One of the most exciting thing to happen to me in a long time was a recent call from Steve Charny at Rolling Stone, asking me to illustrate the record review opener- a review of the re-issue of the Rolling Stones 1978 album Some Girls.
I was excited because, frankly, one of my career goals has always been to work for Rolling Stone. I showed my portfolio there on a visit to NY many, many years ago and let’s just say, I didn’t get the gig. Secondly, I love the Stones, and this was not only a painting of them, but about one of their finest records (and in fact Some Girls is still their best-selling album).
The original 1978 cover
My first idea, which I blurted out in our initial phone call, was to make a sort of grid of paintings, to echo the design of the original sleeve. We agreed that this might be an idea worth pursuing. (This phone call took place while I was standing on a beach at Fort Cronkite with my landscape painting class- and my phone was cutting in and out. )
At this point, a thursday, the deadline was a week away-plenty of time, right?
I spent friday through early monday developing a grid design, sketches and one test portrait. One of the challenges, faced by artists immemorial, is that the proportions of this image are steeply vertical, making it tricky to incorporate a group of several members. The client did provide some publicity shots of the Stones from 1978.
I did one of the grid illustrations to show...
I decided that perhaps it was only necessary to show one image of Bill Wyman.
I was pretty happy with the test painting of Mick (though I knew that the other members would be tougher). I sent the sketches on Monday to Steve Charny.
Steve liked the sketches, but at this point a situation developed that is all too familiar, the article (which was not completed when I started the project) was now complete, and it’s completed form directed the art in a bit of a different direction. The review emphasized the impact of New York and it’s culture on the stones in 1978. The illustration needed to reflect this emphasis, so now with three days left, it was back to the drawing board. We agreed that I would find a way to portray the Stones in a new york environment.
Years ago I spent a lot more time than any rational person would ever do studying and photographing the fire escapes of the Lower East Side as part of a book project. A fire escape immediately came to mind and seemed like the perfect vehicle to incorporate the figures into a vertical shape...though I had no reference of figures that would work.
Art students modelling...
I shot reference figures of several students in various poses at CCA on tuesday afternoon. I shot reference of my own hands and arms. This took me through Tuesday.
Wednesday morning, my friend Randy Chavez came over to the studio to model as some last minute figure reference. As a long-time artist for Bill Graham presents, Randy is an expert at copping rock star attitude.
Randy Chavez demonstrates some rockstar attitude.
early doorway sketch
fire escape sketch
I sent two sketches to New York at noon Wednesday. I was quickly given approval on the fire escape. I had 24 hours to do the finish.
I actually finished it in plenty of time, at about 11 pm wednesday night. I did the piece quite large, 36 inches high- on the theory that one can paint more quickly when working larger- and painted it “alla-prima”, in other words, in one sitting. I tweaked it a little bit, shot it and sent it in on thursday morning. I still had a couple of hours before going to teach my class, to do my entries to the Society of Illustrators show.
...and a few days later, there it was in the magazine!
And a few days after that, the phone rang and the sketch painting of Mick Jagger was accepted into the Society of Illustrators annual. Believe me, I dont take these things for granted...as Keith Richards says, : "Happy to be here...actually, happy to be anywhere!". Thanks so much to Steve Charny for the assignment. Thanks to the jurors at the Society, and thanks to the Rolling Stones for making the great record in the first place.