Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mark Stephens at the Way Out Club

The painting above was originally started in either 2001 or 2002, I can’t remember. What I do remember is I had found a photograph of Mark Stephens playing with the Highway Matrons at the Way Out Club. There was nothing special about the photograph but I had gotten to know Mark a bit and thought he was a really fabulous guitar player and singer. I believe my roommate at the time, Mike Cook, had found the photo and it was laying around the house we shared in south city. At some point I decided to do a painting of the photo. I started a rough sketch of his head and body with the guitar but quickly abandoned that painting. I thought it looked terrible and discarded the canvas to a darken corner of my basement. I seem to recall Eric Moore seeing that discarded painting and buying it at some point. 
A few weeks later I tried to execute the painting again only this time on a smaller canvas. I started with the face and painted unknowingly, even unconsciously until it was done. I wasn’t aware of exactly what I was doing and then I stepped back and looked at it and was amazed. It looked just like the Mark. I barely remembered doing it. I moved on to his body and clothes. He was wearing a
psychedelic western shirt and tie with a bright silver vest. I painted these as well and everything was coming together so great. I almost began to take the painting for granted thinking it was so easy to do. Then I ran into a roadblock. The guitar. Mark’s beautiful green Gretsch guitar. I couldn’t get it right. I would try, try and try again, each time adding more layers to the canvas and ruining the painting. I got extremely frustrated and decided the painting was a failure and there was nothing left to do but sand the whole thing and start over. Mid-way through sanding I realized I was making a huge mistake and stopped. I looked at what I had done and knew I would never be able to repaint his face as perfectly as I had already done and now it was almost gone. I put the canvas away. Later I added the black lines in an effort to try and make the painting presentable and occasionally would show the piece publicly but I had really screwed it up by sanding it.
What’s the point of all this?
I’m currently going through about 10 years worth of photographs of paintings and the Mark Stephens piece is where it all began. I began to have an interest in painting around 1993 or 1994 but never really focused on anything, just kind of worked on whatever was available, an important time for learning. By 2003 or 2004 I made a conscious decision to work on and develop painting as it relates to St. Louis, primarily local artists/musicians and buildings. I had come to this conclusion for mainly two reasons. One, I had always loved St. Louis (even though I wasn’t born here) since I was a kid. And two, after moving here in the late 90s and being involved in the local arts and music scene, I realized that some amazing things were going down and no one knew about them. Back then few people gave two shits about what was going on in the city. Of course things are different now. But then I was immensely inspired by the likes of Chris Deckard, Jason Hutto, Bob Reuter, Fred Friction, Larissa Dalle, Anne Tkach, Eric Hall, Tony Renner, and of course Mark Stephens (plus many others). So by 2003 or so I had decided to start photographing all these people and the places we all hung out at and loved for the purpose of painting them at some future time.

Well, it’s 2013 now and next year will be the 10th year I’ve been doing this. I’m revamping my website and going through all the paintings starting from 2004. For the last few years my site has only had 20 paintings on it and I would slowly rotate paintings out. But once the overhaul is done it will feature all the paintings done since 2004. Hopefully it will be ready by the end of the year. The painting of Mark above was the one that got me started on what I’m doing now.

now playing - Highway Matrons