Painting Mark Humphries

Painting

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“I’d love to paint him like a weird mole that turns out being an unformed conjoined twin… you know… mostly hair and teeth”

At about 1.30am at a housewarming in Enmore, I garbled that awful pitch to my friend Greta (loudly) over the house DJ that was blasting music that was frankly aggressively too youthful. Greta was a presenter on Tonightly on the ABC. Tonightly was, at the time, breaking the mould for the ABC, putting politeness to the side and shooting for jokes based on raw honesty – speaking truth to power. The turnaround was only 7 days but the show was able to churn out brutal gold every week. Greta and I started our artistic careers at UNSW and like me and some other friends at UNSW and USYD, happened to find ourselves turning our comedy skills to politics. I didn’t plan to get into political cartooning but I felt a responsibility to do so and also realised how much of a goldmine Canberra was, so I started panning. The ‘mole’ I was shouting about to Greta was Mark Humphries, a mate of Greta’s and another political satirist. Greta said she’d set up a meeting to kick us off.

Mark who has described himself as a ‘poor man’s Baby John Burgess’ and ‘the Bondi Vet’s evil twin brother’ is the co-host of Network 10’s Pointless, formerly on The Feed on SBS and currently on the ABC with the 7:30 report in the satirical comedy slot. I was a big fan of Mark’s work as soon as he hit the scene. He had the sheen of a young David McGahan and the hair of a young wheat field. He has wonderful presence on screen, was consistently funny and cutting and even if he wasn’t keen to sit for a portrait I wanted to meet him.

 

Mark said ‘yes’ to the portrait and in the first sitting we got on like a horse on fire (loud and quick). Over the last few months while sketching, painting and bringing Mark in for more sittings, I moved away from focussing on the gameshow host of just ‘hair and teeth’ and moved towards painting Mark as his political satire persona, an on the ground reporter. The painting then required a powerful stance with heavy colour and line but the character had to be undercut in some way so, as well as a cheesy pose and hinting smirk, I took the might of the nations capital and sifted down to it’s most daggy and simple icon with the Canberra bus shelter for the background.

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We delivered the painting at the end of the week and ate lunch at the gallery. I have my fingers crossed for the Archibald Prize in a months time but mostly am proud to have painted this work and promoted political satire a little more in Australia.

“Troppo vero!” (“Too Right!”)

Painting

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Back in 2014 when I was a couple of years out of Uni and on the look out for illustration jobs, I came close to drawing cartoons for a book that explained physics entirely through jokes, the book wasn’t picked up but I kept in contact with the author, James Colley. James and I met through different university comedy societies, James continued writing and I kept drawing and we both marched forward without losing our comedy roots.

Nominated for a Young Walkley, creator of  SBS Comedy’s The Backburner and Nailed It at Giant Dwarf, James also works on ABC TV’s The Weekly: with Charlie Pickering and Gruen. James has his teeth well and truely sunk into the Australian political satire scene and in 2017 released a book as his right-wing political commentator character, Peter Chudd. The book: TOO RIGHT – Politically incorrect opinions too dangerous to be published except that they were by Peter Chudd*, Real Australian (*as shouted down the phone line to James Colley) should have a shorter title and more chapters. It was a snort to read and I wanted more, so while reading the last chapter I asked James if he would sit for me for a portrait as Peter Chudd. Chudd is the kind of character that would assume artists would be chomping at the bit to paint his likeness and would also assume that if the portrait wasn’t picked as a finalist in the Archibald Prize it would somehow be an infringement of his god-given free speech.

The books blurb:

Move over Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt, Australia’s leading conservative privileged white man has arrived. And even better, he’s written a masterpiece that dismantles every loony left – or even vaguely moderate – political argument ever made in this country! 

In Too Right, Peter Chudd, Australia’s most controversial far-right columnist tells it like it is, unafraid of who’s ‘offended’ by his ‘poorly researched’ opinions. Global warming? The only thing warming the world is the hot air from environmentalists. And what would climate scientists know about climate science anyway? Welfare? Well, that’s anything but, well, fair. Racism? Every columnist has a right to be a bigot – and how dare people dismissive him as a ‘white man’.

Read the tragic story of how this wealthy, privileged man believes he is, against all odds, the most maligned, victimised, discriminated-against person in the entire country for simply daring to speak the truth. Understand his dismay when people describe him as a hideous husk of a human who’s single-handedly tearing the nation apart.

Often portraiture, and portraiture in the Archibald Prize have paintings that are based on a previous portrait or artwork from history. My portrait of the Umbilical Brothers two years ago was based on a Raphael portrait called “Madonna of the Goldfinch” My artwork used the physical position of the two central figures and surrounding background as a reference – it was named “Umbilicals of the Goldfish (after Raphael)”. By referencing a historic portrait it elevates your own art and draws a thematic line between your subject and the one being referenced or the original artist.
For the portrait of Peter Chudd (AKA James Colley), I borrowed the expression and physical pose of Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X. It is notorious portrait also famous for being reproduced by Francis Bacon in his Screaming Popes series. By painting Chudd in this way I am portraying him as a pious stern character, a man of great power. I saw the painting at the Doria Pamphili Gallery in Rome two years ago and is a fiercely personal and true portrait.


“Troppo vero!” is what the pope exclaimed when he first saw Velázquez’s portait, this translates to English as “all too true” you could say it translates to Australian as “too right”. So I named the artwork “Troppo vero!” (“too right”) Portrait of Peter Chudd (after Velázquez). 

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But I felt the portrait itself needed an element of performance. Earlier this year on January 26, a statue of Captain Cook in Melbourne had a bucket of pink paint poured over it as part of the #changethedate protests. This was an event that fuelled so much outrage for right-wing political commentators. The pink paint that is poured over my portrait of Peter Chudd would have him screaming ‘censorship’ and the event on Jan 26 would easily have been a news article he would hammer for weeks blaming the ‘intolerant left’ for their disrespect and violence.



My twitter post before delivering the work on Thursday:

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James has been wonderful and energetic through the process and is an all round nice dude. It was great to finally collaborate with James and on the year I scored a gig as a political cartoonist (goat.com.au), James Colley was the perfect person to paint.

Bothers of the Umbilical kind

Painting

My portrait of the Umbilical Brothers (David Collins and Shane Dundas) was entered in the Moran and Archibald Prize in 2016.


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In honour of their 25th anniversary as a performance duo, my portrait of the Umbilical Brothers (David Collins and Shane Dundas) celebrates their unique physicality, positivity, and longevity as artists. Lending from the form of Raphael’s 1505 painting “Madonna of the Goldfinch”, I created a joyous tableau that places the comedians among high art.


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I supplemented the faunal allegory of Raphael’s goldfinch, representing suffering, with a goldfish, representing good luck, something they have enjoyed a great deal of over the past 25 years. Also a goldfish looks funnier and is more fun to say.


Umbilical of the Goldfish - After Raphael


 

Both Shane and Dave were incredibly generous with their time, doing sittings backstage at the Roslyn Packer Theatre (where they were the first comedy show in the newly named venue) and more sittings in their hotel rooms in Melbourne during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. They are both lovely blokes and I was glad to have the opportunity to paint Dave again after my first portrait of him in 2012. Why wouldn’t you want to paint bodies as bendy as theirs filled with such electric personality.

Ash vs. Evil Dead vs. ink on paper

Painting


I have a friend. My friend has a boyfriend. It was my friend’s boyfriend’s birthday. My friend’s boyfriend, who’s birthday it was, is a massive fan of Evil Dead (I say this because he is actually humongous).

My friend, who has the humongous boyfriend, also has a little collection of little communist propaganda posters on the wall at home (you know, reds above the bed). This friend wanted a birthday present for the boyfriend… A gift that was a little Evil Dead and a little Evil Red.

It was a great commission to work on for an artist who also loves the Evil Dead films and it was thrilling working in this stark graphic style only using black and red ink and the beige of the thick paper.

The commission was a huge hit with the humongous boyfriend. The sizeable painting sits in well with the little posters and all of this was painted before we knew of the Ash vs. Evil Dead series being released, which all 3 and a half of us are very excited about. So excited in fact, that my friend tweeted this photo of the painting to Bruce Campbell himself, which he retweeted, which then caused my gmail inbox to go from 0 to 60 emails in 5 minutes with favourites and retweets.


And for a guy who loves a good pun, why wouldn’t I title the artwork “Fist Full of  Boom Sickle”?

It’s the B grade schlock horror story that won’t die… And I hope it never does.

Edit: my humongous friend is a tall muscly rugby guy… Not ‘the blob’ or anything. 

Desk

Design, Painting, This is Interesting

In the past year I have moved to more towards digital design and further away from painting for no other reason than more design opportunities presenting themselves and the more I designed bits and bobs on my computer the more work cropped up. In doing so my studio has also changed to accommodate more for sketching and designing. This is what it looks like today:

my new desk

… and this is what it looked like 1 year ago:

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The workspace of a creative person evolves to serve three purposes: to be a functional workspace, to spark inspiration and to be a comfortable space to work (however not comfortable in the same way a living room is comfortable – these two spaces need to be separated somehow).

It’s great to have everything you need at your fingertips without it crowding your desk/studio. An amazing example of this is Casey Neistat’s studio:

I’m not so keen on the gun and weaponry which are “Kinda funny” to use in case the “pizza guy gets belligerent… you have it at the ready”. How much/often are you pissing off pizza guys Casey!?

I found this video through a blog post by artist Suffoca, who also has recently posted a few nice shots of his studio.

If you really enjoy looking at peoples studios from the safety of your own home check out Desk  which also comes as an app and makes for good viewing on the iPad.

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BEHIND YOU!

Design, Painting

Recently I have been working on a project that involves a lot of detailed background illustration. In looking for inspiration I’ve ended up in a Google spiral of animation background artwork. From the very detailed and soft glowing designs of old-school Disney animation to the jagged screaming simple lines of Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes cartoons sometimes we are so distracted by the action of the character we forget to look at what’s going on in the background. Rob Richards’ does some excellent work restoring old animation backgrounds on his blog and is worth a look at as the website is quite extensive. Here are a few from the blog…

… and here is an amazing old video introduced by Walt Disney explaining the technology used for Bambi to create depth in the background using an elaborate system of moving panes. The level of invention used in these early animated movies was astounding.

 

The month is Mover

Painting, This is Interesting

The month of Movember is over.

That’s it for my upper lip. My mo has to go. It’s the end of the line for this hairy line. The eyebrows of the mouth have to head South. The stash has to dash. There’s mo more Movember so mo mo Movember mo.

It’s been a long hairy month to which I have dedicated my time painting mustache artworks. Here is a quick look at how successful this was…

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Through selling paintings alone I have raised $1, 200 but all up I raised $1, 655 and I think if you raise this much money for Movember you also never get testicular cancer and never get depressed. It’s True! I just spent two hours watching Requiem For A Dream while slamming my gonads in a microwave door.

The ‘For The Love Of Mo’ web series I took part in has also come to an end and in a suprise twist I overtake the other two Movember bro’s in the last minute when I almost triple my fundraising in one mad dash for December 1st.

Thank you for your donations: Charissa, Jude, Sarah, Miles, Dom, Skye, Laura, Ange, Fuzzy, Colin, Kelly, Milly, Jess, Jacqui, Master Quinn, Vaughanie, Pat, Eddie, Louis, Hamo and especially Sam

A huge thank you to Tim and Kim for putting together the For The Love of Mo web series. You guys made my Movember something special.

A BIG thank you to my girlfiend for supporting me through the first week of mustache cultivation where I looked like I could steal pringles from a 7-11 at any moment.

It’s also my Birthday today and my 50th blog post so howaboutthat!

Mo and Tell

Painting, This is Interesting

Movember is almost over. These days it’s starting to look more like I have a mustache and less like I was really thirsty and drank Ovaltine like it was going out of fashion. I have such a real mustache I could pass as one of the music students at high school who could get away with a wispy mustache because they were fragile and cool and somehow untouchable by the year-master who would bust anyone else for growing the most pathetic sprouts of a beard that made us feel so much like Indiana Jones on expedition and less like the greasy sack of bones frying burgers at a cafe for fourteen dollars an hour.

The picture above is of all the paintings I’ve made for Movember. All artworks sold, 50% of the sale is a donation to Movember. If you want to buy one contact me. Otherwise you can make a straight donation at my Movember page.

I’ve enjoyed this month very much and have great respect for Tim Anastasi and Kim Low for putting together a very slick web series that I was lucky to be a part of. You can watch the full series here.

EPISODE 1

EPISODE 2

EPISODE 3

EPISODE 4

EPISODE 5

Mo – oh! We’re Half Way There. Mo – Oh! Growin’ Facial Hair.

Painting, This is Interesting

 

Man! I love Bon Jovi!

This week in my pursuit to convert facial hair into charity donations I completed a commission of pianist Keith Jarrett with a piano key mustache, (it was tough making this look like a mustache and not a mouth full of thin terrifying teeth) as well as the commission I produced yet another superhero mustache. This week the hairy hero is Bananaman showing off his very appropriate mustache. Bananaman and all other superhero mustache artworks featured on the blog cost only $100 with half the money going to Movember.

I’m also taking part is a weekly web series on Movember. See episode 3 here.

You may have noticed that I am trailing those other guys pretty bad. If you want to support the underdog and also support the fight against testicular cancer and male depression you can donate here
Or you can also buy one of the movember paintings featured in the past 3 blogs (50% of painting sale goes to Movember.)