By Amanda Millay
Article in Northside Neighborhood, March 2003
Assisting local masters in his native Bulgaria when he was 9 years old, Buckhead resident and portrait painter Rossen Raytchev Raykov’s talent was noticed long before his recent portrait of President George W. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush.
Rossin, as he signs his paintings, met former President Bush and Barbara Bush on Feb. 28 at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. The couple wanted to say thank you for the portrait, commissioned by former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell. Rossin showed them a small-scale “sketch” of an upcoming project, an incredible piece itself, and he said they loved it.
The final painting will be a 14-by-18-foot “Meeting in Time” of every 20th century U.S. President. Planning on setting up to work this week in the gym of Westminster, Rossin expects to work on the piece for about a year.
“Nothing like this has ever been done, in any country or any period of time,” he said.
Presidents from McKinnley-assassinated in 1901-to Bill Clinton, the 18 men will be depicted in the White House’s Cross Hall, some appearing as if sharing a joke, others relaxing in chairs. Rossin said he poured through countless books to find the best photographs to paint from.
“It is a portrait of a nation and the spirit of freedom,” said Rossin. Rossin began painting when he was 6 years old, copying works from art books from the library, where his mother worked as a director.
“Even at that age I knew I was going to be an artist,” he said.
He and his wife, Dessey, with son Michael, first came to the united states in 2001 for a group exhibition in Miami, FL. The couple met while attending the High School of Fine Arts in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. As a friendly invitation, Rossin offered to paint her portrait, purposely taking six months to complete it.
After graduation, Rossin became the youngest artist ever to join the Union of Bulgarian Artists. He was accepted into the prestigious Art Academy of Sofia, one of 1,200 applicants for nine positions. At the academy, Rossin was trained in the schools contemporary approach to painting in tradition of the old masters, he said.
“It’s not about the technique you use,” Rossin said about his approach to painting.”It’s about how well you understand the person in front of you.”
After meeting with the intended subject taking several rolls of film, Rossin studies the photographs, usually meeting again with the subject to choose the best shot to paint. A standard sized portrait usually takes about 30 to 40 hours to paint.
“Unfortunately, nowadays, nobody has time to sit in the studio,” he said.
Besides commissioned work in private collections, Rossin’s paintings are exhibited at Alain Blondel in Paris, France, Georg’s Galerie in Germany and Gallery Racines in Bruxelles, Belgium. Commissioned by more than 70 congressmen, businessmen and prominent families in Japan over a period of five years, Rossin’s work also includes portraits of the President of Bulgaria, the president of Cypress and the Lebanese Patriarch. After the death of Princess Diana, Rossin was invited to paint her portrait for London’s Roy Miles Gallery.
With talent not limited to painting, Rossin’s children book “Aisy”, featuring a cover illustration by Rossin, was recently published in Bulgaria, and he hopes to soon publish an english version of the fantasy tale.