A year ago, I went to California for my brother’s wedding. My present to Max and Lauren was a painting of their choosing. A few weeks ago they finally told me what they wanted: a picture of Lauren’s dearly-departed cat, Monet, guarding the gates of Hell. Not my usual line, but a promise is a promise, so I got to work.

An image search for ‘gates of Hell’ yielded an endless crawl of cheesy renderings of crenulated Gothic fencing. It wasn’t until I’d scrolled down for awhile that I spotted a photograph of a barren plain with a chasm glowing from molten fire. I don’t recall where it was, but it looked a lot more like the way to the underworld than all the Victorian Halloween imagery clogging my computer screen. I cut-and-pasted Monet over the crater, printed it out, and taped it to my easel above the canvas. 

I scattered some skulls on poles about the tundra and floated a a flock of blood-red birds in the distance and called it a day. When I emailed Max a snapshot for approval, he said the painting would haunt them for years. Mission accomplished. 

I designed the poster for this year’s Chicago Literary Hall of Fame induction ceremony