An art student recently contacted me and wanted to know more about the Shirley Manson painting, as 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, and the strange trip it's been on ever since.
Way back when, probably 1995 or 1996, I was waiting tables and while walking through the dish room, a song I'd never heard before was on the radio and I had to stop to listen. The song was "Stupid Girl" and I thought it was amazing, but I was thought it was a Madonna song and was shocked that I'd like one of her songs so much. Fast forward a few weeks and I'm hanging at the record label Almo Sounds in Nashville with my sister who worked there and she handed me a pink CD case and told me I'd probably dig these guys. The disk she handed me was the self-titled first Garbage album and she was quite right. 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 and have listened to all their albums and still consider them to be my favorite artists, why they're not 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 and decided I'd like to do something with a bit more of a rock attitude. This one was going to be for me, so I wanted it to be someone I really liked, so Shirley was a pretty obvious choice for me. With this painting I started with a 36 x 48 gallery-wrapped canvas that I had already drawn something else on (don't even remember what 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, and I'll do that on occasion as well. However, with this one, I went with a technique I've used during my live events and that's working off the sketch with Payne's Grey and figuring out my shadows and values and then building colors in on top.
After that, it was a matter of adding in layers upon layers of paint to start to get 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 in purples in the skin tones to give some depth and accents. The hair I knew from the beginning 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 and 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 is their favorite and have 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) and she was the first painting you saw at the grand opening of Music City Fine Arts.
Almost a year ago, Shirley Manson saw my painting and shared it on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and sent it out to all of 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 one check off the list.
So, I still consider this to be my favorite painting, subject and technique-wise. I'm glad that it's gotten such a positive reaction.
The original Shirley Manson painting is currently on display at Ansbach Artisans in Franklin, TN