Tri-Clopean Portrait

It has been difficult to progress beyond photo editing to create a hand-made Self Portrait with Imaginary Brother. I was so excited a few days ago to find a sketch of this name executed by Willem de Kooning, one of the great artists of the 20th century. I’ve been reading his biography and remarks by art critics of his time, in hope of deciphering some of his art that seems a bit strange to me.

To bring everyone who is not familiar with my blog up to speed, I have two real brothers. My older brother Mike is autistic, low functioning and has never spoken. I have tried to understand him without much success, much to my distress. But I like to think my experience has made me a person who listens more than he judges. My younger brother Dave is still back east with his family. He is a very accomplished musician and teacher. I value our talks about childhood although he doesn’t remember much about Mike.

My Own Imaginary Brother Portrait

I have done many sketches and paintings of Mike over the past couple of years. Today I began with a sketch of a family snapshot of Mike when he was a child.

older autistic sibling

Sketch: Mike as a Child 012017

Sketch of Mike as a Child
9″x12″ 90# Sketch Paper

I sketched another couple of drawings to give Mike a second face, which would be more attentive to me:

Sketch: Mike and Pretend Mike 012017

TriClops, Two Sketches
9″x12″ 90# Sketch Paper

I used the lower of the two drawings for my painting below.

Watercolor, Oil and Gouache: Three-eyed Portrait

12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I used watercolor, oils, and gouache to paint this portrait. Perhaps it is my imaginary brother emerging from ‘childhood Mike’; perhaps it is both Mikes at the same time, only one of which I experience. I haven’t really decided yet what it says to me.

Thus far, my portrait is only a Tri-clopean creature, a dynamic image that can either ‘become’ one thing or another. Can either face develop into the real Mike in my mind?

I am still thinking about how to include my self-portrait into the mix, in  a meaningful way.

My depiction of Mike and me comes up when I get an inspiration. De Kooning’s Self Portrait with Imaginary Brother was the inspiration for this series of photo editings, sketches and paintings (Imaginary Brother – New Ideas, and So Simple, and Yet…). It takes a toll on me to stay on topic, but I will take it as far as I can.

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