Make Believe
posted: June 8, 2010

I was going through some of my painted-style assignments to archive and I was struck by what an important role setting and costume and posture can play in portraying people. I always try to come up with ways to evoke what's important about the subjects, which often means making up all kinds of stuff.
Above, a gangster Uncle Sam, shaking down the citizenry to pay off his Big Shot pals, for The Nation. No setting in this, I used body language to get across the point. It was tough to get the finger-slicing-the-throat gesture clearly not a had-it-up-to-here gesture. I think the snarl on his face helped to reinforce an aggressive vs exasperated vibe.

Above, gardening expert Jeff Cox. All I had were a couple of head shots of him, none with this expression and angle, and I made up a lush vegetable garden for him to be tending. For Organic Gardening magazine.

Above, one of 7 portraits for a medical company annual report. This scene is also made up, though they provided me with a photo of this 97-year old's face (not quite in this position, though). I wanted to show where she spent her life (hence Cologne's Kölner Dom through the window) and her hobby (reading).

Above, Temple Grandin, diagnosed autistic as a child and noted Doctor of Animal Science. She often wears western style shirts, and she's an expert on livestock and animal welfare, so I put her in an embroidered western shirt with cows on it. For the Wall St Journal.

Above, the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, for the Wall St Journal. They wanted a reference to Colombia, so I found some images of the Colombian presidential sash, and painted him wearing that -- more organic and interesting than a map behind him, I think.

Tech guru Guy Kawasaki, for Event magazine. Another instance of only having some photos of his face and me creating a setting. He's an author, so I put in a couple of his recent books, and then put a bunch of monitors around his imaginary office as a reference to him being all over the place: social media/blogging/web/etc. Made his laptop a Mac because he was one of the early Apple guys, responsible for marketing the Mac back in the '80s.