"What'll I Do?" (Portrait of Martini Emmart- Niedbalski, for Bob Niedbalski. July 2013)  
pastel pencils and watercolor
This is of my very fine friend, Irish born & raised Martini Emmart-Niedbalski, who died all too unexpectedly (she had just turned only seventy a few months previously) a year and a half ago.  I'm sitting in a back bedroom of her and her husband Bob's house as I type this. The portrait is derived from a photograph taken in the kitchen of this house, back in the woods behind the university-bustle of Chapel Hill. I got rid of a lot of the clutter in the kitchen when doing this portrait, which would probably irritate the hell out of Martini if she were still here.
Perhaps it's appropriate that this scan is so ephemeral.....Martini, herself, was a tiny thing (110 pounds maybe?). She always seemed rather delicately moth-like to me (that's a compliment; I like moths & have spent a lot of nights watching them).....but, then, she was QUITE capable of suddenly reminding one (me, at least) that she had a remarkably sharp, wasp-like side to her.  She was nobody's fool about anything, insofar as I could ever tell.
She and I talked & talked about books and gardening and cooking....and, sometimes, marriage.  I quite distinctly recall her saving mine (more or less), one evening.  She listened patiently to some complaint of mine, and then she announced "Well, have you TOLD him?  If you haven't, then that's YOUR problem...so, TELL him.  He should do something about that...but you'll have to TELL him..."
Feeling encouraged, I began going on with some other supposed household/marriage grievance, at which point she wisely interrupted and declared "No...NOW you're just being bitchy....don't push it"
Well, I miss Martini greatly (hence the title of the portrait...in addition to her expression in the portrait).  My father will, in regard to his mother (who died in 1984), sympathize with that disorienting sensation of hearing something terribly funny or silly on the radio....and then picking up the telephone to talk about it with the friend most likely to also find it ridiculous/funny.......and, then, you suddenly realize "Oh, wait....she's not going to pick up...she's gone.....".
I'll be giving the portrait to Martini's husband, Bob (who's up in Connnecticutt for a month, seeing to his own, perfectly healthy 93 year old mother.....life DOES, indeed, go on, doesn't it?)
Please go to (it's a wonderful recording of "What'll I do?"):