marshall arts

Jon Singer

I first met Jon Singer at Iguanacon (the 1978 World Science Fiction). The nominal excuse was lasers, because, you see, I'd actually met Howard Davidson first. I had just arrived in Phoenix, and was strolling through the atrium of the Hyatt Regency (still my milspec for Cosmic Spots) on my first reconoiter, when I heard "Fiske Planetarium! Fiske Planetarium!" shouted behind me. Well, it was Howard, and he'd spotted the t-shirt I was wearing because he also lived in Boulder. Auspicious, that. One might say, providential.

Anyway, in the course of getting acquainted, it came out that I harbored passing interest in lasers. "Well," Howard said, "I'll have to introduce you to Jon Singer." And so it came to pass that I happened to be loitering in the committee lounge (the "Den," I believe was the technical term), when the man hisself comes in. This rather frightening character was introduced to me, whereupon I piped up, "Howard Davidson says that I should talk to you about lasers."

Mr. Singer responded, in this grumbly, deep base voice full of portent, "I will teach you about lasers." (Anybody who knows Singer will be laughing hysterically at this point.)

As it happens, I wound up learning what little I know about lasers from reading Scientific American (which was actually Howard's fault, because he got me a subscription for Christmas that year), except that they're bloody heavy. (Well, they were back then. Or at least the one Jon had in Howard's basement was.) And found that I wasn't really all that interested in them after all. (Somehow all the romance went out of it as soon as I encountered energy levels of electrons and all that.)

Jon, however, nevertheless turned out to be, shall we say, a formative influence. It came to pass that in the years that followed I set about practicing my portrait drawing, and sometime in '79 or '80 he was kind enough to sit for me.

original: 9"x12", charcoal, circa 1979-80

Now for this boon to be fully appreciated, one must be realize that for a full portrait, my model had to sit ABSOLUTELY STILL for FOUR HOURS. (I still can't believe I could get anybody to do this.) Jon sat for me not once, but twice. So here we have, presented with my deepest gratitude, the better of the two efforts.

What makes Jon's accomplishment all the more impressive is that little Mona Lisa smile. In most live-sitting portraits I've seen, the subjects have a vaguely pole-axed look, as if they've been found some hours after their demise, and then badly stuffed and mounted. Jon actually managed to give me a reasonably engaging expression, and was able to hold it long enough for me to reproduce it on paper.

--Wednesday, 20 August 1997