Recently an art student contacted me to learn more about the Shirley Manson painting. She was going to write an essay about it for school. So, I decided to do a write up on it and include photos and stories about how this painting came together. Not to mention the strange trip it's been on ever since.
Way back when, probably 1995 or 1996, I was waiting tables in Nashville. While walking through the dish room, a song was playing on the radio that I'd never heard before. It stopped me in my tracks. Literally....I just had to stand there and listen to it. The song was "Stupid Girl" and I thought it was amazing. But I actually thought Madonna was the artist singing and I was shocked that I liked one of her songs so much.
Fast forward a few weeks and I'm hanging at the record label Almo Sounds in Nashville. My sister worked there and invited me. She handed me a pink CD case and told me I'd probably dig these guys. The disc she handed me was the self-titled first Garbage album. And man, was she ever right! Imagine my surprise (and relief!) when I heard Stupid Girl on the album. I have been listening to Garbage and Shirley Manson pretty constantly since that day.
So, over the years I've seen them perform live twice, listened to every album, and consider them my favorite artists. Why they aren't touring to Nashville on the 20 years Queer Tour I'll never know.
When I started painting portraits on a regular basis, I was mostly painting old country legends. But I decided I'd like to do something with a bit more of a rock attitude. This painting was going to be for me, so I wanted it to be someone I really liked. Of course, Shirley was a pretty obvious choice for me.
With this painting I started with a 36 x 48 gallery-wrapped canvas. I had already drawn something else on it, but I can't remember what it was now. I didn't feel like erasing what was there, so I put a very thin wash over the entire canvas and used that as a starting point. Lots of times, artists will paint in the background and then draw the subject on top. I do that sometimes myself. However, with this one, I went with a technique I've used during my live painting events. That is, I work off the sketch with Payne's Grey (dark blue pigment used a lot in water colors), figure out my shadows and values, then build colors in on top.
After that, it was a matter of adding in layer upon layer of paint to begin getting the desired effect. My plan was to stick to blue and orange only since they are the most striking colors to use against each other. However, it started to become clear that I'd need to add a new dimension. So, I started to work purples into the skin tones to give some depth and accents. I knew from the beginning that the hair was going to be what made the portrait really "blow up." To get the effect I wanted, I first started with a base of heavy-body Paynes Grey, then Dioxazine Purple, Quinacridone Crimson, Pyrrole Orange, Hansa Yellow Opaque, and finally, Titanium White for the highlights.
I really liked the final look of the hair. The way it explodes from the blue background is what I think makes this painting so attention-grabbing. I've had several people tell me that this portrait of mine is their favorite. I've even sold two reproductions to people who didn't know who Shirley Manson actually was.
Since I finished her up, she's been on a whirlwind tour herself. Being a popular piece, I've brought her with me to just about every show I've done. Her first time out of the house was a RAW show in Atlanta (video here). She was also the first painting you saw at the grand opening of Music City Fine Art.
Almost a year ago, Shirley Manson saw my painting and shared it on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. She even sent it out to all her followers. Needless to say, my social feeds were blowing up that day! It was too cool. I was seeing people all over the world changing their profile and cover photos to the painting. That was a great feeling to see so many people digging something I had done. One of my yearly goals is to get the portraits I do seen by the subjects. So, that was definitely one I could check off the list.
I still consider this to be my favorite painting, subject and technique. I'm glad that it's gotten such a positive reaction.
The original Shirley Manson painting is currently on display at my house. But you can see a reproduction of it at Ludlow and Prime in Brentwood, TN. And if you want a copy of your own, check out some options in my Store or just contact me for something special, like a reproduction with embellishments.