Painting {James Madison}

A couple months ago, my friend Tony clued me in on an opportunity to participate in a fun project for a Boston theatre company.

Bad Habit Productions is doing a production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents - a "chronological, biographical survey of the lives and presidencies of each of the 44 men who have held the office so far. Their mistakes and successes are celebrated by a company of actors who take turns donning a star-spangled coat that symbolizes the presidency." Their goal is to produce 44 plays around the country leading up to the U.S. Presidential Election on November 6. 

Some of the companies chose to enlist artists to create portraits of all of the presidents to decorate the stage during the show. At the end of the production, the portraits will be auctioned off to raise money for the theatre. We got to bid on our top 5 presidents. I chose to avoid the modern-day presidents and go for those who had some distinct facial features I could play around with. I ended up with James Madison and his powdered wig.

I was excited for a chance to participate for a few reasons: 1) I wanted to do a painting! It has been such a long time since I got down and dirty with my acrylics. 2) Talk about a different subject - since I usually stick to bunnies, flowers and Stella, depicting an older man a couple centuries old could be quite the challenge. 3) I love learning about new things! This portrait could be however I interpreted it - as long as it was within 12 x 12 inches and would hang flat. I wanted to represent James Madison's legacy, at the same time giving my painting style a chance to shine.

After doing a lot of internet research, I decided to use this image as my inspiration. I could have fun with his rosy cheeks and pouty lips!

Next I started sketching. When I got a drawing I was happy with, I scanned it into Photoshop and started playing around with different color combos. Since I was painting this, I wouldn't have the luxury of switching colors with ease so I wanted to have a plan. I even enlisted my Instagram friends to get their opinions. Thanks, guys!

The consensus ended up being the lower left - chartreuse and navy. I was ready to start painting. I had a piece of birch plywood all gesso'ed and ready to go.

At this point, other than the hyper color scheme, it was still basically a traditional portrait. Now time to make it truly James Madison. Since he is considered the Father of the Constitution, I decided to paint the Bill of Rights behind him on the green background.

Four hours and a very sore wrist later, James was complete!

I had a lot of fun with this project. To the point I am going to start painting again! Hopefully I'll be able to show you more in the near future.

And a sneak peek of the theatre production was posted on Facebook yesterday. Look who has a prominent place behind the stage!

Photo ©Derek Frasier 2012 courtesy of Jeff Mosser 

And Tony's Ronald Reagan ended up to James's right - he's in great company!

Have any of you seen the play? Apparently there was a production here in Madison, but I totally missed it. Doh!