Mark Twain, one of America's greatest authors, died on this date, April 21st in 1910. 100 years have passed and his works are still discussed and studied. This portrait was commissioned by Der Spiegel Magazine who is doing a story on this famous American.
I enjoyed seeing Jody Hewgill's Twain illustration here and think it a fitting tribute to add mine to Drawger as well. Good timing too, as I just varnished it today and today is the anniversary of his passing.
Mark Twain was born as Haley's Comet sped overhead and died 80 years later when the comet returned.
I grew up in Connecticut and with various school trips visited his house in Hartford many times. I think I found by love for eloborate old houses there.
Recently my son Cassius played Huck Finn in a school production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I asked him to reprise his role for a possible raft that didn't make the final cut.
I love painting portraits and when I am given the opportunity to paint an icon, I jump at the chance. The list of icons I've painted is very long and now I get to add Mark Twain.
A ton of tiny brushwork to make this boat.
Michael Deas painted a great Twain for Time not long ago. When I was assigned this last week I avoided looking at his version to keep from freaking out. Mine is different but his is wonderful.
Der Spiegel sometimes provides the best sketches from an art department I've ever seen. They know what they want and try to guide me as best they can. In the end a version I sent AFTER sending a bunch of raft sketches was chosen. We work well together.
Cassius as Kurt Cobain as Huck Finn.
This is the final image and upon posting it I see a bit of a flaw. It might not get noticed. I'll describe something I do when I am under deadline (24 hours) and need to marathon paint. As I do these paintings parts of them go matte before I am finished. Normally with a few days cushion I can varnish the painting before I shoot it. When I am under the gun I shoot it as I finish it. Paint the background, SHOOT. Paint the head, SHOOT and so on. When I finally finished it I shot that last part and merge it all together. This way it looks bright and fresh and vivid.
Apparently the merge somewhere in Twain's hair got transparently doubled! Hair can do that so I think that's why I missed it. That and being so tired.
Long Live Mark Twain.
The real question is, what comes first, the idea or the aesthetic impulse? This is my contribution to Microvisions 5, the brainchild of Irene Gallo and Dan Dos Santos to raise money for the Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Awards. Each year Irene and Dan select artists to draw upon illustrators to donate a 5 X 7 inch painting or drawing to be auctioned off. Over the past four years these pieces have raised over $20,000.
Knowing this was coming up, I was thinking of painting a small box with a bird in it. Perhaps I'll do that one next. I did feel that the image needed some sort of fantastic or Sci Fi angle so I kept thinking about it. Something that I talk to my students about all the time is how to come up with ideas. Several students read over a newspaper trying out concepts. Several draw doodles and hope that the pen trips into an idea. I think both of those methods could produce results, but I tend to suggest students work and sketch from a place of aesthetics. What do we enjoy drawing? Where is the hook? How can this idea show off our skills? If one works with these elements as starting points, then there are a million variations one can come up with.
For this painting, there were images in my head I've seen and paintings I love and I tried to imagine a new piece to add to that group. I love the simple clean still life paintings by Raphaelle Peale. Thinking of doing my own still life, I thought a small bird would be fun to paint, and the hook would be the fine feather/fur and dramatic lighting. I drew some eggs but did not want to make the painting a corny, just-hatched thing. However, I love the symmetry of eggs, so I thought each, side by side could be interesting. What would the relationship be? I like painting intricate things too and a small, steampunk machine IN the egg that projected the bird next to it was the perfect solution. Next would be exactly HOW to make the chick look projected. The trick could be done digitally with a filter, but traditional painting was the challenge. I ended up drawing the bird one way then adding horizontal lines on in with gouache. In the paint I repeated this method over a warm yellow scumble and I think it worked. This piece will be displayed at the Society of Illustrators prior to an online auction. I will update this post when the auction goes live.
Here is a link to Irene Gallo's excellent blog with some of the current pieces as they come in and paintings from previous years: http://igallo.blogspot.com/search?q=microvisions
The artists donating work this year are:
Scott Altmann, Scott Bakal, Rick Berry, Bill Carman, Jon Foster, Donato Giancola, Michael Kaluta, Tim O’Brien, Omar Rayyan,
Jordu Schell, Allen Williams, Boris Vallejo
This is the thumbnail idea
I like the fact that the shells fragments are there but wish I could have kept the egg floating...I forgot that part!
Working out the projection trick.
The Egg with motor parts and lens.
Up close it kind of falls apart but reduced it works.
My goal was to do a 'Rafaelle Peale' type of still life. This informed my sketches and thinking.
I just did a cover for the long out of print book by Lynne Cheney, Sisters.
Sisters is a 1981 novel by Lynne Cheney. Sisters is a historical novel set in Wyoming in 1886. Sophie Dymond, a magazine editor in New York, comes home to Cheyenne after the death of her sister, Helen. The novel is a historical and literary portrayal of the status of women in the Old West. In the novel, Sophie finds a letter that Amy Travers, a schoolteacher and close friend of Helen's, had written to her:
Helen, my joy and my beloved,
Why do we stay? I have no reason beyond a few pupils who would miss me briefly, and your life would be infinitely better away from him. Let us go away together, away from the anger and imperatives of men. We shall find ourselves a secluded bower where they dare not venture. There will be only the two of us, and we shall linger through long afternoons of sweet retirement. In the evenings I shall read to you while you work your cross-stitch in the firelight. And then we shall go to bed, our bed, my dearest girl. . . .
The "him" referred to in the letter is apparently Helen's husband, James Stevenson. Later in the book, the author writes of Sophie's impressions on seeing Amy Travers and another woman, Lydia Swerdlow, with their arms around each other:
The women who embraced in the wagon were Adam and Eve on a dark cathedral stage--no, Eve and Eve, loving one another as they would not be able to once they ate of the fruit and knew themselves as they truly were. She felt curiously moved, curiously envious of them. . . . she saw that the women in the cart had a passionate, loving intimacy forever closed to her. How strong it made them. What comfort it gave.
In a February 9, 2005 interview on NPR with Terry Gross, Cheney denied that Sisters contained a lesbian relationship. Cheney suggested that the relationship between the two characters was in question and a historical mystery.
Here is my sketch. a bad photo, I know but I did it on my iPhone.