An email arrived from a man in Maine. He’d seen an article online about my pet portraits—likely this self-serving one, which is looking like my last meaningful contribution to the Chicago Reader. The man wrote about his rescued cat, Johnny Depp, who’d passed away some time back. It was only now that he could bring himself to look at photos. I wrote back with a price and heard nothing back for a few days.

It was no surprise. I’ve lost count of commissions and sales which sounded like done deals before evaporating into thin air. Buying art is mostly an emotional thing, so when the excitement of the moment passes, the rational mind wrests controls back, and what seemed like a great idea now seems foolish. I used to get mad about but don’t anymore. Now, until I get the check, cash, or notice of payment it’s just a pleasant thought to me. This is a mental health measure. Art is crazy-making enough without others getting my hopes up for no reason.

So when Johnny Depp’s old owner wrote back it was a nice surprise. He sent several shots of the cat, then some of the yard he wanted for a background, then that he’d like some forget-me-nots at Johnny’s feet. The next day brought several photos of puffy clouds in a blue sky. I wrote back I’d do my best and send him a photo before sending the painting out. He wrote back that he’d been looking at my website and that my work reminded him of his favorite artist, LeRoy Neiman, but also Edward Hopper. One out of two ain’t bad. I wrote him that Hopper’s one of my favorites.

A story popped up in the news about the non-feline Depp fighting in court with his ex-wife. Domestic violence, drug-abuse, the whole shebang. I wondered why my friend in Maine named his recently-departed friend after that clown. I have to believe from the way he wrote about this cat that he had a much better disposition than his namesake. Do pets ever have to fight in public for relevance? Do they fear becoming grotesque has-beens? I hope not.

I finished the portrait and sent a snapshot East. I got an ecstatic response a couple hours later. My friend in Maine wrote that he felt like he’d taken a chance which paid off. He invited me for a lobster dinner if I ever found myself in his state. I wrote back that one of my brothers has a place there, so I might take him up on his offer.

No need to tell him I don’t eat seafood, right?