“How do you do that? I mean, how do you make the hair and the eyes look like that?” People often ask questions like that about my portraits. It takes practice. I have been practicing for the last 44 years. My career has taken me down unexpected paths, but I always find my way back to portraits.
My career started when I became a designer—with stunning success. At least I was stunned. I designed for Swatch Watch, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and many more pop stars. People asked for my autograph. I started a band. The Wall Street Journal interviewed me for my take on web site design. I interviewed research scientists in Japan about their aesthetic preferences. I went to opening-night parties in New York with the “glitterati.” Well, OK, the “downtown-maybe-you-haven’t-heard-of-them” glitterati, but you get the picture. It was fun. And I always returned to portraits.
Nothing is as challenging or as rewarding. They are the most unforgiving of images to create. But when I capture someone’s appearance and spirit, it is the most electric feeling that you can imagine. Women have wept over my portraits. Men have wept over them. People tell me that they look everyday at the portraits I did almost thirty years ago, and become emotional. That’s powerful.
If you look at people as often and intently as I do, you will see how astonishingly beautiful and complex we are. I use reference photographs to capture that personality-defining expression or physical gesture that no one can pose. My skill, style and technique have evolved from pastel to gouache to oils and pencil, to represent them in that light, and because only archival materials are used, the portraits can last for centuries.
Maybe I was destined to paint dogs. I grew up in a large family that counted many artists in its history. One of my ancestors, S. Edwin Megargee, was a nationally famous painter of dogs. He was born in 1883 in Mt. Airy in Philadelphia, just blocks from where I have been living for the last twenty-three years. He was a breeder and painter of dogs and wrote and illustrated several illustrated dog dictionaries. He also painted horses, cattle and cock-fighting scenes. He designed the Greyhound Bus logo and was on the board of directors of the American Kennel Club. He died the year I was born, in 1958.
But in my youth, I rankled at the often-expressed opinion, that I could be “…just like S. Edwin!” I focused on portraits of people. Not to mention that I didn’t want to be like anyone else but Stephen Megargee. Several years ago, I happened to see two Weimaraners running and playing. I was overwhelmed by their beauty. The suppleness of their musculature under shimmering coats and the sheer energy and spirit that they embodied, appealed to me in a way that showed me I really needed to start painting dogs.
So, here I am. Every day I watch my own dog, Murphy, bounding through the yard when I let him off his leash. It is pure, unself-conscious joy. And that is something worth painting. Oh, of course, I love cats too! That's our cat, "Russia" on my "Pets" page.