portrait No.2, June 2017

For a change of pace, I will return to portraits of my brother Mike for a while. He is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. Mike currently lives in a geriatric group home back east.  I took photos of him for many years; since I moved away I’ve been painting compositions related to my experience with him. Below is the second of my current series of portraits of Mike.

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Portrait #2, June 2017 Series
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I have no idea how long I will be able to continue this series, as it is a bit emotionally draining.

Interested readers may see a selection of other portraits in these posts:  Abstract Portrait of Mike, Evolution of a Portrait Series, Dark-Eyed Mike #1, Paintings from Last Visit with Mike.

Now What?

I get in a creative rut every now and then. I can’t seem to think of anything new to paint or draw. Sometimes, looking at my books about art by my favorite artists, and essays by knowledgeable critics, gives me a boost. What I seek from my readings and reproductions of art from the masters, is a clue about how they came to ‘make visible’* their inner mental landscape.

However, I have not found this to be a fruitful endeavor lately. For example, my readings about Richard Diebenkorn revealed that he often revised his oil paintings by scraping off paint and adding elements that balanced his abstract compositions. Also, the scale of his paintings (on the order of 6 by 8 feet) is much different than my 9 by 12 inch watercolor studies. Although I’m certain that I will eventually understand Diebenkorn’s work and apply it to my own work, it is more frustrating that it is productive at this point.

Return to my roots:

My brother Mike, autistic, low functioning and nonverbal, has been one of the major factors motivating me to ‘make visible’ my inner state. My exploration of my brother began with photography, by which I hoped to capture an instant that would unravel a means of communicating. Later, through my painting I tried to bring my insides to the outside so I could understand myself better.**

Below is a photograph that bridged the gap between my photographic efforts and my painting. It is a long exposure of Mike at a party and captures his ‘otherness’.

Blurry picture of Mike in action on dance floor

Today’s watercolor image below may be a non sequitur but it is based on the principle of abstracting seen in the photo above.

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Portrait, Brother Mike
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

This portrait does not express exactly what I had in mind, but it does include one of Mike’s stereotypical gestures. The reference picture can be found in the post called The Visit a record of my last visit to see Mike. Note that that this post may contain triggers, as my expectations of recognition were not fulfilled. This was very upsetting, but I intended no disrespect in that post.


* A phrase coined by Paul Klee, the great Bauhaus Master.

** I have thoroughly explored this matter during my first year of blogging (2013) and I encourage the interested reader to visit my earlier posts.

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