‘Mystery’ couple united with portrait painter

When La Jolla artist Richard Warner wanted to track down the unknown couple he photographed catching some rays on a bench in front of The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library one afternoon, he turned to the La Jolla Light for help.

“Maybe if you print a picture of the painting I did of them from that photograph, someone will recognize them or they will notice it and contact me,” he said. “Their portrait turned out so well, I would love for them to see it.”

The day the newspaper came out with the story, Gaspar (Gap) Costantini glanced down at his copy in his home on Draper Street, saw his likeness, and called out to his wife, Kasey, “Hey, that’s us!”

The bemused couple then called the artist whose number appeared in the article to identify themselves, and then placed a second call to The Light. All parties agreed to meet for a glass of wine and further conversation.

“It’s like we’ve become instant celebrities,” said Costantini of the newfound fame. “On our walks and while running errands, people point to us and say, ‘You’re The Couple! My dentist commented on it, a young woman walking by pointed at us excitedly and I just shook my head up and down and pointed to myself to say, ‘yes, it’s us,’ and she went wild!”

Warner said after the story and photo ran that he, too, got calls from people saying they knew the Costantinis. “It was really cool; one caller said, ‘They’re our friends, we know them,’ ” Warner laughed.

Warner explained that he frequently takes photos around town hoping to catch sunlit images worthy of painting. In the Costantinis on the bench that day, he found “a charming couple with the light hitting them so stunningly.” Later as he began to paint their image, he knew he captured a poignant moment, something special.

As fate would have it, Kasey, turned out to be a retired art teacher from the Utica School District in Michigan who truly appreciated the artistry behind Warner’s painting. “I love his style; his color sense is wonderful,” she said. “He really captured a moment in time.”

Gap liked it, too. A retired manufacturers rep for the auto industry, he prefers to be known for his gigs as a saxophone player who is still performing around town. “Back in the day, I played at the Elmwood Casino in Windsor and other Detroit-area clubs with legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Jerry Vale, Bobby Darin, Dick Haymes and Sammy Davis Jr.” Of the painting, Gap said, “I dig it, it’s really great.”

Warner was delighted with their reactions. The former graphics design company owner-turned-painter of seascapes, landscapes and people said he strives to produce works that are not literal but “are magically created, which just seem to flow from the tubes of paint.”

Warner chatted with the Costantinis for about an hour and then gave them a tour of his studio on the second floor of his Hermosa-area home.

In hushed tones, the trio discussed a possible purchase of the Costantini painting.

“Well, are you guys going to buy it?” this curious editor asked. “The Light readers will be wondering ...”

“Just tell them, it might have a new home one of these days,” Gap grinned.