If you're in or near the LA area later this month, you may want to check out an exhibition featuring the work of photographer John Mar. I've been fortunate to have featured John's work several times over the past year, (HERE:) and am continually amazed at level of beauty and creativity he conceives and captures.
John will be including images taken in the last year and there will be over 90 different models included in the show. Many of the models John has worked with will also be in attendance. If you're free on the 19th at 8pm, give John a shout on Instagram, (HERE:) and check out the show in person!
Whenever I profile an artist, I'm always interested in what they doodled. We all doodled in school, especially when the class was especially boring. Some people doodle words, names or symbols, others get a bit more artistic. My doodle them, when in school anyway, was usually animals. My scribblers and notebooks were full of my drawings of elephants, tigers, zebras and giraffes.
The bodies of the animals I drew were usually pretty decent, but it was the faces I struggled with. I drew many tigers with muscular bodies and perfectly spaced stripes, only to ruin the visuals with odd looking noses and faces. Artist Chris Mann spent those down moments in class drawing people and celebrities, and as you can clearly see, those countless hours of doodling definitely paid off.
I've been enjoying Chris' work for awhile now, especially his celebrity pieces. It was the image of the men from All In The Family, (below) that motivated me to get in touch about a piece on the site. As much I like Chris' work spotlighting current celebrities, I was most intrigued about his images of retro television stars. Great art often evokes, and the shot of the All In The Family cast took me right back to watching repeats with my great aunt.
My parents didn't really like the show, but when I was a kid, I often spent weekends and holidays at my great aunt. She was more like a grandmother, and in addition to baking me cookies and giving me five dollar bills, she was always watching repeats of sit-coms in the afternoon. When I got older, I watched the entire series on DVD, and crushed over Mike Evans who played Lionel in the show's early seasons.
All in the Family
Although I included a few pieces of current celebrities, most of the images I chose to include were of retro television actors. Some I knew or had heard of, others were completely new to me. Most of the shows were aired when I was just a little kid, some even before I was born. I not only loved the retro themes in Chris' portfolio, I especially loved how raw and erotic many of the depictions were.
I love when images and art blend adult themes with visuals people, characters and stories, most of us recognize from our childhoods. Some, like Mike Brady, posing with his boys while sporting a raging hard on, take on new meaning knowing now that Robert Reed was gay. Even with however, all of the erotic poses and erections, Chris manages to keep the nostalgic innocence we often associate with the actors and their characters.
Unlike my childhood doodles, Chris is incredibly skillful drawing faces. Although the bodies may be very adult, the facial expressions maintain the essence of each of the characters that we remember. I also loved the detail Chris included in each images. Not only did he beautiful recreate their faces, and his vision of their bodies, he also surrounded them in their television homes. I especially loved Axel in the Heck living room and Archie, Mike and Lionel in the Bunker's iconic living room.
The Mary Tyler Moore Men
When did you being drawing celebrities?
I’ve been drawing celebrities for a long time, both male and female. Since is was more common to see female celebrities nude I thought I’d focus more on men.
Have you ever shared a celebrity art piece with the subject?
No, but there have been a few pieces seen or found by them online.
What movies or tv shows inspired you growing up.
Pretty much all of them. In my drawings I tend to focus more on older TV shows and movies since nudity seemed to be taboo back then.
Are there specific features that are more difficult to draw than others?
Body hair is always a challenge. I manage to make it work though and have gotten a lot of positive feedback on the way I paint body hair or male chest hair pattern.
The Brady Boys
How do you decide which celebrities will be erect?
It all depends on the position of the subject. Sometimes in a group and erect penis could be obstructing something else important to the painting.
Do you have a favorite piece you've created, one that you feel represents your work best?
Honestly, my two favorite celebrity pieces I’ve done are of women. The topless painting of Laverne & Shirley and topless Flo from Alice I regret ever selling. I would have liked to kept them in my collection. I could probably paint them again, but there is something about the way it was put on canvas and the vibrancy of some of the color I’d have to match.
'Dennis Bowen (above) wasn’t a big star but did a few teen comedy romps in the 70s (Van Nuys Blvd, etc) as well as appearing on Welcome Back Kotter and as the original Archie (from the comic book). He passed away in 2012. I had a crush on him at the same time as the other 2 actors (Stephen Shortridge, Brian Patrick Clark) he’s picture with. '
Is there a piece or a person who was the hardest to capture?
Yes. My first attempt at painting James Gandolfini went from slightly resembling him to looking like Al Molinaro then Mao Tse Tung. I was ready to give up, but then kept working on it until I got it right. It was an early attempt and not Sopranos piece I painted last year. (below)
One of the creations I think I enjoyed the most was Chris' piece featuring actors Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron. (below) Many remember that the two actors played father and son for seven seasons on the 80's sit-com Growing Pains.
Thicke was from Canada and his politics were definitely liberal leaning. Prior to his death in 2016, Thicke spoke out against Donald Trump and expressed his support for Hillary Clinton. Given Cameron is a Christian evangelist who has stated publicly that he believes homosexuality is 'unnatural', the image is that much more provocative and visually satisfying.