Location 42, NNEMAP Food Pantry, in Columbus, Ohio, in the heart of Buckeye Nation

Most people, if they know anything about my art, know about my cartoons.  Yes, they have helped to make me the most non-famous, world-famous artist on the planet.  But, if you've read my stories, you know that I also draw portraits from my travels.  I photograph friends, strangers who cross my path, and others who get just a little too close to me and my zoom lens.  Nobody is safe if I think they look interesting.

My portraits started in Morocco.  A co-worker loved to draw portraits from live models.  I watched him sketch my best friend.  As Aaron drew Abdelhadi's chin, I thought, "I think I can do that."  Now, often when I think I can do something, there just isn't enough time in the day to actually do it.   However, in Casablanca, I had no television, no computer, no telephone, and no excuse.  I went to my photo album and sorted through the photographs that I wanted to draw.  There were so very many.

As I continued to travel the globe for a couple decades, my collection of portraits has grown into my most treasured possession to document my wanderings.  Sad to say, when the portraits get finished, I stuff them into portfolios where few people ever see them.  Nobody else has ever seen all of them.

However, since landing back in Ohio, a few more people have discovered my art.  My first "one man show" was an exhibition of my African portraits at church.  And, it was at this presentation that Anne walked into both the gallery and my life.  She loved the portraits.  And, when we found out that we both served in the Peace Corps, the friendship was sealed.

Anne is one of the most connected people I've ever known.  And, one of her passions and connections is the NNEMAP food pantry.  There are people who know what those six letters stand for, but most of us have no clue.  We just say, "KNEE map" and know it's the food pantry.  Anne wanted one of my murals at the pantry as soon as she learned about them.  However, at that moment, NNEMAP served out of a rented basement in a former church.  You don't paint a mural in a rented space.  So, we waited until a permanent home was located.

I met with the NNEMAP board to brainstorm what I might weave into the mural.  In addition to food, the pantry provided many other services to the local community.  That list, as well as the mural design, included back-to-school book bags for students, reading supplies, a Christmas fund raiser, and presents for kids, grooming packets for the homeless, and medical check-ups.  If you look closely at the design, on the left there is a skyline of Columbus, and on the right are some of the 32 churches that help sponsor the pantry.  And, if you really look closely at the design, you'll see six large areas of color in green, blue and purple.  Each of those sections is a giant letter that actually spells out NNEMAP.

If I have my choice, I prefer to paint murals inside.  They are safer from the elements and graffiti artists of this world.  Interior murals can last years and years and still look pristine. Exterior murals aren't so lucky.  I don't often go back to see any of my exterior murals.  It is soo painful to witness their decline.  Alas, for NNEMAP, the mural was on an exterior wall.

However, if you're going to paint outside, the NNEMAP location was magnificent.  It was on a heavily traveled road right off of an interstate in the heart of the city.  There was a parking lot in front of the mural and nothing blocked the view.  Well, I take that back just a little.  The car in front of you might block your view.  As my team of painters transformed 17 yards of color on the outside wall, one day three cars piled up into each other on the street.  I've heard of accidents caused by beautiful girls jogging.  I've never heard of an accident caused by a beautiful mural.  I can't be certain that my art caused the wreck, but I'm always going to believe in my heart that it did.

It takes a community to do a lot of things.  And, painting my murals is certainly on that list. There were around eighty-five volunteers involved during the two week process that transformed a whole lot of white wall.  Most of the volunteers were from the 32 churches that supported the NNEMAP pantry.  A dozen teenagers from a Hindu youth club came one very loud afternoon.  The youngest painters were both three - and so absolutely adorable.  I even had friends from college come to help!  But my right hand throughout the whole project was Lance, a member of the local community.  He just happened to pass by as the project started and very happily accepted a brush.  Then, he came back every day to paint.  My left hand, and the rest of me, was so thankful to have such a ready and willing right hand.