Two Portraits

Once in a blue moon an opportunity arises for me to do a portrait. (I mean, one that other people besides Eddie see.) A couple of those blue-moon occasions have arisen since we relocated to New England.
The subject of the drawing above (shown next to the snapshot it’s based on) is my longtime friend Nicky Heron Brown. It’s included in a group exhibit called "Here’s Looking At You" that features portraits of Berkshire personalities by Berkshire artists and is currently on display at Gallery 51 in North Adams. I call the drawing "Nicky In The Kitchen."

Nicky and I first crossed paths as fellow participants (albeit from slightly different collegiate generations) in the Birmingham-Southern College Theatre. After years thereafter spent geographically separated and only barely in touch, we’ve recently found ourselves neighbors again here in the Berkshires. She and her husband Jason Brown are both blessed with too many talents to enumerate, but prominent among their present family enterprises is BMA Studios, under whose auspices audio books like their most recent offering, Henry James’s The Aspern Papers, are lovingly produced out of their impressive basement sound studio in Monterey.

When I first met Nicky she was playing a winsome prostitute named Karen in a one-act play called "The Old Man Dies" that I had written while still an undergraduate. Brief aside: My most influential mentor, BSC’s one-time Drama Department chairman Arnold Powell, once remarked in response to a couple of my scripts that student playwrights who have never come close to knowing an actual flesh-and-blood prostitute seem irresistibly driven to populate their plays with them. Point taken.

Anyway, my college days were behind me when Cheryl Thacker (another longtime friend from college, Cheryl has since distinguished herself as a professional lighting designer) chose to direct "The Old Man Dies" as her Director’s Lab student project. Naturally, I returned from New York to see it the result.

My eyes mist up when I recall what a cluster of old friends joined forces to mount that little workshop production in 1969. Of course, since they were my friends and not yours, I won’t demand that your eyes get similarly misty. But take my word for it, if you had known this crowd you’d be misting up right along with me.

Drawing Nicky’s portrait was a perfect way to celebrate her re-emergence as part of my present life. And there’s been an interesting sidebar to our catch-up conversations: I had somehow missed learning previously that Nicky’s grandfather, the formidably named Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, was a founder of DC Comics, under whose Paradox Press imprint my graphic novel Stuck Rubber Baby was published. The family lore about Nicky’s granddad reveals a larger-than-life historical personage whose exploits ranged well beyond the comics realm. A fascinating biography of this guy is obviously waiting to be written.

*****

I started this blog entry by referencing two portraits I’ve done lately, so I’ll quickly share the second one with you before I go (see below). Its subject, Will Eisner, will be familiar to any of you who have arrived at this blog because of an interest in comics. Much written about and widely admired, Eisner was a giant of the sequential art medium who was still producing new and exciting works when death finally wrestled him away from his drawing board at the age of 87.

Will was a professional colleague with whom I chatted, talked shop, and occasionally argued (always amicably) at the comics cons and conferences where our paths crossed. When he passed away last year, I contributed the drawing below to an issue of Comic Book Artist magazine that was devoted to Eisner tributes.

About Howard

I'm a cartoonist and writer, best known for my graphic novel, Stuck Rubber Baby, and my comic strip from the 1980s, Wendel.
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