When I first looked at this bust, I was fascinated. It looked broken in such an aesthetically pleasing way that you almost felt like it was done on purpose. I knew I wanted to make this bust a focal point - no other elements, no distractions- but I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to take it. The first thing you are drawn to are the lips. The genius mason behind this bust perfectly captured the idea of romance. So I had considered a pink background with the title “First Kiss.” I thought of how we only remember bits and pieces of our first kiss, some things are blurry, while others remain perfectly clear. But after taking some time to think about it, I found myself pulled in another direction.
I kept circling back to how some of his vital senses and even his consciousness were gone - no thought, no sight, no sound. The concept of being “brain dead” - which I typically feel after sleep deprivation - overwhelmed me. I sought to capture the idea of staying up late with your thoughts swirling, until you are just there, desperately trying to fade into sleep. As a finishing touch for this representation of “Insomnia”, I applied a black glitter background to imitate the beauty and depth of the night sky.
Originally, I saw this statue as an beautiful representation of how something fractured could be made “whole” again. How it could be appreciated, even now, as something worthy and magnificent.
But when I considered the background, I thought my usual clouds - light, fluffy, cheerful - would be too jarring against the sharp fractures in the statue. After weeks of working on the piece, the emotional tone had changed for me. Now, I felt it conveyed a different message - mankind’s careless destruction of art and nature. With all the horrors that come with war, one side effect we tend to forget is the loss of historical monuments and art - like this statue. A piece of our collective past is destroyed in an instant. There is also the damage that has been created over time. Mankind is destroying what makes our world so unique - nature. The melting clouds is a representation of global warming, specifically the drought and heat waves that affect us here in San Antonio.
Growing up, my mother and grandmother loved visiting London. My siblings and I were fortunate enough to go several times as children, and I have so many fond memories. As a child, I always loved getting to see or do anything that had to do with the royal family. But, now, as an adult, I find myself fascinated with British History; not only from an academic standpoint, but also from a feminist perspective.
I decided to create the painting shortly after Queen Elizabeth II passed away. She was an icon. From being a car mechanic during WW II to being the longest-reigning British monarch, she was an underrated example of feminism for her time. She led a nation during a time when women were portrayed as homemakers, wearing aprons in the kitchen and dutifully waiting for the return of their working husbands.
“The Queen has become a feminist icon, whether she wanted to or not, simply by never letting gender define her. Her gender has always been irrelevant to her capacity to do her job … and by doing that job stoically and with the utmost dedication, she’s inadvertently done a great deal to normalize the idea of having woman in charge. “
- Emma Barnett, host of the BBC’s “Woman’s Hour” 2015
“She fits into the tradition of ruling queens who are very useful in feminism, more through their deeds than their words.”
- Arianna Chernock, author of “the Right to Rule and the Right of Women: Queen Victoria and the Women’s Movement.”
As a female raised in the South, I have felt the societal pressures to conform, to bend under the traditional gender norms of what a woman “should and should not” be. I, personally, admire her from the perspective that even when she felt the overwhelming pressure to conform, she trusted herself and followed her instincts as a leader. She exhibited stability while still being open to change. She prioritized her life’s purpose over the unspoken law that still rings true, even today … women must be self-sacrificing martyrs to be good people/wives/mothers. For that, I admired her.
After looking at my artwork and reading a little bit about me, I think it goes without saying – Fiesta has become a huge inspiration for me and the art that I create. One of the aspects of The Order of the Alamo's Fiesta that I have always found so entertaining are the over-the-top parties that each of the Duchesses throw in honor of Fiesta.
The girls and their families have complete control over the parties so they can choose any theme. And let me tell you, there have been some crazy themes! And those parties, that had the over the top décor and theatrics, are what inspired this painting.
I chose a black background primarily because I wanted the subjects in the painting to pop. The other reason I chose black was because these parties often happen at night and go until all hours of morning.
The Disco Ball
A disco ball represents the idea of dancing – which there was always a lot of at every party. Whether it was a single DJ or multiple bands flown in from all over the country, the best of the best were brought in to ensure that the dancing didn’t stop ‘til the sun came up! However, the glittering disco ball also represented the beauty and glamour of Fiesta - particularly the glittering rhinestones on the Duchess dresses themselves.
The Darth Vader in a Navy Tux Wearing Bunny Ears ...
No matter the theme, people always came dressed to impress. One party was a fairy tale theme, so when you walked in, you walked through one of those spinning tunnels and when you came out on the other side … you were in Alice in Wonderland! And as the party went on through the night, guests were handed funky hats, glow sticks, sunglasses and masks as full-on marching band in costume paraded through the party. The memory of this party is what inspired me to do a man in a sharp tux, rocking fluffy bunny ears, and a killer Darth Vader helmet.
The Champagne Bottles and The Over-The-Top Ice Cream Cone
Every Fiesta party and every Duchess party has an open bar. The word Fiesta means “Party,” and when Texans decide to do something, they do it BIG. This also includes their buffets. Like the man in the painting, you wind up carrying as many drinks and plates as you can so that you can quickly refuel and hit the dance floor again.
The Flying Attack Rooster
One Duchess who had a party where the theme was Jungle Safari… She had live monkeys, koalas, exotic birds and other strange furry creatures for her guests to be able to interact with and take photos with. One of the stories I heard was that while one of the girls was trying to take a photo with one of the monkeys, it started jumping on her head and pulling her hair … So I added the flying attack rooster to show that sometimes these parties skirt the line between extravagant and chaos.
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about what inspired this painting and how it all came together. To learn more about my process, continue to read my blogs or visit my Videos page where you can watch “Behind the Scenes” videos of me painting. To learn more about me as an artist, go to my About the Artist page, which has my Artist’s Statement and Bio. If you would like to stay up to date on all my current projects and events, follow my Instagram page @vchampionart and my Facebook page www.facebook.com/VC.Art.
*Original sold in 2018. To purchase a print of this painting, click here.
Fiesta San Antonio is the soul of the city. Although it is technically only a weeklong event at the end of April – filled with street parades, river parades, festivals, and balls – the city’s citizens and businesses always find a way to stretch it out into a whole month. And with that amount of non-stop socializing, excessive partying, and still having to go into work on Monday, it is no wonder that this city has become well stocked in coffee shops. I particularly appreciated this when I participated as a Duchess in the 2013 Fiesta. When you have to be dressed and ready at a parade route by 8 am - after attending a ball the night before - your saving grace, your life line, your power to fight away the puffy eyes … is caffeine. And LOTS of it.
Fast forward to a couple years later, … while I was working as a veterinary technician, I often had to give IV and subcutaneous fluids to patients. I have the distinct memory of thinking to myself one day, “Ya know, wouldn’t it be nice if us San Antonians could have an IV of caffeine for Fiesta week?” And from that point it was just a funny, random thought that remained in my mind.
As I built up my Fiesta inspired collection, Viva by VC Art, I started thinking – how could I make this funny idea into a painting? The image of IV bags filled with coffee popped into my mind, and I thought that arranging the bags in a symmetrical formation would give them an “pop art” feel (rather than a scary medical feel). The final touch to brighten up the painting was making the background a vibrant, beautiful color that would complement the brown of the coffee. So, I chose one of my favorite colors to use when painting, a turquoise blue swirled with a pearlized blue.
If you are interested in buying a print of “Give It to Me IV” or ordering your own custom made painting, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Viva Fiesta, ya'll!!
I completed this personalized pet portrait for one of my good friends, Sarah, several years ago. The English Bulldog Pickles is the fabulous, "meaty little ham" (as we call her) in this painting. She is also the apple of her mother’s eye and the wiggly welcome party to all of Sarah’s guests.
One of Pickles most distinctive features is her tongue, which is always sticking out in hilarious fashion due to her adorable under bite. The second quality she is known for is her laziness, and, in particular, how she weirdly lays with her front legs underneath her. So when visualizing her portrait, I naturally thought of her laying down, lazily looking up at me.
The colorful, paper flower crowns of Fiesta are not only a fun accessory during Fiesta Week, but also a must have item at all festive parties thrown by San Antonians, year round. Furthermore, I loved the added bonus of how funny the feminine crown looked on the “less than feminine” Pickles! : ) Lastly, when I was painting the crown, the turquoise flower was the only one that didn’t fit on the front, so I decided to pull out more of that color by painting the ground turquoise (Side note: blue – no matter the shade – is my favorite paint color to work with, so I couldn’t let an opportunity to use it slip away.)
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about my process for creating the pet portrait “Viva Pickles!” To this day, it is one of my favorite paintings because of how much fun it was to bring to life, and because of how much joy it brings my friend, Sarah, who says she smiles every time she walks past it. (The photo to the left is the picture Sarah sent me after she had it framed and hung in her kitchen!)
To order your own personalized pet portrait, please contact me at email@example.com!
* I completed this custom pet portrait in August 2016 for the Veterinarian I worked for in New Hampshire. It took about 2 weeks from start to finish, and it is a 24 in x 36 in acrylic painting on a deep canvas with a protective polymer gloss. *
Having spent time getting to know not only him, but his “Crew” of dogs, I really enjoyed getting to bring each of their personalities to life on one canvas. While I normally use brighter colors and more feminine accents, Dr. Heck was a more traditional New Englander, spending lots of time outdoors and wore more neutral, earth tones. Therefore, when choosing a color scheme and layout, I knew a simple layout and earthy, masculine tones would be better. I ended up going with a dusty blue for the background (a color that I knew Dr. Heck would like, AND would look good with the colors of his dogs’ fur.) Then, knowing Dr. Heck’s love for tractors and the outdoors, I chose a muted kelly green shade that was still bright enough to be the focal point of the painting and look good next to the white dog’s fur.
As for the subjects of the painting- the white dog on the chair is Howard. “Howie,” as he is known around the office, was originally adopted to be more of a little white lap dog for Dr. Heck’s wife , but his spunky, mischievous personality quickly made him the leader of the pack, Dr. Heck’s (secret) favorite, and often the center of attention whenever he enters a room. So, naturally, he had to be front and center in the painting, and elevated in a regal chair to demonstrate his “Big Dog” charisma. Howie is also known for tearing up toilet paper when he is angry or bored. By knowing this funny anecdote about him, I was able to incorporate a unique touch, and even a funny story, into this pet portrait.
Bode is the dark brown, Burmese Mountain Dog mix on the left side of the canvas. Bode is a quiet, gentle old man who is often very shy around people. He usually just walks around the office at a leisurely pace, plopping down here and there to relish in long naps on cool floors; however, when he does feel like joining in on the activity, he stands there quietly, just waiting for you to call him over and shower him with attention. The stance he is taking in the painting is the way he always looks when standing around waiting; it’s the way I always think of him when I picture him in my head. He is also known for LOVING squirrels. If you want to see this old man come alive, say the word squirrel and watch as his eyes light up as he tilts his head in recognition, as if to say “WHERE?!” Therefore, incorporating a stuffed toy squirrel at his feet added a creative touch to the personality and story of his portrait.
The last dog, the tan colored collie mix on the right, is Casey, or “Case-Dog” as Dr. Heck calls him. Casey is a sweet, friendly dog who is always looking for somebody to go love on. One of the two looks I think of when picturing Casey is when he comes up to you and wants you to pet him; he is almost like a golden retriever, wiggling around, wagging his tail, and as he backs his booty up to you, he looks around, over his shoulder, to smile at you. However, I had a hard time conceptualizing how I would place him on the canvas at that angle. So I decided to go with the other look that always reminds me of Casey. He is the only one of Dr. Heck’s dogs that always seems to just want to be right by your side, … or, more importantly, under your feet. There is a desk in the back that has a dark little nook under it, and when anyone is back there typing up notes, Dr. Heck especially, Casey will go lay down under the desk and curl himself around their feet so that his head is resting on the base of the rolling chair, looking out, watching as everyone carries on with their tasks. To me, this position not only fit perfectly with the rest of the painting, but it was also a nod to Casey’s sweet and ever-present nature.
The pictures I used for the portrait are lesser quality than I would normally use, but since I saw the dogs all the time, I was very familiar with them. At the end of the day, I think this is what makes all the world of difference in creating a pet portrait – really knowing or at least familiarizing yourself with the pet and the owner. If it’s a portrait for someone I don’t know, taking that extra step of sitting down to meet with them and getting to interact one-on-one with the pet is so helpful. It gives me an opportunity to come up with something truly unique and special. Also, it makes the actual process of coming up with an idea for a portrait so much easier and much more fun to paint because I feel like I really know the animal I am painting.
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about my process for creating the pet portrait “Heck Crew: Bode, Howie, and Case-Dog.” To order your own pet portrait, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!