Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Roy Friedman, President of Standard Oil of Connecticut, a portrait to remember!

Roy Friedman, the President of Standard Oil of Connecticut,    a portrait commission to remember!

On Sunday September 15th, I had the honor of attending the unveiling of my commissioned, 44 x 36 oil on linen, portrait of Roy Friedman, the President of Standard Oil of Connecticut, at Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford, Ct. What a truly wonderful individual Roy Friedman is: an man of quality, integrity and much loved by his employees and family. It was a wonderful and challenging portrait commission as I had to create a collage of sorts, beside a formal portrait, to represent the many accomplishments and passions of this extraordinary man.


"I wanted to thank you for the fabulous portrait you made of Roy Friedman, President of Standard Oil.  The portrait is very life-like.  You really capture his personality – his strength and honesty.    I would be very happy to provide a reference for you if you ever need one.                                                                                  Again, many thanks for a job very well done!"  

 David Cohen

    Executive Vice President     

Standard Oil of Connecticut


I will take you step by step on the creation and thought that went into Roy Friedman, The President of Standard Oil of Connecticut's portrait:


Because this was such a complicated portrait with a lot of detail, I first drew up a rough sketch idea for the composition and detail layout.

Since this was a surprise portrait it was a bit more of a challenge to find the right composition and head shot and pose.
First we had to find a good head shot to work the composition around...this one was perfect!



After presenting a  rough composition sketch, to the Executive Vice President of Standard Oil, David Cohen and the Friedman family, for their approval, I had Roy pose in his office for me,  in the same direction and  eye level that would work with the head shot, above.
(Now remember, this was all to be a surprise, so I had to come up with a story for why I was taking his picture).

This is a old photo of Roy's father with the original horse and buggy that was used in the early years of the company.  This  photo was to be painted in the background as a framed photograph.

Roy was on this Ship during World War 11, a terrible typhoon hit the ship and many crewman were last at sea.           Luckily, Roy survived but this horrific experience changed his life. This photo was to be added to the background also.

Of course, we had to have that great red Standard Oil truck in the picture too...I placed it on view in the painting out the Conference Room window.

Roy has had a love of horses all his life and is a great equestrian, so adding this sculpture from his Library was a good representation for his passions and sportsmanship.

              The final portrait, Roy Friedman, President of Standard Oil of Connecticut,                                      44 x 36 Oil on Linen

The  portrait unveiling at the 100th Anniversary of Standard Oil of Connecticut,  Sunday September 15th

 Boothe Memorial Park, Stratford Connecticut.



It was a lovely early fall morning when we dropped off the large framed portrait  to Boothe Memorial Park at 10;00 am. The unveiling was to be at 1:30, so we had to hide the portrait of Roy Friedman and the easel until it was set for the unveiling. 


The event was well attended with about 400 people including Senator Richard Blumenthal and the major of Stratford, John Harkin.


John Harkin, the Mayor of Stratford and Roy Friedman, The President of Standard Oil of Connecticut


The Friedman Family after the portrait unveiling


Roy Friedman and the artist, Susan Boone Durkee


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Lobster Pot Gardens...an Artist's Spiritual Inspiration

Every year at this time...I get a longing in my heart when I see my beautiful gardens... the colors..the compositions....

I....so........ want to have the time to capture them on canvas.


I just put together a collage of some photos I took from this spring's color show till just today when all the summer flowers are in bloom..I hope you enjoy seeing the gardens as much as I do...this lovely Lobster Pot is a very special place..





This swallow has a great home for the family...one of the many Bird houses on the property

The Love Bird Fountain

Spring View from The Studio Balcony

The Lobster Pot Vegetable Garden

Photo courtesy of James Nicoloro

Topiary Garden in the Fall

Topiary Garden in Winter

To see more artwork from my studio visit!


 To see a delightful 4 min. video of me  and visit  Mark Twain's "The Lobster Pot" visit:


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Redding-Weston-Easton Patch visits The Lobster Pot Studio, Gallery and Gardens

Yesterday, July 12th, while working on a commission of a President of a Company...I recieved a phone call asking if The Lobster Pot was open. Well, of course my first reaction was that someone was calling to make a resevation for Lunch....I have many calls from people thinking that The Lobster Pot is a resaurant....Anyway...no it was a delightful young lady, Liz Young, from The Patch, calling to do an interview. So, 2 hours later she appeared  and spent the next hour touring the Studio, Gardens and House.

 She  did a great job and overed all the bases...

Here is her Patch article:


Friday, February 15, 2013

Painting Justice John Paul Stevens' Portrait

            Painting  former United State Supreme Court   Justice John Paul Steven's Portrait


United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit


Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.  38 x 32, oil on canvas

"Your work captures the Justice beautifully, and we look  forward to hanging it in a prominent place in our Court of Appeals where he served before his appointment to the Supreme Court" 

Judge Diane P. Wood

Chief Judge of the United State Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit


Portrait head and shoulders detail

 Early Development stages

The Artist  with the portrait in her studio  Photo credit Janis Gibson

The Artist in her Studio, developing the early  painting stages of  Justice John Paul Steven's oil on canvas portrait.

 Painting Justice John Paul Steven's portrait is a thrill.  What a great man of quality and distinction. I have decided to paint him in the Conference Room of  The Supreme Court. I am basing the painting on the Official Supreme Court  photograph which is in the public domain. I have decided to have Justice John Paul Stevens hold a law book in his hands,  and I will add the fine mouldings and the book cases of the Supreme Court Conference Room to the background to add compositional detail and interest. Last year Justice Stevens was awarded the Medal of Freedom Award from President Obama, so I feel that should  important honor  should be added to the portrait.

In the images below, I will take you step by step in my early progress of painting Justice John Paul Steven's portrait.

Here are the first indications on the tinted canvas. I am using a turpentine wash and a mixture of yellow ochre and black oil paint make the first strokes.

I am now starting the first wash-in using the turpentine mixture, not concerned about details or the likeness...I just want to get something down on canvas to start the building process. I have the photo reference of Justice Stevens next to the head..Studying the masses and values of the compositions, just as I would if Justice Stevens was posing in my Studio. 


I have been working on the portrait for about 2 hours...just trying to get an accurate base down on the canvas, again, not worrying about the details......(yet)!

I have added the first block-in of the Medal of Freedom and an indication of the bookcases and moulding of the Supreme Court Conference Room.  I am still deciding what "Special" bow tie to paint Justice Steven's wearing.

Here is a photo of Justice Stevens receiving the Medal of Freedom from President Obama, last year. 

The Painting is now further along, I have a good foundation and placement of the features, (of course, still much more work to do....details and exact  facial measurements).

Now, the portrait is further along, I have developed the background detail, laid in the law book and painted the first block-in of the right hand. I think  it will work well for the composition by adding  the hands holding the law book and his signature glasses, which will lead your eye  in a circular movement around the portrait.



Now the Portrait is finally finished! 



  To see more of my portraits, please visit my website:


To meet the Artist and visit The Lobster Pot Studio, please click on the link below to see a delightful 4 minute film created by PBS Director/Producer James Nicoloro


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Filming a "Mark Twain" Documentary at The Lobster Pot

               Another day of filming for the Documentary, 

 "The Redding Mark Twain" at  Mark Twain's Lobster Pot

               by PBS Producer and Director James Nicoloro

Producer/Director James Nicoloro setting up for the Isabel Lyon-Lobster Pot sequence, for the Documentary, "The Redding Mark Twain".



The artist, Susan Boone Durkee, blocking in the early stages of Isabel Lyon's portrait

Photo credit: James Nicoloro

 During the process of painting Isabel Lyon's portrait

Photo credit: James Nicoloro

Isabel Lyon, oil on linen 30 x 24 Collection of the Artist


“Isabel seems at ease. We know there are secrets hidden behind that smile: The Clemens family secrets and her own. She took most of those secrets to the grave. This was her public face. The one she wanted everyone to see. And if those are Twain's dead wife Olivia's stones hanging about her neck she was confident in her position with Twain to wear them in public. It was only Twain's daughter Clara who complained about Isabel wearing her mother's jewelry.  This oil painting is based on a photograph of Isabel taken on December 21, 1908 by Alvin Langdon Coburn at Stormfield, Mark Twain’s last home, and may represent her last moment of calm.  She married Twain's business manager Ralph Ashcroft in March 1909 and the next month Twain fired her for "high crimes and misdemeanors".

 We'll never know the real story.”

James Nicoloro

Distingushed PBS Director and Producer, James Nicoloro,  is currently working on a Documentary “The Redding Mark Twain”. https://jamesnicoloro.wordpress.com/author/jamesnicoloro/



This 24 x 30 oil on Linen painting of Isabel Lyon was created by portrait artist Susan Boone Durkee.  Isabel Lyon was Mark Twain’s companion, household manager and social secretary for 1904-1909. Twain also granted Isabel, for a period of time, Power of Attorney over his affairs. Coincidentally, Susan lives on the property called The Lobster Pot, which  Mark Twain  gave to Isabel Lyon as a  Christmas gift in 1907.


Isabel and Mark Twain in Bermuda, 1907 

Isabel Lyon at Stormfield 1908

Mark Twain and Isabel Lyon

An untold Story

    By Susan Boone Durkee


Isabel Van Kleek Lyon



The relationship between Isabel Lyon and Mark Twain has basically been kept a secret for nearly 70 years. How can that be? Here is a woman about whom Twain himself said he knew most intimately in all the world -- with the exception of his wife, Livy. Mark Twain first met Isabel Lyon in 1892, when she was 29 and working as a Governess for a Hartford family. He encountered her at a party while he was playing charades, and he was so charmed by her that at the end of the evening, when invited to return, he replied: “I’ll come only if I can play with the little Governess.”  When Isabel Lyon first came to work for the Clemens family in 1902, Twain described her as “slender, petite, comely, 39 years old by the almanac, and 17 in ways and carriage and dress.” A charming woman, hard working and competent she soon took responsibility for the entire Clemens household.

After Livy’s death in 1904, Isabel became Mark Twain’s secretary, bookkeeper, household manager, social companion, literary critic, and holder of his power of attorney. For a period she lived at Stormfield with Twain.  Supposedly her bedroom was next to his and her office was located just  left inside Stormfield’s front hall.

Intelligent, and sensitive, Isabel worshipped Twain, referring to him as “The King.” He, in turn, called her “The Lioness.” Isabel staggered under the demands that Twain placed on her. As Twain described her,  “Miss Lyon runs Clara, and Jean, and me, and the servants, and the housekeeping, and the house building, and the secretary work, and remains as extraordinarily as competent as ever.”


In her diary, Isabel records:

“I have been so busy, for there is this house to look after (The Lobster Pot), and the Tuxedo house to think and plan for, and the Redding house to be after too, and Santa (Clara) to love and be with when she was here and do for, and Jean to be anxious over and to help if I can, and her doctors to see, and the King’s social life to look after – for in these days he is very lonely and reaches out for people — and people he must have, so now I am planning parties for him.”

Although it is said that Isabel had designs to marry Twain, she ended up marrying Twain’s business manager, Ralph Ashcroft, in 1909. 

It was an unhappy marriage and ended in divorce in 1920. There is no evidence that Lyon ever betrayed Twain, even though she was paid poorly and treated badly at the end of her service -- Twain even took back the “The Lobster Pot,” her  “darling house,” which he had given her as a Christmas gift in 1907. Still, Isabel remained devoted to him. Many years later, she would refer to the situation as, “we had a falling out.” A young actress friend, Joyce Aaron, who lived next to Isabel when Isabel was in her mid-nineties and living in Brooklyn, told this to me.  What really happened between Twain and Isabel? Was it Clara’s jealous prodding? Was Twain jealous that she married Ashcroft and bruised his ego? Did Isabel really try to steal from Twain? Was Albert Bigelow Paine jealous of her control of Twain?  Did Mark Twain just lose interest in her companionship or did Isabel know too many of the family secrets?

We may never know for sure.  So why has this relationship been kept hidden?


After Twain died, Clara Clemens and Albert Bigelow Paine removed virtually all record of Isabel Lyon’s existence. Twain's image was the utmost importance. So as far as the public was concerned, Isabel Van Kleek Lyon never existed.  Isabel died in 1958 at the age of 95. She willed her diary and photos to the Mark Twain Papers collection at the University of California, Berkeley, with the condition that they not be open to the public until after Clara’s Death. So I guess you can say that after Clara died, Isabel was reborn.


We all owe a lot to this woman, Isabel Lyon. Because of her diligence in keeping a sequence of detailed daily journals and photos the last years of Mark Twain’s life can now be better known to all.

The Lobster Pot's  80 foot Sunken Garden

The Lobster Pot Studio  viewed from the Rhododendron walkway

The Huck Finn Shed

The Lobster Pot  Studio garden entrance

"Mark Twain and Captain Stormfield"   Private Collection,  56 x 42 oil on canvas

Here is Captain Stormfield, who helps me every day in the Studio. He is a 23 pounder!

Photo courtesy of James Nicoloro

To meet the Artist and visit The Lobster Pot Studio, please click on the link below to see a delightful 4 minute film created by PBS Director/Producer James Nicoloro




To see the blog post about another Documentary filmed at The Lobster Pot called "Dangerous Intimacy" click on the link below after the filming photos. This Documentary is about Mark Twain's last years, his relationship with his daughters and Isabel Lyon, his controversial companion and secretary. The Documentary was mostly filmed in Redding Ct. at The Lobster Pot (see photos above), the Mark Twain Libray and New Pond Farm. In this film I portray Jean Clemens, Mark Twain's youngest daughter.  




        To see more portraits of Mark Twain and the  artwork of              Susan Boone Durkee visit: