Rock & Roll Icons: a circular theme.
In the January / February 2014 issue Playboy magazine celebrates it’s 60th anniversary by commissioning essays from 9 esteemed authors, and I’m honoured to be among a stellar group of artists (including Chris Buzelli, Brad Holland, Tim O’Brien, Brian Stauffer, Gary Taxali, who are here on Drawger) who were asked to illuminate these essays.
I was thrilled to be sent the essay “In Search of the Lost Rock & Roll Icon” by Rick Moody (American Novelist and creator of the music blog therumpus.net). It’s a witty and thought provoking read on the future of music, comparing contemporary musical acts, from the likes of Justin Bieber to musical artists of the past, and by analyzing “What is the measure of an icon?” Moody defines the characteristics as follows: style, influence, talent, creativity and vision. The list of musical icons seems endless for the 60’s , 70’s and 80’s, and when I think of a common denominator I think vinyl.
One of the ideas I pitched was to express this element of musical influence as reverberated sound, and played up that comparison with scale and impact through the iconic representation of the classic turntable and speaker audio system vs the tiny mp3 nano and earbuds.
Initial sketch for this turntable idea.
Pencil study of Dylan's head
In my initial sketchbook thumbnails I was thinking of depicting John Lennon as the rock and roll icon, but decided on depicting Dylan, because his career has spanned so many eras. He has such a great countenance and presence, and the perfect glare to stare down the Biebs.
The final illustration.
A huge thanks Mac Lewis and Justin Page for this fantastic assignment.
The process of the Playboy assignment coincidentally lead me to finding a solution for my contribution to The Nook Holiday Show curated by Julia Breckenreid (here on Drawger). The theme was open but the format had to be a circular piece.
I had recently done a portrait of Max Weinberg (drummer for Bruce Springteen and the E street Band) to accompany his essay on Ringo Starr for The Smithsonian’s special 50Th Anniversary issue: the Beatles in America.
Max Weinberg (fictiously) wearing one of Ringo Starr's jacket. In the article Weinberg remembers that as a high school student he tried to emulate Ringo's outfits.
While looking through the issue, I fixated on John Lennon’s glasses and thought that would be fitting for the circular show, which opened on Dec 6, very close the anniversary of the day he was prematurely taken from us.
This 12" diptych (back to the vinyl theme), acrylic on gessoed pine, is titled "Try to see it my way…". Listening to the lyrics, I feel this Beatle song is a precursor to Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance".
One of my initial thumbnails in my sketchbook for the Playboy piece with John's face as the vinyl.
As a long time Lennon fan I drew this pen and ink portrait of him when I was an art student at OCAD, where I now teach.
It's quite an intimate process painting someone's eyes so large.
In an unexpected way, this looming deadline for the show forced me to pause during the hectic holiday party/ shopping madness, gave me the opportunity to quietly paint at night and reflect on the year, especially the passing of my friend and brother-in-law, jazz musician and composer Nic Gotham. I also reflected on icons like John Lennon, Nelson Mandela, and others.
I am thankful for their wisdom, vision and inspiration.