Friday, January 09, 2009

Mark Ulriksen and his Teenagers

The High Life
by Mark Ulriksen

Sally and I met Mark Ulriksen at Boulange yesterday.

Twenty-five years ago I assigned an illustration to Mark. The article was about raising teenagers, and he illustrated two teens sharing a milkshake.

Now he finds himself raising two teenagers of his own. I had some questions for him.

How old are your teenagers? And if you had to describe the personality of each in 3 words, what would those words be?

Emma, 16 (almost 17): Never enough clothes.

Lily, 12: Happy in pajamas.

How does having teenagers influence your work and work habits? Do they wander in and out as you're working?

They do wander in and out all the time. Often when they see I'm painting they'll want to join me. I'll set up 2 more easels for them in my studio, which is about the size of our table.

Also I have to admit that I never thought I'd be spending my evenings doing 6th grade algebra homework instead of painting.

Do they criticize your work? Have they ever made suggestions concerning a piece you're working on?

The Classic Emma criticism: That's pretty good, but can you make it pinker? Also: Dad they have more wrinkles than that.

With Lily it's more a comment or confirmation about a subject I'm painting: You like painting baseball more than football or You don't like George Bush.

Once when I was working on a jazz series she stared at the portraits for a long time then asked me: I have two questions: Do they have tongues and are they wearing underwear?

Later as we were walking down the street, we noticed this week's New Yorker cover (above) on the newsstand.

Mark and Sal