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A couple of weeks ago I got an email from John Dixon at the Village Voice asking if I was available to do any work for an upcoming issue. John had a great idea. He wanted to do an all comic issue of the Voice and felt my work would fit for a review of a new play opening on Broadway called “A Bengal Tiger at the Bagdhad Zoo“. The play is by Rajiv Joseph and stars Robin Williams in his Broadway debut. Williams plays a tiger in the Bagdhad Zoo during the Iraq war who is killed for biting the hand that feeds it. He then spends a portion of the play as a ghost questioning the war itself and the justifications surrounding it. It’s a thoughtful play about human nature and reminds me very much of the book “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn.
At least it’s description does. This happened to be one of those assignments where I did not receive any source material. As a result I researched what I could and spent the rest of the time speculating and concentrating on what I the material evoked.
There were a few things I was certain should make it into the finished piece. Mainly Robin himself. However, if I could somehow include a tiger that would be good too. John sent me some publicity stills and when I got to see how raggedy and tired Williams looked in character the concept formed: I would paint Robin Williams as the character, only I would give him a bengal beard to make the connection and drive the characterization home. I thought the sensitive confrontation of close up of Williams was the best way to go. If I could somehow evoke the nature of the Iraq War, well that would only strengthen the image. Indirectly I wanted Williams to look kind of like those pictures of a defeated Saddam Hussein. Those shots after Saddam’s capture where he looks tired, disheveled and hasn’t seen a razor in months. The challenge would be to make sure the person in the finished piece looked like Robin Williams even though much of his face was obscured by a beard.
Things developed as the imaged progressed. I added some helicopters, smoke, minarets and a feeding slot to the cage. John gave me tremendous amounts of leeway in creating this image and as a result I made an early decision to give the painting a unique shape. The pointed arch is a staple of Arabic architecture and framing the final piece that way made it that much more descriptive. All in all a fun assignment.
I’m diving headlong into the 21st century with my first ever painting available on E-Bay. I created this piece in 2003 and it has since toured the country and been a finalist in the Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition. Both in New York and LA and appears in ILLUSTRATORS 46. It has also hung in two exclusive bask stage exhibitions at the Virgin Music Festival in Baltimore in private rooms occupied by the Police and Foo Fighters. You can bid on this original painting of Jimi Hendrix here. It is a watercolor on Strathmore board. Won’t you give poor Jimi a home?
More drawings with friends….and then some. Two techniques for drawing revolving around music. The larger one is a pencil drawing of Elvis Costello from a performance at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD. I was lucky to be close enough to actually make a couple sketches on the scene.
The rest are ball point pen (red, blue and black) on oaktag, the same stuff they use for office folders. I added a little White Out to bump up some shapes. I wanted to see what I could make with materials just about everyone has laying around. I’m also a fan of those old school red conté crayon figure studies. Yup, that’s Casey with his banjo again. And Anthony with the bass.
I love my friends. They’re all pretty amazing eclectic people that do some pretty cool stuff. Take Casey and Dave here. Casey plays banjo, is a percussionist in a Samba group and drives around an old school diesel minibus that he converted to run on vegetable oil. Dave is an illustrator living in Philly who does some pretty incredible and very unique collage work and also happens to be one of the funniest people I ever met.
I decided to taking my new iMac for a spin and colored these drawings in Photoshop. You can see a watercolor painted version of Casey Playing Banjo here.
For my entire life, anytime I have ever voted, the person I voted for never won. It’s been a long string of disappointments from Mike Dukakis to John Kerry, with each successive loss making me feel less and less connected to the political process. I got so confident in my ability to pick losers that I even considered voting for the opposing candidate to test the validity if my voting mojo. But I couldn’t bring myself to toss my vote away like that. What if I was wrong? I’d never be able to sleep at night knowing I voted for someone I didn’t believe in.
Thankfully that all changed with the 2008 Presidential Election when Barack Obama became, not only the first African-American President, but the first candidate I voted for to make it into office. My interest in the political process restored, it’s nice to feel validated and not like an outsider anymore.
With the long string of “Firsts” associated with Obama’s presidency, it seemed appropriate to channel some of those good vibes and make him the subject of my first blog post. One more “First” for me, this is the first piece I’ve ever done in Illustrator. Here’s to good first steps.