I've worked on some interesting projects for regional publications over the years, so when John Baxter at Indianapolis Monthly called a few weeks ago with a portrait project that had virtually no reference, I was intrigued. The article, "Warning Signs", was about the Church in Indianapolis (CII) and it's elusive leader, Mike Peters, who has kept such a low profile that practically no photos of him exist. The church apparently owns a number of properties in the New Augusta Woods neighborhood there, and they've erected metal signs that let outsiders know they're not welcome. When strangers do appear, the residents quickly disappear into their homes, peering through their curtains and leaving the streets deserted. Their behavior has become increasingly secretive, and information about their leader is equally difficult to find.
I was in the midst of juggling several deadlines, and John had just a few days to complete the project, but I didn't want to pass this one by. All I had to work with were a few screen grabs from a video message he made for his followers, and the article's title. I wanted to suggest both the reclusive and the Messianic quality of Peters, and quickly sent a rough sketch off to John. He gave me the go ahead right away, and the finished art came shortly thereafter. I liked the challenge of working with only a blurry sense of the character, trying to convey a likeness through emotional qualities more so than physical attributes.