I am happy to share with you my portrait of Mr. Layton Sanders of New York City. Layton and I met many years ago when I had the pleasure of teaching him Latin at Hampden-Sydney College. The portrait was done in the spirit of lasting friendship.


Just back from the Toronto Film Festival and the world premiere of a new film "A Year Ago In Winter" by Oscar-winning director Caroline Link. The film is closely based on the soon-to-be published novel "Aftermath" by Scott Campbell, my friend of forty years. Scott's novel was inspired by my 1996 portrait called "The Red Balloon." My experience is recounted below.

The Red Balloon

She NEEDED the painting. Of her son and daughter together. She told me about his death, about the pain, about the loss. Perhaps a painting could heal it, a painting of the two of them, sister and brother, side-by-side, together again.

I wondered. I had painted other portraits for parents who had lost children. It sometimes seemed to heal, but this time struck me as different. I knew her really well. She was a complex person - always running on fast. And something told me this request was part of running too.

I started to paint.

At first the boy was there on the canvas next to his sister, as he had been in life. But it was wrong, a lie, to put him there as though it had never happened. I could sense he didn't want to be there. He refused to look like himself. He absolutely wouldn’t cooperate with this particular fiction. So I painted him out. GONE. It was like he died all over again, a hard day for me. His sister was alone on the canvas, and she remained alone for six weeks. Spooky.

I didn’t know what to do. And then I got it, the idea. He told me what to do. There was a photograph, one of the many his mother had given me, a photo of him at a party, with a pointy hat on, holding a balloon, the prankster, which I knew to be a very real part of him. I copied the photo into the painting, behind his sister, on the blue wall of the background, affixed with painted tape. I remembered their mother telling me about them as little kids and their favorite movie, THE RED BALLOON, and so his balloon went red, even though the photo was black and white, and his sister got a red balloon too, as though he'd passed it on to her.

Their mother cried when she saw the painting, and she laughed at the prankster in the photo. I think until then she hadn’t really accepted that he had died. And then she thanked me for taking a risk to tell the truth, which has helped to heal her heart.


Keanu Reeves
40” X 30”


In the early summer of 2004, I met Keanu Reeves at Le Clafoutis, a Sunset Strip restaurant, and chatted with him about perhaps doing a portrait for his fortieth birthday in September 2004. He said his schedule of filming would not allow him to sit, so I let go of the idea for a while. But subsequently, I decided to do the painting, based on my memory of our interaction that Sunday morning, augmented by photos from the Internet and video from recent films. The painting was done, not for commercial purposes, but with the idea of making a gift of the portrait to him.

When I finished the painting, I contacted an acquaintance at Creative Artists Agency in August 2004 and was informed that CAA would gladly facilitate the gift and forward the portrait to Mr. Reeves. As I was instructed, I suitably boxed the painting and delivered it to CAA on August 26, 2004. A few days later and again in November 2004, I was informed that the painting had been sent on to Mr. Reeves within a day or two of its delivery to CAA. Thereafter, I reasonably assumed that my work had been received by Mr. Reeves, though I had received no acknowledgment from him. "Oh well, such is life."

In 2006, however, I encountered Mr. Reeves again outside Le Clafoutis. I reminded him of our earlier conversation and inquired if he had received the painting. Mr. Reeves replied that he had not. Indeed, he seemed to have no knowledge of the painting whatsoever. Perhaps he assumed I was up to something, but he was polite and definite that he knew nothing of it.

Once again, I contacted CAA and was assured the painting had been sent to him. Obviously, someone was lying. I was unable to forget the look on Mr. Reeves' face when I asked him about the painting. His puzzlement was so genuine that I knew in my gut he had not received it. Understandably, I was unhappy that the valuable work of art I created as a gift for Mr. Reeves had apparently disappeared, so I decided to look into it further.

My able and persistent attorney sent several letters to CAA that went unanswered. Finally he threatened to demand from their general counsel an accounting in court. Miraculously the missing portrait surfaced within days. "We have located the painting." Long story short, I found that I had been misled, and the painting had never left CAA. It even moved with them from Wilshire Boulevard to their new signature headquarters in Century City. Someone there really liked it.

I have retrieved the painting from its kidnappers. Perhaps I will yet have the chance to give it to Mr. Reeves.


The prestigious Richmond-based law firm McGuireWoods LLP recently unveiled a new portrait by Louis Briel honoring its recently retired Chairman, Robert L. Burrus, Jr.

Burrus will become Chairman Emeritus and will continue to practice law. Burrus was elected Chairman of McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe in 1990. The law firm changed its name to McGuireWoods LLP in 2000. Under Burrus’ leadership, the firm grew from 313 lawyers in five offices in Virginia and one in Washington, DC to 750 lawyers in 13 offices in cities across the United States, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and two offices overseas. It now is ranked the 45th largest law firm in the United State, according to the National Law Journal.

The painting was first shown on June 2 at One James Center to an all-star gathering of McGuireWoods partners, corporate leaders and personal friends of Mr. Burrus.

In a note to the artist, Mr. Burrus wrote, "Thank you for your really fine work creating my portrait. I am very pleased with how well you captured elements of my personality. All comments to me from others, including my sons, have been quite positive."

In another unveiling ceremony McGuireWoods dedicated a portrait to honor the late Frances Hayes, who served the firm with distinction for 55 years until her retirement.