Naked Man, Jesus, & Pizza Hut
A few posts ago, I excitedly told you guys about a new commissioned piece I would be working on. This was on October 9. I have been meaning to blog about this for a couple of weeks now and distractions like the holidays, laundry, lack of energy, family members, and muddy headspace kept getting in the way. Now, I have come back to this post after starting it over a week ago, only to pretend I'm not currently being distracted by Luke shooting soft Nerf bullets over my head with his new Nerf gun. (I went to a power yoga class a couple of hours ago and maybe that's helping with my Zen right now.) Namaste. Namaste. Na. Ma. Ste.
Melinda, who I met a year ago at our kids school function is witty, charming, full of life and I was drawn to her. Getting to know her and her musician husband, Jim, at their bbq parties has been wickedly fun, as they are unlike most couples I know. They're unfiltered, creative, have interesting jobs, know a lot of different people, and have refreshingly unusual tastes. At the last backyard bbq party, Melinda propositioned me with a request of a very strange and provocative re-production of a painting as a gift for Jim's birthday in December. Through wide eyed excitement and stifled giggles, she described the painting as "bizarre, epic, and Jim's been obsessed with it for as long as I can remember!" I didn't know what it was or what to expect but I told her I'd be delighted to paint it.
A month later, she texts about the painting and sends me the image. I burst into laughter when I open it up and zoom in. I did not expect that but was excited for the challenge and randomness. Knowing how much Jim has been coveting this painting for himself gave me the jolt of fulfillment I'm always looking for. My only concern was that I would be ripping off another artist's art. Yikes. I even jumped ahead and thought about the blog post I would not be able to write for fear you would judge me for taking on the project.
There was a whole ethical debate in my head. How do I recreate or reproduce another person's work without getting in trouble and feeling like a dirty shit for doing so? After voicing my concern with her, Melinda suggested that I can change it a little to make it my own. I could have done that but Jim fell in love with this original piece and I want Jim to get exactly what he fell in love with. I know reproductions of other peoples art have been done before but I had to do my research on this original. I had Paul, my Dad, my boss Kim, and a couple other friends also do their research. There is no artist name for this piece. No location or even a date. Nothing anywhere. Practically a mystery. The image was a post someone made on Reddit in 2013 with only a couple of comments on the message board. After some thought, I took it upon myself to accept the offer. I just told myself I wouldn't post about it. HA! So much for that.
I started the painting shortly before Antoinette's passing and then completely stopped for about a month, because...you know....I was too fucking sad. My easel is in the corner of our living room and whatever painting I work on becomes a daily fixture in our lives. It becomes my Boss. Judging me from the corner of the room everyday that I don't work on it, for prioritizing everything else, reminding me that it's almost December and I would have to finish this painting for Jim's birthday. To be fair to myself, I did put some hours into it. An hour here, and hour there. The more I worked on it, the increasingly unsatisfied I became, even though the process was kind of fun. The color of the street was all wrong. The "Pizza Hut" wasn't centered inside the sign. The naked man's body posture was not exaggeratedly angled enough. I painted over that naked man several times, you guys. Several times. I could not get the angle right. After I completely finished it, I took a step back. FUCK! Angle is still like 3 degrees off. Paul assured me that it looked fine and that only I would notice that. I tried to recreate this painting to be an exact replica, even trying to adopt the shitty brush strokes of the original artist. It's not exact, by any means. In my painting, the man's penis is a bit more #blessed.
The painting was completed the morning of Jim's birthday, an hour before I met with Melinda for breakfast. Yes, it was all dry...I wasn't worried about it. We had a spectacular childless breakfast at 10am at Mex Cocina Cafe on Burbank Blvd. I love this lady. She has great energy, is hilarious, treated me for breakfast, handed me cash for the painting, and walked with me to the car to receive the painting she commissioned me to do over 2 months ago. It's peoples reactions that make me feel nervous and excited. You never know which way it could go even if you feel pretty confident about your work. I'm still pretty self aware to notice all my flaws and insecure enough to partially believe that others can notice them too. I also subscribe to the belief that if you truly think you did something absolutely perfect, that most likely it is not. Upon unveiling the weird painting, Melinda's reaction was something like this. First glance, wide grinned squeal of joy, followed by laughter and a huge hug. I love people. Genuine reactions of delight are so wonderful. Never underestimate the value you could bring to someone else. Later that evening, after she gifted the painting to her husband, Jim, I got a text message of a video she sent me. It was a video of Jim unwrapping the white sheet of crisp tissue paper around his painting. He looked stunned. He asked his wife twice, "wait. WHO did THIS??" She giggles and says "Cosette." He answers "She's a genius. This is truly epic." She texted me "he says he is moved to tears".
Now I'm gloating. I know. I know. I'm turned off by braggarts as well. However, this isn't about me really being a genius in painting. Although, it would be a lie if I pretended I wasn't hugely flattered by that comment. This is about someone paying attention to the weird obscure little obsessions their significant other may have; logging it into their memory; and then paying decent money to someone they trust who could pull off such a gift for their loved one. This is about the appreciation of art. The original art. NOT MY art. All I did was take 2 months to copy it with my acrylic paints. This is about human connection and reliability and honor and making people happy. This is about fulfillment. This is what I want my career to be about. All I have ever wanted.
Now I just have to create my own shit. 2020.