Category Archives: portraits

Janis Joplin Portrait Contest

“Janis Joplin” by John Tebeau ©2012

Aww, she was a li’l hellcat, she wuz. Yeah, boy, Miz Joplin… boy, she could shore put it away. Southern Comfort, boy… that stuff, that stuff could eat the rust clean off a ’39 Ford tractor, boy….

Okay, okay. Enough of the twisted vernacular. Let’s leave that to Larry McMurtry. This is about a contest. Freaky Friday trivia, a regular feature of ours here at Tebeau.com. I’ve got six interns toiling away here in our offices and we have to keep them busy. So, let’s go.

See, Facebook—that paragon of commercial modesty—disallows filthy, filthy contests on their hallowed site, so I have to offshore fun stuff like this to WordPress, where I guess they don’t give a damn what goes on. ‘Slike the wild west out here. Yee-haw.

So for a free 11″ by 14″ signed print of a Janis Joplin portrait I made, answer me this:

What is the best worst way to drink Southern Comfort?

Just post your answer in a comment below. Consideration will be given for the worst best way to drink it as well. You be the jury, I’ll be the judge. Not eligible if your name is Joe Rudy, who won last time. And be sure to “like” John Tebeau Art on Facebook for more dandy fun like this. Also, please take a look at my new website tebeau.com for more of my art—old and new—for perusal, sale and general wonderment. Thanks, and happy Friday!

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Dr. Nina Simone: The High Priestess of Soul

Last year I offered a challenge: tell me about your favorite musician and why you love ’em. Kelsey McCune’s response earned an original portrait of Nina Simone, shown here (with her response below). Thanks again to all of you who contributed. There were many excellent, thoughtful responses. Maybe I should do it again. Favorite writers? Favorite pets? Favorite FOOD? What do you think?

Thanks again, Kelsey — for the great writing and the inspiration.

"Nina Simone: The High Priestess of Soul"

Kelsey writes:

Music. Sometimes in the background lilting and subtle, coaxing conversation, helping me melt into the bath tub, or turn soil in my garden. Other times the all encompassing only thing that matters, driving rhythms dancing through my veins—moving my body, my mind. Solace, inspiration, motivation, even distraction…but always a constant.

Music as a time and a place, people and conversations.

I found an old Police cassette tape in my truck the other day. The heat and passing years had stretched Sting’s voice out into a mad warbling, but still I was whisked immediately back to the road trip through Arizona when I bought that tape, my first time driving in the snow, a lover of nearly a decade ago by my side, his hand on my thigh reassuring, and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” in time with the wipers.
Cat Stevens “Wild World” when that same lover and I parted ways.
Ravi Shankar and I’m a child breathing in the scent of my father’s pungent pipe tobacco, hearing the pages of his book turn, a clearing of the throat and sitar as I drift off to sleep.
Right now I’m listening to Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet as I often do when I write.

So much music in the world. More than any one of us will ever be able to discover. So many moments defined, made prismatic and eternal. How to choose just one?

I have to go with my first thought when I read your blog.

Dr. Nina Simone. “The High Priestess of Soul!”

Her voice commands and leads me through a breadth of emotion that is unparalleled. From joyous to outraged, melancholy, contemplative, giddy laughter, tears. There are times when her lyrics can simply fall away; she could be singing about asparagus, but her voice and piano will lift you or crush you at will. That said, her lyrics are often of the utmost importance. Sometimes, as with “Mississippi Goddam” she juxtaposes her lyrics and music against one another to end up highlighting the poignancy of her position.

She was immensely talented, spectacularly versatile and hugely politically important, but to bring this back to my idea of crystallized moments in life I have to look specifically at “Lilac Wine.”
http://www.last.fm/music/Nina+Simone/_/Lilac+Wine
This is not an original song, but as far as I’m concerned, she owns it. Her voice is to my ears, dank and syrupy the way I imagine Lilac wine would be to my tongue.

And when I hear this song I am with Nancy and Mary Anne—my cheeks are cool from drying tears and as the song says, “I drink much more than I ought to drink, because it brings me back you…” We are not drinking Lilac wine, far from it. Nancy drinks icy light beer, barely tinted yellow if she were to pour it into a glass, Mary Anne drinks bottles of cheap red wine that purple her lips, and I have my bourbon and soda (more or less soda depending, as the night progresses.) And the you we bring back is my mom, Nancy’s sister, Mary Anne’s friend.

This song and Nina Simone’s grounding voice provide an opening to touch on things that are hard to access on our own. No matter what the conversation is before “Lilac Wine” comes on—afterward we always turn to remembrances and are always better for it.

And when I’m away from Nancy and Mary Anne, Nina Simone brings them back to me too.

So powerful this thing, this constant. Music.

Thank you Dr. Nina Simone, and thank you John for the inspiration.

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John & Yoko & Political Performance Art

Two of our all-time favorite New Yorkers and their best known piece of political performance art: the 4oth anniversary of the Bed-In for Peace, covered by NPR here.

My version:

(original in the Grabel Collection of New York)

"La Paix et L'Amour" (John and Yoko)

"La Paix et L'Amour" (John and Yoko)

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Filed under art in new york, original art, pop art, portraits, SOLD

One Way to Paint a Commissioned Portrait (in 7 easy steps!)

I am one hell of a lucky guy.

CB005298Not just because I have my health (which is for some reason stellar), or a fabulous wife (even stellarer), or even that I have so far avoided many of the miserable pitfalls that ruin so many good people (addiction, divorce, “American Idol”). I’m really lucky because I manage to do something I love and which I’m [arguably] good at, and people give me money for it. And that, bub, is lucky.

One of my loyal patrons in Texas recently asked me to paint a portrait of him and his wife. He’d already bought a couple of my originals and prints, so I pretty much knew what kind of style to work in. What was surprising was the scale. I suggested a respectable 3-feet by 3-feet, but he wanted bigger. This is an oil guy in Texas after all. In the end, it was over 5-feet by 4-feet. That’s a pretty good size, worthy of the Lone Star State.

Anyway, he sent me a photo from which to work. I then scanned it and manipulated it in Photoshop, using the “posterize” function (to divide it into distinct shades) and vertically distorting it a little, not unlike some other art of mine that the client had previously bought. (see: “August 69”, a colorful retro version of Playboy‘s Miss August 1969 which I lovingly and gently stretched, in order to, you know… give her that funkadelic, Fillmore-poster look). Anyway, here you see how we went from the photo to the prototype design for the painting.

client photo

client photo

b/w prototype for painting

b/w prototype for painting

Now I had to embiggen it, and get it up onto canvas. To do this, I turned to my trusty companion. My partner. My best artistic friend since I first discovered it in high school: the mighty Buhl overhead projector:

the Buhl overhead projector

the Buhl overhead projector

This big boy weighs in at just over 2,000 pounds (or so it seems when I have to move it any distance, flipping the bird to the hernia-gods), and it’s worth it. Though now they make little-bitty digital projectors, I’ve had this one for years, and I like it. This thing earns its bacon as much as any piece of art equipment I have. I can sketch a drawing that’s only five inches across and blow it up to five feet across with Herr Buhl up there, without sacrificing the integrity of the original sketch or going through the hassle of “graphing it out” on the final canvas. That not only takes forever, but it’s very hard to get exactly right. I know, I know: art is all about happy mistakes and all that crap. Not for me. In the sketchbook, yeah, sure, I’ll buy that; but once I’m working on canvas, it’s all left brain. I want it done and done RIGHT, and the mighty Buhl is the tool for the job.

my studio, aka: "The Smile Factory"

my studio, aka: "The Smile Factory"

Okay, so I go to the studio (where the magic happens), fire up the Buhl, and project the image onto a large, unmounted piece of canvas. Why unmounted? Why not already stretched? Would YOU want to pay for the shipping of a box over five feet wide and over four feet tall? I thought not. Neither did I. Nor the client. This is why we agreed to do it on loose canvas which I could then roll up and ship in a big tube. This probably cut the shipping cost by 50-60%, and the client easily found someone in Texas to stretch and mount it. [that sounds dirty ] At any rate, here’s the way the design looked once projected onto the canvas, which I’d simply thumb-tacked to the wall of the studio:

P6050009

lights on

lights off

lights off

Then I simply traced the lines that defined each of the colors I would paint the portrait. I’d decided to do about five colors, earthy ones, but was not sure exactly which colors at this point. I went with a burnt sienna background (it seemed Texas-y to me) and greens for the subjects. I just love green. I’ve done that for other portraits before and it worked so well, I figured “Let’s do it again!”

nice background color

nice background color

Now it’s just a matter of doing the work and filling in the colors. It all comes together once the black is added. Good Gawd, how about just not filling in the eyes and sending it to the client like that? “Whaaaat? I thought I’d make you guys look more MYSTERIOUS, with no EYEBALLS. It’s a STATEMENT!” Yeah, the statement would be: this artist is an ass.

getting the greens right

getting the greens right

adding the black

adding the black...

The final result (below), and I love it. So did the client. Thank you Jeff and Alice! You guys are great.

finis

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Favorite Musician Contest Winner

Thanks, people, for all the comments, essays, ruminations and thoughtful insights. For me, it was enlightening to learn why you loved your favorite musicians. I loved hearing your stories and enjoyed the enthusiasm and detail you shared with me. It was awfully difficult to narrow it down to five, let alone one. So I picked two.

Congratulations to Kelsey McCune of Portland, Oregon, and Mark Brush of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Kelsey wrote a beautiful piece about Nina Simone and Mark explained how David Byrne has enriched his life. Both are reprinted below. Each one included a link to a song, for sort of a  multi-media effect.

Kelsey and Mark, I’ll start work on your paintings next week, and will post the finished products on this blog when they’re done. Your original paintings will arrive via US Mail.

Here’s Mark’s:

I love David Byrne because his voice isn’t one you’d pick out of a crowd and say, “that boy needs to record some records!” But… it doesn’t matter. It’s in his heart. And he lays it out there for us. I pick it up and I love it. I’ve always loved his music. It transports me.

“I Zimbra” plays and I’m suddenly driving my VW Bus down McMillan Avenue in Cincinnati again. My friends piled in the back in a happy post-party haze. We listen to the music, think about the girls we met, and the laughs we’ve shared, and where we’re going next in our lives. The moment in time is marked.

“This Must Be the Place” plays and I’m sharing my first dance with Andrea. Friends and family encircle us.

“Life is Long” plays and it’s seven years later and I’m again in my wife’s arms dancing in our little kitchen. The dishes encircle us.

I’ve locked eyes with David Byrne before. It was during his “Feelings” concert and I’m dancing my ass off despite my best efforts to just bob my head. And it’s not just the music that moves. He wraps some performance art into the whole thing. A big pink fuzzy suit, dance pips with his back-up singers, and later, a plaid skirt to match his back-up singers. I’m about twenty feet away and David Byrne looks down from the stage at me. He sees how much fuckin’ fun I’m having. He sees what his music is doing, and we exchange a laugh together.

It’s five years later, and there he is again. Up on stage in Detroit singing “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” by Whitney Houston. This comes after several sets with the string players from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra backing him up. You’d think it would be a cheesy song to sing, but he puts his heart into it – out it comes – and it’s beautiful. Yep, I want to dance with somebody too.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/220272/march-02-2009/david-byrne-pt–2

And here’s Kelsey’s:

Music. Sometimes in the background lilting and subtle, coaxing conversation, helping me melt into the bath tub, or turn soil in my garden. Other times the all encompassing only thing that matters, driving rhythms dancing through my veins—moving my body, my mind. Solace, inspiration, motivation, even distraction…but always a constant.

Music as a time and a place, people and conversations.

I found an old Police cassette tape in my truck the other day. The heat and passing years had stretched Sting’s voice out into a mad warbling, but still I was whisked immediately back to the road trip through Arizona when I bought that tape, my first time driving in the snow, a lover of nearly a decade ago by my side, his hand on my thigh reassuring, and “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” in time with the wipers.
Cat Stevens “Wild World” when that same lover and I parted ways.
Ravi Shankar and I’m a child breathing in the scent of my father’s pungent pipe tobacco, hearing the pages of his book turn, a clearing of the throat and sitar as I drift off to sleep.
Right now I’m listening to Philip Glass and Kronos Quartet as I often do when I write.

So much music in the world. More than any one of us will ever be able to discover. So many moments defined, made prismatic and eternal. How to choose just one?

I have to go with my first thought when I read your blog.

Dr. Nina Simone. “The High Priestess of Soul!”

Her voice commands and leads me through a breadth of emotion that is unparalleled. From joyous to outraged, melancholy, contemplative, giddy laughter, tears. There are times when her lyrics can simply fall away; she could be singing about asparagus, but her voice and piano will lift you or crush you at will. That said, her lyrics are often of the utmost importance. Sometimes, as with “Mississippi Goddam” she juxtaposes her lyrics and music against one another to end up highlighting the poignancy of her position.

She was immensely talented, spectacularly versatile and hugely politically important, but to bring this back to my idea of crystallized moments in life I have to look specifically at “Lilac Wine.”
http://www.last.fm/music/Nina+Simone/_/Lilac+Wine
This is not an original song, but as far as I’m concerned, she owns it. Her voice is to my ears, dank and syrupy the way I imagine Lilac wine would be to my tongue.

And when I hear this song I am with Nancy and Mary Anne—my cheeks are cool from drying tears and as the song says, “I drink much more than I ought to drink, because it brings me back you…” We are not drinking Lilac wine, far from it. Nancy drinks icy light beer, barely tinted yellow if she were to pour it into a glass, Mary Anne drinks bottles of cheap red wine that purple her lips, and I have my bourbon and soda (more or less soda depending, as the night progresses.) And the you we bring back is my mom, Nancy’s sister, Mary Anne’s friend.

This song and Nina Simone’s grounding voice provide an opening to touch on things that are hard to access on our own. No matter what the conversation is before “Lilac Wine” comes on—afterward we always turn to remembrances and are always better for it.

And when I’m away from Nancy and Mary Anne, Nina Simone brings them back to me too.

So powerful this thing, this constant. Music.

Thank you Dr. Nina Simone, and thank you John for the inspiration.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed. I got an awful lot out of your responses, and learned about some good new music (new to ME, anyway) to boot.

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Is it Art or Just a Swipe?

The graffiti-artist-turned-icon-maker Shepard Fairey has been under scrutiny the past several weeks when it was discovered that the photo upon which he based his famous Obama poster was originally taken by an Associated Press photographer.

photo

Is it fair use? Open source? An old-fashioned swipe? That’s to be decided.

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New Orleans Jazz Fest or Bust (Seven Paintings and One for Free)

David Byrne for Mark Brush

David Byrne for Mark Brush

The first portrait from this contest has been finished and delivered! Thank you, Mark Brush for the inspiration. Next up: Nina Simone for Kelsey McCune of Portland, Oregon.

"Dr. Nina Simone: The High Priestess of Soul"

Thanks again to everyone who provided thoughtful comments and posts.

–John

The Inspiration

Talking about New Orleans Jazz Festival with friends last weekend, I couldn’t help but get all worked up and want to go. Dammit, I’m like a chocoholic but for Jazz Fest (to paraphrase my favorite “Onion” editorial ever). I gotta go back. Have you been there? You know what I’m talking about? It’s the music, man. Okay, and the food and the voodoo and the booze. But mostly the music.

The Contest

Write a comment on this post (or email it to me at john@tebeau.com) and tell me about why you dig your favorite musician. ANY musician, not just the ones shown below. Even Mozart or Tom Jones. Is it a certain moment that inspired you? A song? Is it what they “stand for?” What is it about them that moves you? Tell me. On March 24 I’ll announce the winner, based on the responses, at my opening reception at Verlaine (110 Rivington St. in NYC). The prize is a free 11″ by 14″ portrait of the winner’s favorite musician. Judging will be based on content, heart, wit and spelling.

The Goal

The idea here is also to sell some paintings to justify the trip back to New Orleans. Not just any old paintings, but paintings I’ve done of musicians. Musicians make the magic. These people represent contact with the divine to many of us. Music is what makes us want to go to New Orleans Jazz Festival (and the food and the etc.), and hopefully these representations will make it happen for me this year. Need a gift for someone? Maybe you can get it right here. Maybe they can get their own  if they win the contest.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who loves music, New Orleans, or art. It’s an opportunity for a free painting, and who knows? If I sell a few of these babies, maybe I’ll see you at Jazz Fest.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

"Bob Marley" oil on canvas

"Bob Marley" oil on canvas

"Miles Davis"

"Miles Davis"

"Jimi Hendrix"

"Jimi Hendrix"

"Billie Holiday"

"Billie Holiday"

"Duke Ellington"

"Duke Ellington"

"La Paix et L'Amour" (John and Yoko)

"La Paix et L'Amour" (John and Yoko)

And of course, I have tons of prints and other paintings for sale, too. Feel free to buy 25 dozen.

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