Anyone who's been a freelancer for more than a decade can tell you that the best way to get the phone ringing (or email dinging as it more often does these days) is to plan a vacation. In late June I had a full plate. Two covers due, a couple of half pagers, as well as being in the thick of training for my first ironman triathlon. As I was at about mile 60 of a 115 mile bike ride my phone vibrated. It was Andi Beierman from Texas Monthly asking about my availability. It killed me to tell her that I was just too busy (I've always loved Texas Monthly - it's not only one of the great regional magazines, it's one of the best in the country with a rich tradition of superlative writing, design and illustration. And photography), but I was determined to draw a line in the sand, literally, and enjoy a workless vacation with the family. I asked, just out of curiosity what the assignment was. "A portrait of Billy Gibbons. As a rapper. It seems he's been getting into Hip Hop". I groaned "Noooo. Your killing me! I can't do it. I can't". And concluded the call. I called my wife and told her I just turned down one of those jobs I'd get into trouble for doing in my math class in high school. She gave me the advice she always gives me - "DO IT". So I called back, accepted the job and with some minor tweaks it was a fun, fast race to the finish.
My first thought was to play off the famous photo of Tupac, shirtless with Thug Life tattooed across his stomach. The idea of his six pack and ZZ Top's song Beer Drinker and Hell Raisers (which my high school rock band played several thousand times) met at the intersection of an old photo I saw of Ozzy Osbourne with his name tattooed across his knuckles. This was a bit much.
I ditched the knuckles and left Billy with a ZZ grill, his hat on sideways, headphones, diamond earrings and some big ass bling. At first they liked it but alas, the earings had to go. Headphones too.
In the end they decided to crop the image so there was only the head and shoulders. The grill and the silly sideways cap would have to keep the Hip[ Hop cred flag flying. Fine with me, the simpler the better.
Seems like Billy would be a natural for a grill.
A Texas sized thanks to Andi Beierman and T.J. Tucker at Texas Monthly for this.