Sitting and discussing this commission with Kevin Gillespie wasn’t the scary part, after all, you couldn’t meet a nicer, more thoughtful guy. The scary settled in on my walk home after the meeting. I had just said ‘yes’ to create a painting that was larger than my studio. How was I going to pull this off? 10ft wide x 10.5ft tall, was the size we agreed to. My studio, a cottage behind my home isn’t very big. In fact, we call it the ‘clown car’ because of how many paintings are going on inside at any given time. Fortunately as an artist, I don’t let practical realities like this muck things up. Solution? I had the structure built in two panels and worked on them as two separate paintings, the top on one side of my studio and the bottom on the other. I’d worry about what it all looked like when they were joined later.
So where did the idea come from? I greatly enjoy connecting with people and doing a deep dive into thoughts and ideas, it’s fun to see where things go. But discussing a commission is a little different, tons of direction and background can actually make the focus less-clear. So to get dialed-in, I asked Kevin to sum up everything he wanted the painting to be about …in five words or less.
Kevin didn’t bat an eye at this constraint and offered just two; ‘Polar Bear’ (counted this as one) and ‘Journey’ (Not Steve Perry and the boys, but the other kind). Frankly, he had me at ‘Polar Bear’ and of course it had to be life-sized. I was instantly and enthusiastically on board. Now that the concept was clear as a bell, it was just a matter of figuring out what those two words would look like. I got to work on the pencil drawings. During this early period of ideation, we met a few more times over coffee, I had questions, and he generously elaborated on the significance of each of the words and elements I was beginning to conjure.
My paintings are allegories. If you’re like me and need to look up the word, it’s okay, go ahead, but use Merriam-Webster’s definition, Google’s definition is a little warped. To create a rich and authentic allegory, I’ve got to make it my own, I ponder the universal themes that lie behind the discussed concepts and channel into that. Yes, ultimately, this is a painting about Kevin and his unique story. But we’re all human, look closely next time you’re at Cold Beer, take it all in… chances are, you’ll find some of you in there too.
I really appreciate the confidence and trust Kevin put in me to capture and portray concepts that are important to him. I’m honored for the painting to be a focal point within his stunning new restaurant.