When influential Atlantans want someone to capture their likeness, they turn to the portrait artist Rossen Raytchev Raykov — better known simply as Rossin.
His work includes the stars of business, politics and sports, including Atlanta Falcons owner and The Home Depot Inc. co-founder Arthur Blank, retired Coca-Cola Co. CEOs Neville Isdell and Roberto Goizueta, and the late Judge Griffin Bell, former U.S. attorney general.
Through his company, Rossin Fine Art, the artist has completed about 350 portraits over the past nine years. His paintings, typically ranging from $18,000 to $35,000, hang in boardrooms and colleges.
Rossin could demand an airtight contract to secure his commission, but all he ever asks for is a handshake.
Like the people he paints, Rossin wants his work to do more than bring a paycheck. He wants his art to make a difference.
“That was certainly my impression of him,” said Dr. Louis Sullivan, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Sullivan, who founded the Morehouse School of Medicine, heard Rossin speak at the Rotary Club of Atlanta earlier this year.
Rossin, a Rotarian since developing an interest in the organization in his native Bulgaria, said Rotary was always “a good way to give back to society.”
After hearing Rossin, Sullivan was convinced he found the right man to paint a portrait of his wife — a longtime volunteer with the school of medicine.
The painting will be dedicated later this year at the prestigious private college.
“The portrait he did for us was not for his own private collection, but one that was meant to enrich the place it would hang long after we moved on,” Sullivan said.
An early love for art
Beginning painting at the age of six, Rossin was an art prodigy. He became a member of a prestigious Bulgarian arts association by 19 and graduated with honors from the Sofia Fine Art Academy. Women, Rossin says, sparked his love of art at an early age.
His mother introduced him to the greatest artists.
Rossin also had a nanny who loved to paint. He decided that, of all the artistic genres, portraiture is the best at exploring human nature.
At 26, he beat out almost 2,000 other artists to work for a Japanese dealer.
Rossin spent the next five years working in Japan, where he was commissioned to paint the brightest stars of politics and business.
He came to the United States in 2001.
During his career, he painted George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Robert Clark, dean of the Harvard Law School.
His most famous painting is “A Meeting in Time,” depicting 18 U.S. presidents gathered in the White House.
The painting took four years to complete.
“His work is visionary and at the same time meticulous,” said Bob Steed, a retired partner with King & Spalding LLP who heads the firm’s art committee.
From Babe to Britney
His Buckhead studio is filled with portraits that show his range of interests, from Babe Ruth to Britney Spears.
He spends nearly 50 hours a week working on the paintings he is paid to do. The rest is spent on more personal works.
“There is no beach or golf for him,” his business partner, Karen Hudson, said. “If it was up to him, he would have a cot in here.”
Rossin just finished a portrait of Jesus.
“Making portraits is studying people,” Rossin said. “Man is aggressive, whereas Jesus, though his teachings and his philosophy, goes beyond this aggressive history of man.”
For Rossin, there is no end to the mystery of human nature — and no time for golf.
For now, he’s focused on his next masterpiece, a portrait of Gov. Sonny Perdue.