Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Interview About My New Solo Art Exhibition

Here is a little interview I did with Sweets Workshop about my upcoming exhibition 
'Face the Music'

Can you tell us about your new show 'Face the Music'?
I have hand-painted over 30 vibrant portraits that feature some of my favourite iconic musicians from across the decades. These include; Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Prince, Nirvana, Radiohead and many, many more.

How did you select the musicians to be featured?
Well all these artists have made music that I absolutely love. I also wanted to tell the story of Rock 'n' Roll and popular music across the decades from the 1940s to now and I've selected musicians that I feel are really significant stepping stones in this narrative.

Describe the artistic style of your exhibition?
Hmm electric, low brow, folk art portraits hahah! In all seriousness when I started work on 'Face the Music' I wanted the portraits to be very graphic representation of the musicians boiling down their essence as well as their likenesses. When I initially sketched out the portraits I tried to not only create good caricature based likenesses but to also include a sense of their personality and music they created. I have been very deliberate in my colour selection whether it's warm pastel colours to represent the wholesome sounds of the 1950's or vibrant bold colours to illustrate the immense shift that took place in popular music through the 1960s & 1970's. I have also selected certain eras or costumes to represent significant points in the career of each musician to again help create a graphic, instantly recognisable representation. 

Tell us more about the costumes you chose to depict each musician in?
Most of the musicians I chose to paint have had quite extensive careers so I did a lot of research to select the one outfit that I thought
really summed it up. A few examples are for the Beatles (as seen above) I really couldn't go past their costumes from Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, this album not only really changed the Beatles' career but also the idea of what an album could represent and opened up the flood gates for 'concept albums'. I painted Elvis Presley in his pink sports coat and blue and black leisure shirt that he famously wore on his appearance on the Milton Berle show in 1956. The television network received so many complaints about Elvis' gyrating hips that he had to be filmed from the shoulders up on the Ed Sullivan show. Jimi Hendrix had a number of pretty fabulously flamboyant outfits throughout his career but I chose to depict him in the yellow pirate shirt he wore at London’s Finsbury Park Astoria on March 31, 1967 where he famously set his fender stratocaster alight, again a very iconic image. For David Bowie I used the cover image from his 1973 album Aladdin Sane the follow-up to his breakthrough album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bjork is another artist who has had so many wonderfully iconic and unique outfits but I went with the swan dress that she famously wore to the 2001 Academy Awards and also on the cover of her album Vespertine. 

Describe your technique? 
Each portrait is painted on a flat timber block that I have hand sanded. I chose to paint them on timber as I love the natural grain that shows through painting. I have deliberately chosen to paint with a feathered border so you still get to see the timber peeking behind the portrait. It also helps keep each portrait unique. I initially wanted to use gouache paint for its vibrancy and flatness but It doesn't create the most durable finish and I felt that placing the finished portraits behind glass defeated the point of painting them of such lovely pieces of timber. After a fair bit of trial and error I settled on using a mix of flat matte acrylic and acrylic gouache paints to achieve a wonderfully vibrant and flat matte opaque colour palette.

How does this differ from your other artwork and illustrations?
It was really different for me to work with quite a simple brief this time around and to really develop a unique style, technique and visual language for this show. I am really happy with the end result; each piece is unique but fits with  the look of the exhibition. Another massive difference was that I was working manually. I usually work digitally or at least add digital elements to a hand-drawn sketches but for this show I wanted to work solely by hand.

What are some pros and cons to working solely by hand? 
Well I definitely love not working in front of a computer screen. It actually feels really cathartic to be working manually on one thing at a time building a finished piece of art one colour or layer at a time. I also really love the happy accidents that happen when working by hand be it a little piece of white gesso undercoat  cheekily sticking out behind a background or a little swoosh of paint that didn't quite go where you wanted it to go but feathered out beautifully. I find these kind of happy accidents are pretty rare when you work digitally and they are also really hard to replicate and always tend look a little forced or fake when done digitally. There is one big con... No magic undo button that and waiting for paint to dry.

What Next for John D-C?
I've had such a fun time working on "Face the Music" that I'd love to continue working in this format and style... who knows I might even move out of the musical world... I'd love to work on a few pop culture portraits, 'Face the Movies' has a nice ring to it.

You can see more of my processes and work in progress for 'Face the Music' over on my Instagram page.

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