26 July 2010

Emma, Kate and Jahna... part 1

This is the first of two paintings commissioned by Emma Berg who is a fashion designer, curator, and founder of the best visual arts calender in the Minneapolis area mplsart.com. (I will begin writing monthly reviews for mplsart starting in August... but more about that later).

I've known Emma for many years but not very well. We often will end up at the same openings and we usually just wave to one another. She is always so fashionable...  it's a little intimidating. I do try to look good and current but it doesn't always work for me. My look ends up being more like a Eastern European who still thinks Leif Garrett is cool. But that can be hot! Right?

Emma asked for two portraits of her and her close friends Kate and Jahna as birthday presents for them. When I asked Emma about her friends, her first response was that they all like to be in control. I wasn't sure what to make of this. (Another arm wrestling painting?) I asked if she wanted an actual portrait or if she had something less literal in mind. It was up to me...

It's tricky to paint people small. Details have to be sparse and accurate. If you are one millimeter off on an eyebrow or mouth, a face goes from cutely smiling to crazed with rabies. It's also tricky to paint people you've never met. You can look at as many photographs of a person as you want and never really understand what they look like. Photographs play tricks and two pictures of the same person can look very different. Ask anyone who does online dating.

My first concern was to make a reasonable resemblance of the three ladies, and I instinctively worked the rest out from there. I decided not to go too refined with the figures, but leave them slightly rough. I didn't want to over paint and make it feel stagnant and inactive.

I also decided to add the flying animal motifs to give the paintings another poetic layer.
(In retrospect, I think this was subconsciously under the influence of my friend Scott West's newest paintings which all have people with animals. (He recently did a fantastic painting of my son Theo with an owl). So, consider this a form of flattery, Scott.)

This post is a cliff hanger. I'll put up the second painting, which is darker and softer, later this week with more chitchat. And we'll talk about Jahna and Kate.

... feel free to leave comments and go to the Panda Facebook page for more updates...


Ashley said...

Leif Garret isn't cool?

Nice painting!

emma said...

John, the paintings were a hit.

Since you had nicely wrapped them up in the paper envelopes Jahna & Kate chose their own fate and selected the paintings blindly. Kate got this one.

Thank you!

emma said...

& thanks for the fashion props!

l'├ętoile magazine said...

Yes, wow. This painting is so awesome, John! Thank you! I still have to find the perfect spot to hang it though! I think I have to rearrange to do it justice. Emma is so damn thoughtful - what a wonderful gift.

John Megas said...

Thank You!