I have heard that good artwork requires some amount of distance from the subject. For example, I know that I have a hard time singing a song that packs an emotional punch. My throat tightens up and I can’t sing any more. Do opera singers feel the same way as their emotional audiences? I imagine that the hard technical work involved in perfecting an aria might dampen the emotions. What happens when technical problems are no longer a consideration? It must take an almost zen-like discipline to actually feel the emotions whilst singing; to re-route the physiological throat-tightening response to its equivalent vocal emotional . I can’t imagine that. It could be that the opera singer is not actually feeling the emotions that he or she is generating to the audience.

Last visit to Mike

The last trip to see my older brother Michael, was a bit of a life changer for me. Mike is autistic, low functioning and nonverbal. I went to see him in his geriatric group home, with my mother and my younger brother; that visit probably was our last family get-together.

Why was it life changing for me? Most likely it was my unreasonable expectation for a some kind of connection.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that Mike showed no signs of recognition to any of us (my mother, me, or my younger brother). He had never done so before, so it really was absurd to think that he would recognize us on this visit.  However, it put me in a real funk.


Six months have passed since our visit.  I am able to look at all the photographs I took then, without feeling the intense disappointment I felt at the time. I am able to transform some of these photos into watercolor portraits.  It is such an odd but familiar feeling.  When I capture Mike’s likeness in a portrait, I seem to make him look at me.  I make him connect with me from the picture plane, something that never happened in real life.  This feeling hearkens back to my photography days when I connected with him through my photographs.

Watercolor Sketch - Portrait of Brother Mike 3

Mike Portrait
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

4 thoughts on “Distance

      • I know Jack but I have followed your blog for a while and lost my brother (quickly) and M-I-L to Alzheimer’s so I just felt sad for the separation process that you are going through.



        • I appreciate your kind words, Kathryn. Interesting that you should say ‘separation process’. I can see that this fits situations like losing a loved one to death. But in the case of a loved one who is lost but still living, I see it as a continual back and forth: the urge to separate and the urge to connect. It is indeed a process – a life-long process.
          Thanks again.


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