My notes from painting Fear is a Liar, a portrait featuring Brad James
Brad was the first to be painted in the series. Brad and I met as little kids, crossing paths at the local church and the church summer camps. Later, I remember Brad being there when learning how to smoke pot at that church in a refrigerator box someplace out of sight on the property. I also knew who a few of his brothers were. Over the years, I wouldn’t see much of Brad until we worked together on this project.
In the painting Fear is a Liar, I had many visits from Brad’s deceased brother Kevin. I could feel a spirit saying it was Brad’s “good looking” brother, in a playful and humorous way. This energetic visitor had a feeling of remorse and was somber about how he had treated Brad when they were kids. He was clearly not feeling guilt; rather a sense of loss of missed opportunity at being a better brother for Brad. While painting, the spirit came several times to give his input on the work. The color red was important to Kevin’s idea about interpreting Brad’s life experience. Red was used to symbolize life, both lost and lived intensely. The wings are there upon Brad’s approval to represent how Kevin watches over Brad, as his guide. When it came time to paint Brad’s face, it seemed like the wolf was representative of his energy. Brad told me the wolf had always represented how he felt being a “James” boy. The wolf is wild. It runs in packs, it is a scavenger, and a survivor. Brad really wanted included was a “V” to show his home town allegiance to Venice. Just before finishing this painting, I was sitting down to sew. Thinking while sewing, I started to question the idea of Kevin’s spirit visiting me. “Was this just something my mind made up?” In that moment, my sewing machine surged. It took off. I checked the pedal and even flipped off the power, but the machine kept running. I had to unplug the machine to turn it off. With that I acknowledged Kevin as really having visited me. Thankfully, he hasn’t shown up again since finishing the painting. He had a lot of impact on the piece; however Brad was the main curator of the painting. Growing up in Venice was complicated. I committed to this series after painting Brad’s story because I realized it was important to share the wisdom that came from such a multilayered place.
written by Ruth Chase Boudreaux
edited by Gena Lasko