Tim OBrien
July 2009
Chuck Brown
This is Chuck Brown.  He is real and I guess, a monster.
For a show at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, I was invited by Travis Louie to offer a piece for a show titled, 'MONSTERS?'
I looked at the list of invites and then imagined all of the usual takes on what a monster is thought to be.  Perhaps some will be cute, some ugly.  I went in another direction.  What if I were to paint a realistic version of something usually thought of as cute and benign?  For no particular reason and maybe several, I chose Charlie Brown.  My son just finished his role as Pig Pen in a play at his school - 'Charlie Brown and the Spelling Bee' and since I was the set designer, I thought about the look of the play for weeks.  For some reason we all chatted about that THING on Charlie Brown's forehead.  Is it hair or some sort of scar and hair?  
So, like all ideas, idle sketching produced my solution for 'MONSTERS?'  

I started with the usual Charlie Brown head but when I started the face, I kept going, imagining his features realistically.  Later, away from the studio at the side of a lake, I did a watercolor.  Casual at first, I thought about his eye.  The effect I wanted was that from a distance, someone might think it's just Charlie Brown and as they approached the piece, the realism hit them.  Therefore, the eye had to be coal black but real.  The watercolor worked it out but then the question of how the skin would look, why was he bald and how old is he arose?  Who knows?
With all the preparation work completed, I did the piece.  It's freaky.  Maybe not a monster but not normal.
A day later while I waited for it to dry I had to prepare for a talk I am giving this weekend.  Going through some old sketchbooks I have from my childhood I found one piece that made me smile.

This one might have been percolating for years.

I think in this version I thought he might be an awkward teen.  I chose to stay younger with it.

I knew it had to be a solid black eye and then I remembered from my many times painting horses, the huge, dark eyes they have.  I used that memory for reference.

I went for the wiggly mouth and tried to copy the proportions of Charlie Brown exactly.  I was surprised at how high his nose was.

His eyes have soul but as a whole it's odd.  Like everything there is a humanity somewhere in there.

Yes, this is a piece from my sketchbook at about age 7 or 8.  I remember liking magic markers but being annoyed with the way they got dark when you doubled over your line.  I know if I had photoshop as a kid I would have been in heaven just dropping in tone here and there.  Still, there are lessons in failure.  That's the lesson of Charlie Brown I guess.


I am NOT selling reproductions of this piece.

Thank you for all of the interest.

Michael Jackson
For Rolling Stone Magazine's history of Rock and Roll, I did several portraits, one of them was Michael Jackson.  For pure rock and roll fans this could be head scratching, but many attribute Michael and his legendary album Thriller, for helping to broaden the base for rock music and r&b.  
I chose to paint that golden moment of all the eras of Michael Jackson. 

Mother Jones
Editorial illustration has it's challenges in 2009.  Advertising buys are down and many publications have had to fold in the aftermath.  Still through it all, there are places out there where talented Art Directors and Editors collaborate to produce amazing issues filled with illustration.  I have a pile of old FORTUNE magazines in my studio.  I used to flip through them and marvel at the use of illustration in years past.  I don't do that anymore.  I live in the current market and have come to appreciate places around today that champion our craft and do so with style.
(Perhaps I can do this on a regular basis)

Tim J Luddy, creative director at Mother Jones assigns great illustration every month.  He's a wonderful guy to work with and each issue is like a little portfolio of illustration today.

Here's to Tim and the rest of the folks up there.

For this cover I had to paint a joint made from a 100 dollar bill.  I had to find one on the internet...I'm no Lenny Dykstra. (wink)

The thing I learned in this one is how to paint swirling smoke.  There is a sort of formula to it.  I never knew.
To get reference of a 100 dollar joint, I had to print out a huge sheet of paper that was on a thin stock. I stuffed it with a roll of paper towel. This allowed a great photo that I could light the way I wanted and have the right wrinkles and twists.
Tim provided the smoke reference and I painted this realistic cover in short order.

INSIDE is where the real show begins...

Mark Todd. Special note of thanks for adding the O'B IL sign in the background. O'Brien Illustration ad.
Gary Taxali...the master...every image iconic
Andrew Zbihlyj. Great image. Special note of appreciation for a seven letter last name with one vowel.
Tim Bower...did the cover the month before...this may be the image of the year for our industry.
Mark Matcho
Alex Nabaum. Great piece and idea
Barry Blitt...I have to apologize for all these crappy photos. I shot off of the magazine. This is a powerful image.
Michael Byers
Thomas Fuchs.
For any of the artists included here, if you want me to swap out the page I shot with a good file, send them on. 

Recent Articles

Stuff I Do (76)

Sketchbooks (0)

Sketch/In Progress/Finish (0)
My Links