Downtown Atlanta Makes the Grade

The Travel Section of The New York Times on Sunday January 12 selected downtown Atlanta as one of the 52 places throughout the world to see in 2014, and it had this to say about its ranking:

“A revitalized city center welcomes new museums and streetcars.”

“Atlanta plans several ribbon cuttings in 2014, but the main event is the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, scheduled to open in May next to the Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium downtown. The 42,000-square-foot, environmentally friendly museum will feature permanent galleries devoted to domestic and international rights struggles and will house the Martin Luther King Jr. papers owned by Morehouse College. By midyear, visitors will be able to take the new Atlanta streetcar on a 2.7 mil loop that will like the park to the MLK Jr. National Historic Site and other stops. Another parkside attraction is the 94,000-square-foot College Football Hall of Fame, opening in time for the kickoff of the NCAA season.”

Atlanta’s Portraits of Civil and Human Rights Pioneers
In my previous post, I mentioned that I had been chosen to paint the portraits of seven amazing civil and human rights pioneers, which will become part of the permanent collection at the Human Rights Gallery, to be located at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. In addition to Mandela, Gandhi and King, on other man and three women will be honored for their work. As you will see from the photo of my portraits below, they are works in progress.

Seven human rights heroes, clockwise from top left, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Elena Bonner, Estela Barnes de Carlota, Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Vaclav Havel.

Elena Bonner helped political prisoners and their families as early as the 1940s and later became an activist in promoting the human rights movement in the Soviet Union. She received many international human rights awards.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an activist for women’s rights in the workplace, as well as for the civil rights of African Americans and Asian Americans, as well as the rights of World War II refugees.
Estela Barnes de Carlotta was an activist in The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, the purpose of which was to secure the release of children kidnapped or “disappeared:” by military forces during the military dictatorship in Argentina. An estimated 500 children were either kidnapped or seized at birth from women in detention during the Dirty War. “The Grandmothers” secured the establishment of the National Genetic Data Bank for Relatives of Disappeared Children in 1987 and other organizations. She was awarded a U.N. Prize in the field of Human Rights.
Vaclav Havel was a playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and political leader. He served as the 9th and last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. Beginning in 1997, according to Wikipedia, Havel hosted Forum 2000, an annual conference to “identify the key issues facing civilization and to explore ways to prevent the escalation of conflicts that have religion, culture or ethnicity as their primary components”. At the time of his death, he was Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, based in New York.

The seven amazing individuals I will be “working with” have opened my eyes to so much and made me appreciate their courage. Because I have read many of their speeches, seen countless photographs, and watched significant video coverage of their work, I feel as though they are still alive.
As I roll steadfastly into 2014 charged with the task of bringing these heroes to life with paint on canvas, it is my sincere hope that I will fully and beautifully capture their light and their spirit. My hopes and wishes for everyone else in my world and beyond, as they march into 2014, is that they can all find the spark and the courage to embark on their own missions − to accomplish, to achieve, to overcome, to effect change. Even if it is small and personal – such as “giving back” to those in need, or finding peace within, or being a better friend, neighbor or co-worker – as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

With 2013 in the Rear View Mirror and 2014 in the Headlights, A Few Observations

Rossin and Ava at Smithsonian

With My Lovely Wife Ava at The Smithsonian

What a relief to close out 2013 and what a pleasure to enter 2014 as a man with a well-defined mission, engaged in work that inspires and excites me, surrounded by a beautiful and healthy family, and appreciated by friends I love who return the love. Isn’t that the formula for success for people in all walks of life? Isn’t that what people − even corporations and institutions − aspire to, a mission in life, with backdrop of beauty and health, and friends and clients who appreciate their work?

Portraits, People, Places, and Possibilities

One of the most memorable events of 2013 − for not only me but also for most of the world − was the passing of Nelson Mandela, who was the embodiment of all that is good and right about the process of social change. He set out on his courageous mission to end injustice in South Africa, and was imprisoned for 27 years because of it. During those years, of course, he was not surrounded by beauty and love − but beauty, love, friendship and appreciation awaited him upon his release from prison in 1990.

Those 27 years in prison were horrible, no doubt, but the strikingly positive aspect of the long imprisonment is that he had the freedom to fully formulate the strategies that, upon his release, allowed him to dive back into his mission to right the wrongs in South Africa.

I think of the cyclical process and am so impressed: Mandela was no doubt inspired by changes implemented by civil and human rights pioneers before him (think Mahatma Gandhi); Mandela’s early work before his imprisonment served as inspiration for others to make changes − to right the wrongs − in their own worlds; during his imprisonment, the progress made by others in their struggles for social change helped create a fertile field for Mandela to ascend to the presidency upon his release (think Martin Luther King, Jr.); the successes he enjoyed during his presidency, in turn, inspired and motivated legions to initiate their own campaigns for social change or contribute to the work of others.

What a Great Honor it will be to Paint Portraits of Human Rights Pioneers

What an honor it was to be selected in 2013 to paint the portraits of these three “M’s” – Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They will be similar to my oil portraits depicted above. In addition to these three heroes, I will also produce portraits of four other amazing civil and human rights pioneers, who I will describe in my next post. Stay tuned! Suffice it to say, this project will keep me fully engaged, excited, and energized as we head deeper into 2014.

And, in closing, let me say this:

May all that you hope for in 2014 be the least that you receive!

What Color is Santa? It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Santa’s Race, like Beauty, is in the Eye of the Beholder

 Of course, we have all seen thousands of images over the years of Santa rendered in white beard, rotund middle, jolly smile, and — almost always — rosy red cheeks on an otherwise white face. Recently, there’s been a fair amount of media attention paid to the question about Santa’s race. Santa, being magical, should be seen through children’s eyes. Perhaps he assumes the features and the complexion that each kid imagines him to have. Ultimately, his identity should be left to children’s imaginations.  

As a kind and gentle nation of compassionate adults, perhaps we should push forward the notion to our children, when they’re still young enough to believe in Santa, that Santa changes colors according to the houses his visits: when he delivers gifts to white kids, he’s white; when he delivers gifts to an African-American kid, he’s African-American.     

We Should Celebrate the Spirit of Santa 

But maybe, just maybe, the issue of Santa’s race should not be discussed at all. Instead, perhaps it is the spirit of Santa that needs to be celebrated. This was my idea in painting a portrait of Ambassador Andy Young. In my mind, he is the epitome of kind and generous — and spirited. The portrait was revealed at a recent Rotary International meeting in Atlanta. People who know Andy – which means nearly everyone in Atlanta and half of everyone else – understood why I chose to celebrate him in this way.

Santa Andy, Work in Progress

Introducing … “Andy Claus”

I have found it encouraging that a growing number of communities are featuring Hispanic, Asian, and African American faces in those Santa costumes, often reflective of the neighborhoods in which the Santa is practicing his ritual. And, I hope, in a growing number of encounters, Santas — regardless of their race or heritage –will hone their messages to kids that Christmas is not only about receiving gifts, but of being a gift to those around them.


My Time with Mandela: Painting His Portrait, I Peered into His Soul

Mandela, work in progress

Mandela painting…like the man, bigger than life, 72″x 60″, oil on canvas.

In my last post, I mentioned my belief that we live in a world of reflections, that how we are viewed by society is a reflection of the mark we have made on the world. Perhaps no one in our lifetimes seemed to recognize this principle more than Nelson Mandela. During his more than 10,000 days behind bars (and every day thereafter), he surely MUST have known that he was molding and shaping the world, and that his days of sacrifice and deprivation and tireless work would, in the end, help the world see his self-portrait as a masterpiece.

During the time I was painting the Nelson Mandela portrait depicted here, I felt the depth and dignity of the man, and felt almost as if he were speaking to me. No, he didn’t sit for this portrait; I used the best and brightest photographs from images captured over the course of his lifetime, most of which were from the personal archives of people who were lucky enough to know him.

Mandela Portrait Expresses His Depth and His Dignity

After studying dozens of photographs and noticing every nuance of his face, and absorbing minute details about other aspects of his physical being, I had an image in my mind of how I needed to proceed. But I wasn’t quite ready. I took the image resting in my mind and polished it, using the messages conveyed in his speeches and books and other written material, chapter after chapter, until I felt like I KNEW the man, like he was THERE with me as I created MY masterpiece, MY Mandela. Continue reading

At TEDxPeachtree in Atlanta, Portrait Artist’s Reflections

Rossin at TEDx, by Patty2

With My Paintings on Stage at TEDx Peachtree

Early last month, I was honored to be on stage at TEDx.  There are few moments and events in one’s life as enlivening as being in the company of movers and shakers in various fields and allowed to speak from the heart and soul, sharing opinions and offering advice. (Check it out, click below:) 

Now, some may tell you that I can fill an afternoon with back stories and travel stories and lessons I’ve learned and advice on better living and what I believe are the keys to success, so it was a tad challenging and time-consuming to slim down the presentation into a palatable nine minutes. By the way, this concept of “taking a longer time to express shorter presentations” has been expressed through the ages by a number of thinkers and writers:      

From philosopher and statesman Cicero: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”  

From writer Mark Twain: “If you want me to give you a two-hour presentation, I am ready today. If you want only a five-minute speech, it will take me two weeks to prepare.”  

From writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau: “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”

So, as I said, I spent considerable time shaving off the extraneous for the TEDx talk. As an exercise in further capsulizing the concepts I introduced at TEDx, I present the following:

I have been an artist for 40 years, during which I have come to believe that art is a way of living and living is a form of art. Through all the portraits I’ve painted, and the people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had, I’ve learned that four universal principles apply to all aspects of life and all aspects of art. Continue reading

The Greatest Work of Art EVER!

Rossin in front of Taj

The grandeur of the Taj Mahal, as I experienced it in June 2013, left me awestruck and inspired.

“Should guilty seek asylum here,

Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.

Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,

All his past sins are to be washed away.

The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs:

And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.

In this world this edifice has been made:

To display thereby the creator’s glory.”

Those are the words used by Shah Jahan to describe his masterpiece, the Taj Mahal.


The poet Rabindranath Tagore describes the Taj Mahal’s effect on people a bit more succinctly but equally poetically:

“Let the splendor of the diamond, pearl and ruby vanish like the magic shimmer of the rainbow. Only let this one teardrop, the Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time…”

After traveling to India recently, I know why people are so expressive about the Taj Mahal. When I was there, I was so overcome with emotion that I vowed to return soon to further explore its magic and its spiritual magnificence. Continue reading

They Just Don’t Build Things The Way They Used To

Blog Photo, Taj Tile Detail

Lovely detail of tile and marble on the walls surrounding the Taj Mahal, built for the ages in the mid-1600s.

Okay, so not every structure can be built like the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal. I understand the need to construct office buildings, shopping districts, subdivisions, schools and institutions to house, feed, educate, and entertain people. But I am distressed that many buildings are constructed for the moment.  Sadly, most everything around us is conceived as something temporary and disposable. Continue reading

Grace, The Silver Thread

Gift in hands

Grace is a gift best shared

Have you heard of “the silver thread”? Is it in you? Have you felt it? Want to find it?

“It” — the silver thread some people call it — is grace, and it is the answer to so many questions. Most everything else is secondary.

The dictionary includes two definitions:


1) Simple elegance or refinement of movement.

2) In Christian belief, the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

To me, the word embodies both definitions at the same time.  Continue reading

Nature, and Human Nature

Audrey's Eyes, Detailed

“Audrey Hepburn,” detail, oil on canvas, 72″ by 72″
By Rossin

I am as interested in what’s typically referred to as “Mother Nature” as the next person. But in my work, I’m interested only in human nature. All I truly care about is the Self within — for the Self is supreme, whole and absolute. My mission is to bring to the surface those precious gems of eternal beauty that are hidden deep below the surface of everyday appearances. I want to bridge a psychological bridge between the viewer and the unknown, the profoundly beautiful world that stands hidden within each human being. To my surprise, I find it’s something buried so deep that in searching for it, you could reach for the stars. My mission is to show the universe in each single human face. To teach grace, kindness and understanding through the glorious and long-lasting means of art. Art is a way of living and living is a form of art.

Standing In The Light, A Portrait Artist Captures A Glimpse Into The Soul

Rossin in Studio

Rossin in his studio with former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and contemporary portraits

“Stand squarely in the light.” Those are the first words I utter to myself as I start each day, and among the first words I speak when I begin painting a portrait or creating a sculpture.Whether it is a corporate CEO, a government leader, or a celebrity, when they stand in the light, their personality, their spirit, their heart and their soul begin to reveal themselves to me.

As an Atlanta portrait artist, I feel honored to be asked to capture the light in the eyes and the brightness in the smiles of my clients — regardless of whether they live in Atlanta or in Austria, Africa, or India. I feel it allows me to communicate about my clients to those who view the images of my clients. Continue reading