Painting David Webster in Boston

Sketching David Webster at the Boston Design Studio

When word begin to trickle out that I was painting David Webster people began to show up to see the spectacle.

Webster is a legend in Boston, known for his impeccable style and demanding standards. He created the Webster & Company in the Boston Design Center, an emporium for the best interior designers in New England.

He is warm and funny and self-effacing, and the buzz and energy that surrounds him is infectious as he calls out to multiple assistants to move a plant or adjust a rug. The adoration towards him is palpable. He is clearly uncompromising, but also eager to have fun.

I was in Boston as part of a presentation set up by my agent Carol Martignetti. She arranged for me to speak to a number of interior designers and interested patrons about portrait painting. Both of us anxiously prepared the perfect words. It never happened. People streamed through for hours and we ended up talking to clusters of designers.

Carol Martignetti and the author

I had intended to emphasize the value of portraiture. Portraits are still the most valued paintings in the world from Mona Lisa and Sargeant’s Madame X, to self-portraits by Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

For me the true brilliance of portrait painting and what distinguishes it from photography or other art forms is the intense connection between the artist and the subject. Its the way an artist experiences another individual. There are all the obvious forms and lines that create the exterior, but also what it feels like to be with a certain person. It’s literally a portrayal of the experience of someone at a particular time.

Moments are always fleeting and time passes. So I encourage people considering a commission, telling them: “Don’t wait!”

Portrait painters notice everything. The twitching of the fingers. The slight humor in the eyebrow. The open curiosity of an expression. We know how to bring all this to life. The famous collector Henry Clay Frick is said to have spent many evenings hanging out with the characters on the walls that he had collected from all over the world.

As designers passed by, Carol enthusiastically described the intimate process of being painted. She walked people over to paintings I did of her and her son. She was gushing, it was so incredibly sweet. I adore her.

And then there was David. How could you not want to paint such a magnanimous spirit? He wore a vintage Ralph Lauren tie of greens and pinks and a bemused, inviting expression on his face. He engaged and exploded with enthusiasm as each one of his fans came in to see his portrait. I had to direct them towards a chair behind me that we quickly renamed the talking chair. Otherwise there was no hope he would look in my direction.

Painting David turned out to be fun and stress free because he is so playful. We bantered about art, politics, and design. We laughed the whole time. And as word spread via texts and social media that David was sitting for a portrait in the building people began to drop by to participate.

David Webster and the author in Boston

My clients often tell me that of all their possessions the one they value most is the portrait they commissioned from me. Having a large oil canvas of their kids or other family members hanging on the walls in a prime location reminds them daily of the things in life that matter most.

My visit to Boston to paint David turned out to be a fantastic day and a wonderful experience. It reminded me again why portraits are unique and special and how lucky I am to do what I do.

Sketch of David Webster
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