Talequa Johnson, the young girl from West Helena, Arkansas, has grown into a woman and become a high fashion model!
An overnight sensation, she’s all the rage and very much in demand, always traveling back and forth from New York, Paris, London, and Milan. However, today she has a day off and is wandering around rummaging through her many thoughts of all her life changes in the last couple years…
Although she feels indebted to her business manager, (after all, it was he who discovered her right out of high school), she’s beginning to feel he’s too “old school” for her. Besides, he keeps booking her with that famous designer she detests. The one who’s never satisfied, always upset, and very angry!
She’s just walking about, perhaps in London, (or maybe it’s Milan?), but that pale green line behind her is possibly suggesting she’s gone home and that line is perhaps the Mississippi River… Home?
… To get her bearings, to get in touch with her roots?
… Where lies wisdom?
What happened with Talequa is that as I worked on this picture from a drawing done years ago, she slowly evolved into the person that I ended up painting. I had no idea where she was going. Here’s my interpretation; someone else might see something entirely different.
I went through a period recently where I felt I needed to reflect and make statements on themes I think are wrong with society. There’s a group of 4 new paintings that particularly show my need to vent frustrations about our world today. Cheri is the damaged child, The Casting Couch is men using their power to victimize women, Syria is an anti-war theme and Personal Storm Cloud reflects the turmoil of the country today. And this is all coming from a person who doesn’t believe in getting political about his art!
I’ve got this out of my system for the time being, and I’m going back to very personal pictures of people involved in their own world.
Cheri is about child abuse, and how epidemic it is in our society. Are we doing everything we can to help these kids?
The Casting Couch : I’m from Los Angeles, and my family has worked in the entertainment business for 3 generations. The casting couch has been a reality for all 3 generations. The way women have advanced their careers in the movie business is by performing sexual favors. There’s a long history of it, and while I don’t know for certain now if it’s still in existence, I’d be really surprised if it isn’t, at least on some level; perhaps not as overtly. The original drawing of this picture is from the 1970’s, hence the storyline “Between the Gustin & the Gottlieb”, a couple of very much “in” abstract expressionist painters from that era that a film executive would have in his office during that decade.
Syria: This painting is about the war in the Middle East right now, an incredible tragedy. I put the viewer of the painting behind a gun sight aimed at an Arab. It’s to ask a very personal question: “would you pull the trigger? And who are you to be judge & jury?" It would be so simple if you are in the military and this was a known terrorist. But war is very frequently not that cut & dried.
Personal Storm Cloud is a picture of a college professor obviously under mental & emotional duress. He doesn’t even see us walking past him on the street. This is NOT an encounter.
What is he upset about? We just don’t know. He could be obsessed with a young student in his class. It could be tenure, but I doubt it. He teaches US history, AND he’s black. He could be very upset about the political situation & where he sees the country going. The one thing history teaches us is everything repeats.
THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURE, told by the wealthy man driving his Mercedes sedan back to his sanctuary:
"I paid a lot of money for my house, the acreage, getting it built with a commanding view of the whole valley below. Been here going on three years now. Anyway, I was driving home late at night last week, & who should I find, on foot, sorta gliding, I swear, down Mullholland;
this creature! And not only that, I find out she's my nearest neighbor, less than a third of a mile from me, in that dilapidated old shack I pass off the road a bit .... that I assumed was a relic from a century ago .... and no way was anyone living there, for God's sake!
And now, from what I'm gathering, she's been there for a very long time!"
This painting was finished the first week of May 2016; oil on wood panel, 48" w x 48".
I really enjoyed coming up with the story, which presented itself about 3/4's of the way through the picture. I like the concept of a pompous, wealthy landowner having his whole world "disrupted" by her living right next to him, in a dilapidated shack, bringing down his land values & just generally creeping him out. It is so definitely not part of his world view.
Now he can go sit in his house with all of his fancy cars & material possessions & feel unsafe!
I did the drawing in 1983 when I was working animation at any number of different cartoon studios in Hollywood. This drawing was saved not as a doodle, but as an interesting study of a young woman. It went in one of many folders with thousands of other drawings that I had done over the years to decompress from the pressure of doing animation, which was very intense in its formula. This drawing was done on old-style animation paper from the time when animators flipped the pages to do their pencil drawings. The peg holes were to keep the drawings in proper registration, one to the other, a thing that later computers made entirely unnecessary. A whole way of doing work disappeared.
In 2007, I took those thousands of folder drawings & culled it down to the 300+ very best drawings & saved them in notebooks. Esmaralda was one of those.
Exactly 30 years later, I decided to turn it into a painting.
Then I wrote a story. I did something unusual for me; normally the idea is for the picture to develop into someone, & who I think they are at the beginning & who they turn out to be may be completely different things, but in this case the story came to me from looking at the original drawing, & I had such a clear idea of her persona.
This is the preliminary pencil drawing on the wood panel, 60w x 48h.
I made her a little less morbid & a little less severe than I did in the drawing. Then I worried that she was too saccharine & girly-sweet. But of course she is not, she’s just trying to fit in & be a young woman.
However, she could disappear back in the woods again at any moment.
Esmaralda is kind of an Ozarks folklore myth. She doesn’t exist, but people wish she did!
The original 60w x 48h painting has sold, but there are two three-quarter sized prints available. Call or email for pricing!
This is a small painting, 12” x 12”, done in a technique which is over 3000 years old. First developed in the Mediterranean to seal up early seafarer’s ships with wax so they don’t leak, it was discovered that the wax could be mixed with oil-based paint to create brilliant colors, every bit as insoluble as straight wax.
Thanks to this technique, we had lots of Egyptian & Greek war ships of the time painted with colorful red eyes & flaming tails. Recently, (in the last 100 years), excavations in Egypt have pulled up funerary coffins made by Egyptians from the Late Period (712- 332 BC) . Uncovering these coffins with painted images, referred to as Egyptian faience, these ancient paintings on a wood panel looks like they have been painted yesterday. No water has been able to get into them; the wax kept the dirt out; no sunlight has hit them.
The technique is known as encaustic & is currently undergoing a revival in art circles.
Some of these people had their portraits done when they were teenagers, so they look like adolescents on the coffin. They didn’t wait; they didn’t know when they were going to die. They had their picture done when they were in the prime of life & could afford it. Wealthy parents often had these done for their children, so there would sometimes be a very old man whose coffin had the painting of him as a young child.
I love working in encaustic & will be doing a lot more work in this technique down the line.
Just to let you know, since the wax of honeybees melts at 180 degrees, you don’t have to worry about your pictures melting. They will get tacky at a lower temp, but they won’t actually melt till 180 degrees, & if your house is 180 degrees indoors, it’s on fire.
However, if they freeze, they do get bloom, which is a surface alteration that looks a bit like mildew.
Somehow, it never seems to freeze underground in Egypt.
This was a fun sketch to do; by the way, the motif behind him is Egyptian.
King Tut had a very short reign as Pharaoh of Egypt. He became Pharaoh at 17 & died at 18. He was known as the "forgotten pharaoh", which is why his tomb was intact, having avoided the grave robbers. According to accounts, he was extremely sickly & pale & may have had a deformed foot. The actual cause of his death was probably not natural, however, since his Grand Vizier immediately succeeded him to the throne after a nifty usurpation of his own & married his sister to make himself more legitimately authentic to the throne.
After exhaustive research studying mummy remains & mockups of what the young King Tut actually looked like, I’ve come up with this drawing of what he would look like if he were alive today, known as “Sonny" ...
….& living in Jersey.
Napkin Man came about as I was holding marker pens in my hand with just a napkin to draw on. Then I thought to myself "this worked for Picasso, why can't it work for me?"
The napkin was broken in; I used it to eat my lunch.
Napkin Man's superpower is the power to eliminate food on your fingers. Just don't use his face; he will come off on your fingers.
There will be no print edition; it will remain an original piece of art.
Taking bids now!
“Man at the Seashore”, 1983, mixed media (pastel, charcoal, colored pencil, spray paint, on paper), framed under glass. 31”w x 39.75”h. $2300
This is the piece I have in the group show opening at Brew’s in Eureka Springs this Thursday night 7/30/15; details below.
It is essentially a large drawing. In the early ‘80’s, I had just reread Albert Camus’ “the Stranger”, where the man on an Algerian beach is going thru existential angst & a deep feeling of alienation & ends up committing the crime of killing someone without really knowing why he did it.
But that’s the book, not the picture. The picture is a different animal. My “Man at the Seashore” certainly looks alienated, perhaps isolated, but beyond that, it’s whatever anyone cares to project on it.
I like this piece.
“The Figure” – a group art show that examines the human form will be on display at Brews through the end of August. Participating artists include Larry Mansker, Julie Kahn Valentine, John Willer, Carol Saari, JD Davis, Mary Smith, Jerri Stevens, Robert Beaufort, Stella Ipswitch, Cynthia Kresse, Sarah Scissors, Mary Springer, Drew Gentle, JR Jones and Dan Morris.
During the artist opening reception, there will be a special interactive performance piece performed by “Eve”, the original model and muse for many artists, both past and present.
The opening reception will be held Thursday, July 30 from 5 til 8 p.m. and all are welcome and encouraged to bring a paintbrush.
Brews, 2 Pine St., Eureka Springs, AR 72632. (479) 244-0878
Hermes – When Warhol meets Classical Art meets the Comics
(Drew’s take on "Hermes", or as the Romans called him, “Mercury”)
First of all, he’s an all powerful Greek God, (out of his time) . . . did I mention powerful skills . . . Anyway, he’s extremely insecure, unsure of his place in the pantheon of classical Greek Gods . . . in spite of his deep intelligence and acute reasoning skills (one of his godly gifts), the other Gods just think of him as their messenger … (their ego needs to be in charge).
Now, he does have the ability to be pretty much anywhere instantly. He’s very fast, you see . . . but he is also the only Greek God who ever second guesses himself. He sometimes has doubts (this could be a sign of his intelligence?) . . . and the other Gods know this about him. They don’t want him in charge of anything . . . they, who never doubt themselves, want that power for themselves! . . . anyway, his feelings are hurt .
But! . . . “Nowdays” . . . he doesn’t care about that so much. He wants to go to Hollywood, act in a few movies, and show the people some very Godly tricks* that only an immortal could do!
* THINK SPECIAL EFFECTS Jan 2015: Gentle
I have probably 20 notebooks of varying sizes & shapes, full of sketches. The notebook drawings go back 30 years to my animation career. They were generated during two main periods; the first group drawn during my many years of animated cartoons for Hanna-Barbera & Disney, etc; the second group here in Arkansas since I've retired from animation.
The first group were drawn in moments of relaxation, letting my mind wander & my fingers dance along the edges of the unconscious, a way to relax my head & my hand from the rigid constraints of creating animation. The animation work was very intense, so I began this method of adjourning that led into expressing aspects of human persona. To this day I tend to put shirts on over my head rather than button & unbutton the front because the rigors of animated affected my ability to do little delicate tasks like that.
The 300 or so drawings that I still possess from those 30 years are out of a group of maybe 3000 that I culled, discarding the rest. The second group, really done since 2008, have been drawn with me giving free rein to my fine art & not so much as therapy from animation.
This post begins an ongoing series about the notebooks. Today's blog is a more recent drawing, from a day in January 2015 when I was obviously in a more playful mood. Sometimes I sketch a bit of info or a background storyline as well, a holdover from storyboarding in animation days. Here's the text from "Hermes", in case you can't read my handwriting.