I got a call two days after Christmas from the Art Director at Texas Monthly, TJ Tucker, at about 10:30 at night. I was kind of surprised that he called at that hour even if Austin is one hour behind. I guess it was a late night at the office for TJ. So a few glasses of red wine into my evening I noticed my cell ringing. TJ apologized for calling at that hour but he had something important to ask me. He said they were doing a important issue with a lot of great american historians writing about the legacy of George W. Bush. He said he had a pretty good concept for a cover and he thought I'd be able to handle this. It would be a portrait of W but in the style of Gilbert Stuart's unfinished Washington portrait. It wasn't so much a comparison of W with Washington but using the unfinished portrait as a metaphor for the unfished legacy of W. I thought it would be a great challenge as I love Gilbert Stuart's portraits and I wanted to give this painting some authenticity.
It wasn't easy. We both knew early on that this would be an evolution and not automatic. TJ also wanted to capture some of the antiquity to the canvas in the Stuart portrait in the W painting. I'm usually not in love with the idea of doing take off's on famous paintings but this one felt different to me. It was a painter that I admire.
I think after a few evolutions TJ was pleased with the final. At one point the portrait looked like it could have been on the Conan O Brien show segment "if they made it". When he picks two random celebrities and morphs the features of both on one face. I didn't quite have a W likness and I didn't quite have a Washington likeness. That's when the editors pulled us back from the cliff. Forget about Washington make sure it's W and let there be no doubt about it. After that the portrait came together for me. Then TJ called and asked me if I'd be up to painting the Texas Monthly logo. Whoa!! I'm not a typographer but I wanted to give it a shot anyway. In the end the editors overruled it but I'll include the type evolutions that weren't use.