APRIL 23, 2007
With a face made for an illustrator, Boris Yeltsin fell into out laps and our world in the early 90's. He was a monumental and pivotal figure who presided over the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Communist party. I painted him as I tried to move from paperbacks into editorial in 1991 and walked this painting around to anyone who would see it. This was a big piece for me and things started to happen in editorial as a result.
Taking off the bear suit.
I painted him many times and did one memorable one for Ken Smith of TIME. The routine was that Boris would go on a drinking binge and need to go the the Black Sea to recuperate. This was called R & R or unspecified heart issues, but he needed to occasionally detox (rumor has it). Ken called and had this idea of nesting eggs and to somehow hint at vodka being his real issue, not health issues. I did it in 24 hours.
Another Favorite was another painting for Ken Smith at TIME. At the time, Yeltsin led Russia into a war in Chechnya, one that he denied for a while. So, as the Chechnya war raged on, Boris downplayed the extent of the battle and in the end, 80,000 people died and exposed the Russian Military as weakened and less devastating than was imagined (ahem). So, Pinocchio was the idea and little soldiers plagued him beyond belief. Ken Smith would really play me like a master violinist. He would urge me to do what I do best and as I looked at the mere hours until it would be due, he focused on doing something special. Rest in Peace Mr. Yeltsin.
As a realist painter, it is quite difficult to shape a concept around the constraints of realism and a likeness. A piece of reference can sometimes force a body position. Over at Hanoch Piven's Drawger page he has his fantastic Boris Yeltsin. Please take a look.