“Vladimir Putin, Ethereal Portrait”
I get asked lots of questions about why I focus on the kind of subject matter that I do. In particular, I’m getting A LOT of questions about this latest piece. “Don’t you just paint the deceased??” “Did I miss him dying?” The answer? No. But to explain what I intended, it’s important to have an understanding of my past work.
With my Dia de Los Muertos Portrait series I set a few hard and fast rules as boundaries which guided me as I painted.
Rule 1: All subjects must have tripped the light fantastic.
Rule 2: All subjects don makeup echoing the traditions of the Mexican celebration, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Rule 3: All subjects hold some kind of celebrity status (politician, musician, scientist, actor, artist, etc…)
Rule 4: Colors, textures, facial expressions and composition must capture something inherent about the ESSENCE of the person, sometimes referred to as the “soul”
My intention in doing this and following my self-imposed rules was to create a body of work which was MORE than a simple likeness of the subject… At the heart, I was trying to capture something much deeper about those I painted. In doing so, I also wanted to make people feel as if they could identify with these icons—feel as if they somehow grew to know them better as a result of observing them and perhaps even identify with who they were, recognizing similar traits inside of themselves.
I’ve created nearly 70 of these images to date and after painting Nelson Mandela last month, I felt the itch to try something a little different. I was discontent and searching for what might come next. I never decided it was completely done, but knew that the rules somehow had to expand for me to fuel the fire within me to keep them going.
I paused to paint images of my children. I was yearning to paint figures with life to them–beautiful depictions of the living. This is what I came up with:
I LOVE the final result of these pieces, but the process was grinding. It took several weeks for each piece and it wasn’t jiving with my personality as a painter. Painting them was a great experience, but ultimately I decided I couldn’t keep the style up… I managed to teach myself some valuable lessons regarding painting flesh tones though and I knew I wanted to carry that forward. I wanted to create a bridge between these latest images and my Day of the Dead series.
Fast forward to the week after these were done. One of the collectors of my work planted a bug in my ear. He suggested I consider painting someone living, but somehow infuse it with my own style… Putin came up in this conversation and I began to mull it over. This was during the Winter Olympics and although I wasn’t immediately married to the idea of painting him, the idea began to slowly grow and then *BAM!* An image of him popped into my head I HAD to get onto canvas.
Enter Rule Revisions.
Rule 5: If painting the living, show some kind of peek into their “soul” using the DotD technique I developed. This snapshot into their inner being should reflect who they are in life based on the kinds of choices they make and their world views.
So, now back to Putin.
As stated in Rule 5, since he is still walking among us, I would paint part of him as he exists in life, but cutaway somewhere identifying the nature of his essence through the language of Sugar Skull makeup.
The final result is a foreboding image of the man… Not glorified in any way. Instead, he is revealed. Stripped naked of his mortal coil, exposed for what he is at his core.
I plan on doing many, many more of these and as I progress I’ll pair them with some individuals who are no longer with us, continuing the DotD series.
Have someone you’d love to see painted? I’d LOVE to get your suggestions and know WHY you want to see them depicted by me… So… Spill it. :)