Tuesday, May 7, 2013


To begin to talk about myself and my interest and engagement in illustration and art in general, I must first speak about the artist who was most influential in my life, my mother, Kari Bonini-Roma (1937-1996). I know that many artists refer to a parent as their role-model, their biggest fan, their support in early life, but I must spend a moment explaining both the influence and intimidation I felt from my mother and her incredible talent.

Kari Bonini-Roma had raw talent from early in life. Our house was filled with sketches she had done in high school and abstract art she created in the late 50’s in college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. We had paintings in the studio (built by my father) on our rural property in northeastern Pennsylvania. My mother was a renaissance woman, someone who had a fantastic garden, was an incredible cook and managed to create an atmosphere that encouraged engagement in everything around us. She supplied various types of art materials for us kids, and kept a very open mind about approaches to art and its creation. She gave us assignments that are found in books like Salvador Dali’s, The Secret life of Salvador Dali, where one draws the reflection of an image in a mirror. She encouraged us to use unusual materials and explore their potential and possibilities.

My mother could draw almost anything, and draw it well. You can see true talent when someone can draw a human body in all positions correctly and without distortion, can draw hands and feet like DaVinci, and draw the horses and architecture equally as well. She knew anatomy and could draw virtually any animal on the planet, which is why for several years throughout the 1980’s, the Phoenix zoo used mom’s services for their signage and artwork throughout the zoo – including their logo and entry billboard. In the early 1960’s, she taught figure drawing and painting at Harper College, SUNY Binghamton. In the 1970’s, she was a medical illustrator for the nursing program at Broome Community College and created all the artwork for their teaching program on the human body. In the 1980’s, she lived in Arizona where she did architectural renderings for several developers, as well as  fine art portraits of Native American Indians and western landscapes. My mother was a creative force with a depth and breadth of talent that was both breathtaking and intimidating for a budding artist. As a young child, I was acutely aware of her range of abilities, so much so that I feared becoming an artist. It seemed like magic to watch her paint, and I felt no such force overtake me when I drew. Her processes were so innate that it seemed like a foreign entity took hold of her when she worked. Maybe she was channeling a Wyeth or Rockwell. She was also comfortable painting in many different styles.

When you have an accomplished mother who can tackle any assignment with grace, it is incredibly difficult not to compare your talents with hers. I wish I could show her my work. She always loved to see it and give constructive feedback or give me pointers on how to approach a project. I loved that, and I miss it, almost as much as I miss her.