Mirror New Yorker: Spring Style Issue

Isaac Hernández. Spring has sprung? March 15-16, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol (19×24″). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Isaac Hernández. Spring has sprung? March 15-16, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol (19×24″). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Doing a weekly cover for The New Yorker can be exhausting, even if they are faux covers. Nevertheless, it’s fun. This is the week that The New Yorker prints one of its two Style Issues. They other one being in September. It occurred to me that with New York covered in snow, it seems a bit early to be thinking of Spring. The most challenging part about this cover was that California is going through a heat wave. It was difficult thinking of snow in record heat temperatures. And even though it’s still snowing in some parts of the East Coast, there’s no snow in New York right now. Luckily, there’s snow in the forecast for March 21st, closer to the date on my mirror New Yorker cover.

Another challenge was to make the window display look like such. In order to do so, I tried to make the background be some kind of collage of individual photographs: a butterfly, a daisy, a sun, a bird, a cloud… I even thought it would be fun to use actual photographs for this collage, adding a farther sense of separation between the cold little girl and the display of skinny Spring models. But The New Yorker has only used a photograph on its cover once, of one of William Wegman’s dogs dressed as Eustace Tilley (Feb. 21 & 28, 2000). Well, no more, this week’s Style Issue (March 23rd, 2015) also features photography, mixed with illustration, of a piece of pink paper being folded into a rose, by Christoph Niemann. Thank you, Françoise Mouly for opening the door to photographs.

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Mirror New Yorker: St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Isaac Hernández. St. Patrick's Day Parade. Mar. 8, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol board (19×24″ 48.3x61cm). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Isaac Hernández. St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Mar. 8, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol board (19×24″ 48.3x61cm). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

I had many ideas for the St. Patrick’s Day faux New Yorker cover… too many. So instead of drawing, I spent my time thinking. Not a good idea. I guess that’s what deadlines are for, to get you out of your head and into action. I went back to my original concept, a view of Fifth Avenue, with St. Patrick’s Cathedral watching her parade. I’m running very low on white (my Sennelier Grand oil pastel stick is not very grand at all presently). To save as much white as possible, I smeared the colors with my fingers, achieving an impressionistic effect, where the avenue is more like a green river.

Claude Monet. RueMontorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878.

Claude Monet. Rue Montorgueil, Paris, Festival of 30 June 1878.

As I drew, Claude Monet’s Rue Montorgueil painting was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t want to look at it until it was complete. And now that I’m finished, I think it may not be done after all and that I’ll spend more time on it. One of the things I may change is the Irish flag in the front. In the photos I’ve seen of Fifth Avenue during the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the street is covered with star-spangled banners, except for one Irish tri-color hanging from the cathedral. I thought I needed to honor the Irish more clearly, so I made their flag be in the foreground as well. However, I kind of like a starred-and-striped St. Patrick’s Day. With the use of Adobe Photoshop, I modified the picture to be more patriotic, and it works. So it’s back to the drawing board for me. Incidentally, I just learned that the expression “back to the drawing board” came from a New Yorker cartoon by the great Peter Arno.

Or maybe I’ll just leave it the way it is.

Isaac Hernandez. Altered image of oil pastel

Isaac Hernandez. Altered image of St. Patrick’s Parade oil pastel.

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Women on the Bridge, 50 Years after Selma’s Bloody Sunday

This week’s real New Yorker cover by Birgit Schössow is brilliant. It’s one of those that makes you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Having the Flat Iron Building as an ice breaker ship makes all the sense in the world, especially since New York has been engulfed in ice. Plus this rendition by the German artist is simply beautiful… it’s something that you’d want decorating your wall. And since Condé Nast sells their covers through the Cartoon Bank, it makes complete sense that art editor Françoise Mouly would have chosen this one. Schösso is proud to have her lovely illustration featured in The New Yorker, as her website attestsI’ve been wanting to do a street view of the Flat Iron Building for a faux cover, and now Birgit has raised the bar.

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Isaac Hernández. Women on the Bridge. February 24-March 1, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol (19×24″). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

I don’t live in New York and haven’t been enduring the cold front, so the choice for this week’s faux New Yorker cover was pretty clear to me, being that March 7th marks the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama and March 8th is International Women’s Day.

Bloody Sunday refers to the beating that civil rights activists received from Alabama State Troopers as their civil rights march tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River on the way to Montgomery. A few years ago, Women for Women International organized Women on the Bridge, a gathering on bridges around the world demanding equal rights for women worldwide, as I wrote for El Mundo, Voxxi and in my blog at the time. With that in mind, I put one and one together and created a gathering of Women on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

In this illustration, I chose to remove the name from the bridge; first, because writing in a painting can seem distracting… and second, because in some warped irony the Confederate General turned US Senator, Edmund Pettus, served as Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. There’s a petition on Change.org asking the City of Selma to change the name of the bridge. Following George W. Bush’s example, I took preemptive action and removed the name already.

Originally, I wanted to feature women who have made a global difference walking down the bridge. I thought it’d be fun to have Amelia Boyton, the first African American woman in Alabama to run for Congress, who was present on the bridge that day, together with other women who have helped advance women’s rights; but then I reconsidered that it would be more powerful if the women were anonymous. Also, Barry Blitt had already made a New Yorker cover, last month, featuring Martin Luther King with contemporary victims of racial violence in Dream of Reconciliation, inspired by the Selma film.

Here’s a special treat, the sketch I made in preparation for this mirror New Yorker cover:

Women on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  Oil pastel on paper, 8x8¨. ©2015 Isaac Hernández.

Women on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Oil pastel on paper, 8×8¨. ©2015 Isaac Hernández.

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Happy Birthday New Yorker / Dr. Seuss

Isaac Hernández. Seusstace Remnick. February 19-20, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol (19×24″). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Isaac Hernández. Seusstace Remnick. February 19-20, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol (19×24″). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Given the time I’ve been dedicating to researching The New Yorker covers, I have no excuse for forgetting their 90th birthday.  If I had done my homework, I would have known that the magazine has published a variation of Eustace Tilley for nearly every birthday issue. In fact, art editor Françoise Mouly began a contest for readers to create their versions of Mr. Tilley eight years ago. In an article cowritten with Mina Kaneko, Covers Associate, she gives an insight into the 2013 contest, and in a video, Kaneko and Mouly add some more wood to the contest fire. You can also listen to a conversation between Mouly and Matt Dellinger about Tilley and the cover on Player FM.

I missed my chance to enter, but I thought I would still make a cover featuring Eustace. So what if I made two covers instead of one this week? The New Yorker made nine in one week. Given that March 2nd is Theodor Geisel’s birthday (Dr. Seuss), I was planning to make a Seussian cover for next week. Then it clicked; the idea to make a Seusstace Tilley, with features from The Cat in the Hat, who’s also celebrating a birthday (published for the first time in March, 1957 and, as The New Yorker reports, translated to many languages, including Latin: Cattus Petasatus).

The illustration began as a self-portrait as Eustace in the Hat. However, since I had been called a narcissist earlier in the week, it occurred to me that I better not draw myself, again. Gay Talese liked his fake New Yorker cover, so I thought New Yorker editor David Remnick might like to see himself as Seusstace. After all, Remnick personifies the present (and future) New Yorker better than myself (just a wannabe New Yorker). I’m titling the piece Seusstace Remnick.

Since Dr. Seuss’s birthday is National Reading Day, I was going to have Remnick reading The New Yorker. I met Mr. Remnick the day the iPad version of The New Yorker was launched, featuring an interactive cover by David Hockney. Risking lack of originality, because many readers have already submitted Tilley with an iPad in the past, I still chose to have Remnick holding an iPad Mini. I still included the iconic butterfly, somehow hidden in the illustration. Can you find it?

The three covers that arrived with my New Yorker subscription. There are six more.

The three covers that arrived with my New Yorker subscription. There are six more.

Eustace Tilley and Rea Irvin

The dandy on the original cover was meant to be a parody, drawn by Rea Irving, (1881–1972), supposedly based on a 1834 caricature of the Count d’Orsay. Author Corey Ford (1902-1969) created a series of humor pieces, published in The New Yorker during 1915, featuring the dandy from the cover and giving him the name of Eustace Tilley.

Irvin was the first art editor of the magazine and creator of The New Yorker masthead typeface known as Irvin type. Born in San Francisco, Irvin left Mark Hopkins Art Institute after six months to work as an unpaid cartoonist for The San Francisco Examiner. In 1906 he moved to the East Coast, contributing illustrations to Red Book, Green Book, Life, Cosmopolitan, and, of course, The New Yorker, illustrating 169 of its covers between 1925 and 1958. Irvin also worked as a stage and screen actor and as a piano player.

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Oscars Selfie

Isaac Hernández. Oscars Selfie. February 9-12, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol board (19×24″ 48.3x61cm). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Isaac Hernández. Oscars Selfie. February 9-12, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol board (19×24″ 48.3x61cm). (Not an actual New Yorker cover)

Happy 90th Anniversary to The New Yorker! Now I know why your Oscars cover was early this year, because you saved this week for the nine covers that commemorate your 90th birthday. What was I thinking?! I forgot your birthday and didn’t send any presents, or even make you a special cover. All I’ve got is this Oscars Selfie, inspired by the selfie that Ellen DeGeneres instigated at last year’s Academy Awards, which features Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita Nyong’o, Kevin Spacey and Channing Tatum.

Françoise Mouly orchestrated nine covers, and even gave a bit more information about the media used by the usual New Yorker artists: “oil painting for Kadir Nelson and Anita Kunz; pen and ink with watercolor for Roz Chast, Barry Blitt, and Istvan Banyai; oil pastel for Lorenzo Mattotti; collage for Peter Mendelsund; and digital art for Christoph Niemann.”

Some of this week’s nine cover artists are newcomers, as Mouly says, while Barry Blitt has made 88 covers, and Lorenzo Mattotti 30. I look forward to being one of those newcomers. There’s hope then, since Mattotti uses oil pastel, like me. Why not?

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Happy Birthday, Gay Talese

mirror-newyorker-Gay-Talese-Isaac-Feb-2015Happy Birthday, Mr. Talese. When I was planning this week’s faux The New Yorker cover, the snow storm of the century was about to hit New York. The obvious illustration for this week would have then been snowy trees (which Mark Ulriksen did do for the real The New Yorker cover)… but your birthday was coming up (February 7), and it wouldn’t come around for another year. I couldn’t wait. And it seemed so appropriate, given that you’re a contributing writer to The New Yorker.

As a journalist, there are a few interviews I was lucky to be part of which filled my heart with warmth and my brain with fond memories. Yours was one of them, as I wrote in this blog before. Happy birthday! To you we owe great journalism. Thank you!

And thank you for the kind note you wrote when I sent you prints last time, and which you authorized for me to reproduce in my blog:

Dear Gabrielle,

Thanks for forwarding Mr. Hernandez’s excellent photographs, which I had not seen before and thus I am as surprised as I am pleased with the results.  Obviously he is a superb photographer and I’ll treasure what he sent and make use of with his permission should any occasion arise. Also thank him for his generous comments in addition to the gift of  his photographs.

Sincerely,

Gay Talese

More info on Gay Talese

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Looking at Reinhardt

Isaac Hernández. Looking at Reinhardt (At the MoMA). Oil pastel on paper, January 16-23, 2015.

Isaac Hernández. Looking at Reinhardt (At the MoMA). Oil pastel on paper, January 16-23, 2015.

As an observer of life, I’ve always enjoyed looking at people interacting with art. As a photographer, I’ve also photographed these interactions, whenever the museum would allow for photography. I’ve thought about making a book about my museum photographs, but it turns out Elliot Erwitt has already done one: Museum Watching, Phaidon Press, 1999.

As a painter, turning this photograph of a person looking at a painting back into a painting has proven very interesting. On the one hand there’s another layer of separation from the original Abstract Painting, 1963 by Ad Reinhardt (1913-1963), but at the same time, because it’s an oil pastel, it brings the image closer to the original. Reinhardt used very diluted oil paint creating slightly different shades of color within the apparent blackness of the canvas. If the viewer looks at the canvas for long enough, the pupils dilate and one is rewarded with a new experience.

I have to admit that no matter how long you look at this oil pastel, you won’t find anything hidden. Or maybe you will. If you do, please let me know. I took a few photos of the process of creating the above image. For the first few strokes, I would take a photo every time I used a new color. Then I just took a few random photos until it was done. Enjoy.

Looking at Reinhardt, progress. ©2015 Isaac Hernández

Looking at Reinhardt, progress. ©2015 Isaac Hernández

PS. Part of the fun of creating a faux The New Yorker cover is to see the real cover and see how close I came to what the magazine published. In this case I was way off. The New Yorker published Moving Day, by Bruce McCall, to illustrate their move to from 4 Times Square to 1 World Trade Center.

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Central Park in Winter

mirror-newyorker-Jan26-2015

Isaac Hernández. Central Park Trees for Monte. January 12-15, 2015. Oil pastel on Bristol board (19×24″ 48.3x61cm).

Whenever I’m sad, I find comfort in art, and nature. After the shootings in Paris, I drew the darkened Eiffel tower in order to find some kind of solace. For healing, the next best thing to painting is painting trees. So that’s what I did, a giant oil pastel (19×24″) of the Central Park trees in winter, from a photograph I took a few years ago. As I looked at the photograph, I thought of Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionist canvases and of Piet Mondrian’s abstracted trees. The endless number of branches of different thicknesses definitely looked abstract to me.

Until I started doing my daily oil pastels last year, I seldom painted from photographs, mostly because as a photographer, I saw the photos as the final product, and also because it’s not as fun for me as painting from life. But from the obligation of doing a daily oil pastel came the necessity to work from photographs; plus people would want me to paint their dogs, some of which lived thousands of miles away or had passed away. I started painting from my own photographs, and then began working from other people’s photos, making them my own in the painting process. Speaking of which, here’s a little taste of how Central Park Trees for Monte came into being.

central-park-jan-26

People ask me why I chose The New Yorker as inspiration for a weekly project. At risk of being redundant, as I may have said this before, it’s because I love the magazine. I love how they always use illustrations on the cover, and I thought this exercise would be a difficult challenge. I can’t believe I’ve already made four faux covers. Somehow the project now seems manageable, possible and fun. Even if it means that I’ll continue working from photographs… except for the week I’m planning to go to New York during the summer, where I’ll get to paint from real life.

PS. Since The New Yorker releases their cover on Fridays, it seems appropriate I will post my weekly piece on Fridays. This week’s cover is an illustration by Barry Blitt featuring Martin Luther King arm in arm with contemporary victims of violence. “Like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Martin Luther King was taken way too early,” says Blitt.

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Solidarité / Ice Skaters (Mirror New Yorker Jan. 19 / 12)

Ice Skaters on Rockefeller Plaza. Oil pastel on paper © Isaac Hernandez, Jan. 5-8, 2015. 30x40cm (12″ x 16 3/4″).

Ice Skaters on Rockefeller Plaza. Oil pastel on paper © Isaac Hernandez, Jan. 5-8, 2015. 30x40cm, 12×16 3/4″ (Not a real New Yorker cover).

I started the Mirror New Yorker Cover Project on January 1st, working every day so far with the idea of completing weekly illustrations. But when I started on January 1st, the January 5th cover was already published. By the time I completed my version of January 5th, the January 12th cover was out; I had to increase my pace if I was to catch up, and so I completed the Ice Skaters on Rockefeller Plaza in four days. After I was finished, I realized I had I accidentally drawn the skaters on the back of The Flat Iron Building, last week’s cover. But that was the least of my worries.

Solidarité. Oil pastel on paper © Isaac Hernandez, Jan. 8-9, 2015. 30x40cm (12″ x 16 3/4″).

Solidarité. Oil pastel on paper © Isaac Hernandez, Jan. 8-9, 2015. 30x40cm, 12×16 3/4″ (Not a real New Yorker cover).

As I was completing Ice Skaters, I learned about the horrendous killings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. As an illustrator, journalist and satire, I’m profoundly shocked. Today, Je suis Charlie. Today, I’m French. I wanted to draw a homage to France, and after I saw the photo of the Eiffel Tower with the lights turned off in memory of the victims, I knew I had to draw it, I just didn’t know if it was going to work for a New Yorker cover. I wondered if the Empire State would also turn its lights off in mourning, then perhaps I could draw that. But in a way, when Jorge Colombo did the January 12th cover for The New Yorker, Limited Visibility, it already looked like the Empire State with its lights off in mourning. However, The New Yorker did an early release of their cover for January 19, Solidarité, by artist Ana Juan, depicting the Eiffel Tower as a pencil surrounded by red stains. Then I knew that I had to draw my darkened Eiffel Tower, so I stayed  up late working on it. I may still work on it some more, but I wanted to post it right away. Peace.

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Good-bye, Gabo

Isaac Hernández. Gabriel García Márquez, 2014. Oil pastel on paper. 20x20cm (8x8")

Isaac Hernández. Gabriel García Márquez, 2014. Oil pastel on paper. 20x20cm

Back in July of 2012, I wrote the entry below for Voxxi, expressing my sadness at the idea of Gabriel García Marquez’s announced silence. At the time it was a question of whether he would be able to write again. But I think I was getting used to the idea of his death, his definite silence. Today, death came and took the Nobel laureate away; I realize that his body may not be here anymore, but his voice will always be. Nobody will be able to silence him. Thank you, Gabo. You truly changed the world and made it a better place. May you continue to inspire us por siempre jamás.

(I painted the portrait of Gabo while visiting Spain last June, as part of my daily oil pastel series)

Chronicle of a Foretold Silence

Isaac Hernández, July 15, 2012

When I heard that Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 85, might suffer from dementia and that he possibly wouldn’t be writing ever again, I thought, “Not our Gabo!”

He would definitely continue writing, he would be the one that could write from the inside of dementia, to let us all know what this world is like. Is it like magic realism? And is it more magic than real? Where does one go? Is it a happy place, or is it like José Arcadio Buendía’s expedition into the jungle in One Hundred Years of Solitude, when ‘el mundo se volvió triste para siempre?’ Does the world turn sad forever for the one becoming senile? Do the oldest memories in a paradise of humidity and silence become overwhelming?

I must admit that when I read Gabo’s 2004 novel, “Memorias de mis Putas Tristes” (Memories of My Melancholy Whores), I had a strange sad feeling that this could very well be Gabriel’s last book. Even the tagline on the cover, “the first novel from Garcia Marquez in ten years,” had a premonitory feeling.

With “Memorias”, it felt as if I was inside the very wrinkles of the sabio triste, and that this 90-year old fictitious character is no other than Gabo himself saying goodbye: “A principios de Julio sentí la distancia real de la muerte.”

When Gabriel’s brother, Jaime, said that the Nobel laureate “has problems with his memory,” and that he may never write again, the sadness sank in. It seems just like yesterday that we lost Ray Bradbury and Carlos Fuentes. The announced silence of the Colombian writer weighs in. The words of his last novel ring true: “At the beginning of July I felt the real distance of death once again.”

Gabo’s dementia hits many people very close. Is it because his silence could translate into losing our own imagination, the one that he fed for so many years with his beautiful words? Yes, we can always revisit Macondo and celebrate his life by reading his novels again, revisiting past memories. But who’s going to write new ones? Who’s going to write to the Coronel? And who’s going to write about him? Who will tell us of his stillborn adventures?

Jaime Garcia Marquez doesn’t think that his brother will be able to finish the second and third volumes of his autobiography, Vivir Para Contarla (Living to Tell the Tale), but he adds, “I hope I’m wrong.” There’s one more book that Gabo was writing, Nos Vemos en Agosto (See you in August). Did he get to complete it? Jaime’s declarations bring more questions than answers.

I also hope he’s wrong, and that he can continue to tell stories, even when trapped in the “ciudad de los espejos (o los espejismos)”. It must be really sad to live and not to be able to tell the tale when your passion is to write.

In the meantime, I’m reading Cien Años de Soledad once again, realizing that Gabo has already written about senility, just like he was living it under his skin, as early as the first chapter, speaking of José Arcadio Buendía:

Algo ocurrió entonces en su interior algo misterioso y definitivo que lo desarraigó de su tiempo actual y lo llevó a la deriba por una region inexplorada de los recuerdos”.

“Something happened inside then something mysterious and definitive that uprooted them from their current time and took him to the unexplored region by a roll-over of memories.”

Nos vemos en agosto.

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Daily Oil Pastel: Weeks 4-7

I’ve been drawing and painting like mad, keeping my promise of creating one oil pastel per day. But I haven’t kept my goal of posting here weekly. To celebrate George Washington’s birthday, actually, thanks to the fact that today is a holiday, I’ve taken the time to finish some of the pieces that needed completion, and then photographed four weeks worth of drawings, to post them here. Days, 21-24, I immersed myself into my hands, before I landed on my feet (25-26).

Isaac Hernández. Number 21. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Number 21. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 21.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 22.

Isaac Hernández. Digital Cloud. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Digital Cloud. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 23.

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 24.

Isaac Hernández. My Left Foot. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. My Left Foot. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 25.

Isaac Hernández. The Other Shoe Dropped. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. The Other Shoe Dropped. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 26.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Francisco de Goya. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Francisco de Goya. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 27.

After this attempt to do a Self-portrait after Goya’s self-portrait, I revisited hands for days 28, 30 and 31, with a couple of close-up portraits in between.

Isaac Hernández. Five Bee Stings (Not Pictured). Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Five Bee Stings (Not Pictured). Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 28.

Isaac Hernández. After the Bee Stings. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. After the Bee Stings. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 29.

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 30.

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Untitled. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 31.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 32.

Isaac Hernández. Still life with oranges and tangerines. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Still life with oranges and tangerines. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 33.

The oranges are from our tree, the tangerines from the grocery store. I tried to capture the latter as shiny objects compared to the unwaxed dull homegrown organic oranges. Ironically, the dull fruit tastes better.

Isaac Hernández. What Came First. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. What Came First. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 34.

The egg shell and the feather are a present from our chickens. What came first? I think the egg. I emptied it and saved the shell because it was bluish-greenish, as opposed to every other egg our hens lay, which are brown. After the egg, salt shakers were an obvious choice, although one of them had an accident.

Isaac Hernández. Salt of the Earth. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Salt of the Earth. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 35.

Isaac Hernández. Accident. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Accident. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 36.

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait on glasses. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait with salt shaker on glasses. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 37.

Isaac Hernández. Waiting for Robert Redford. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Waiting for Robert Redford. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 38.

El Mundo sent me on assignment to cover the Robert Redford event at the Santa Barbara Film International Film Festival. The two-hour wait at the red carpet is usually not fun, especially because it tends to be cold and there are way too many photographers shoving for a place by the fence to photograph the movie star of the day. It was rather warm that night, and not as crowded, as the organizers limited the number of press to each gala event. And I had a lot of fun, since I brought my oil pastels. Santa Barbara Independent intern photographer Peter Vandenbelt took my photo for his film festival coverage. My photos have graced the Independent on several occasions, but only once before was a photo of me, taken by magnificent photographer Paul Wellman, published there… while I was eating a plastic bag.

Isaac Hernández. Sebastian's Birthday Party. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Sebastian’s Birthday Party. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 39.

Lissa brought me as her guest to “Sebastian’s 31st Birthday Party (Again)”. I dressed up in a top hat, bow tie and tails, and brought my camera and oil pastels. I have to admit that the photos I took in the dark came out better than the drawing I did in the dark.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 40.

For number 40, I discovered Quique, who graciously modeled for me, not only for this occasion, but also for 42, 43 and 44.

Isaac Hernández. Guy Davis. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Guy Davis. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 41.

One of the treasures of Santa Barbara is UCSB Arts & Lectures. Since I’ve donated many of my photos for this organization, they provided me with a pair of tickets for a performance of Taj Mahal, Corey Harris and Guy Davis, who play together as True Blues. I painted Guy Davis, in the dark. He was perfectly lit, but my pad of Strathmore Bristol paper was pitch black; it was a fun experience. And the music was marvelous. Mr. Davis signed the drawing after the show.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 42.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 43.

If you follow my daily posts in Instagram, you probably saw another version of the drawing above, where Quique is laying down with his head bent forward. It didn’t quite work, so I completely redid it this morning.

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Quique. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 44.

I guess my art history classes at SBCC are paying off. This portrait has some unintentional influence from Rennaissance French painter Jean Fouquet, who painted an amazingly modern Madonna and child back in 1450.

Isaac Hernández. Ali's Dog. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Ali’s Dog. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 45.

And then came the dogs, in many shapes and colors. I was asked if I painted dogs, and I do, as it can be seen in my animal gallery, but the question gave me a reason to paint some more canines. Now everybody wants me to paint their dog. Although I prefer to paint from live animals, these are painted from photos I’ve taken. I have to admit it’s been fun to paint from photographs. And necessary, as some of these dogs aren’t even alive today, but the paintings have made their owners very happy.

Isaac Hernández. Robe. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Robe. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 46.

Isaac Hernández. Kuman. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Kuman. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 47.

Isaac Hernández. Zara. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Zara. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 48.

Bonus drawings, number 17, from week three, with larger hand, and number 20, with major changes:

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Arnold Newman's Picasso. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Self-portrait After Arnold Newman’s Picasso. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 17.

Isaac Hernández. Number 20. Oil pastel on paper, 9x9".

Isaac Hernández. Number 20. Oil pastel on paper, 9×9″. No. 20.

See previous weeks of oil pastels: •Week 1  •Week 2Week 3

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

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Being Brad Pitt

Isaac Hernandez, Being Brad Pitt (Self-Portrait), oil pastel on magazine cover, 8″x12″. ©2012 Isaac Hernandez

After the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival, I created this Brad Pitt make-over, painted over The Hollywood Reporter cover with Frank W. Ockenfels 3’s portrait of the actor/producer. In a time when photographs are “upgraded” with Photoshop, it’s nice to be able to “downgrade” one with “finger paint”, which is pretty much what oil pastels feels to me. “Happiness is oil pastel in your fingernails,” I repeatedly say.

Sorry, Brad. Really. Especially after all the good work you do in New Orleans, building the neighborhood with sustainable homes, through Make It Right, which, by the way, it’s going global.

I was lucky to meet and photograph other people who are making it right in New Orleans. The story was published in different publications, including El Mundo. You can see a gallery of really cool people in the Mercury Press archives: Rebuilding New Orleans five years after Katrina

A touch of humor to end this post, Brad interviewed by Jon Stewart about Make it Right:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Brad Pitt Extended Interview Pt. 2
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook
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A Painting a Day (week 3)

Isaac Hernandez. "After Paul Cezanne's Still Life with Apples." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 13.

Isaac Hernández. “After Paul Cezanne’s Still Life with Apples.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. Day 13.

One more week completed, 49 to go. And I still don’t know if these are drawings or paintings. According to the Saatchi Online gallery, where I began to sell prints of my oil pastels, pastels fall under the category of drawing. Oil pastels are not even listed in their media dropdown menus….

As the month of January shrinks like the nights, and the sun takes longer to say goodnight, I have began to question the sanity of my quest. One painting a day for 365 days straight sounds exhausting. Or rather, thinking about it is exhausting. Doing it is actually fun. I have to keep focusing in the moment, which is not always easy; I painted the still life above while the movie District 9 was playing in the background…

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Paul Cezanne." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Day 14.

Isaac Hernández. “Self-portrait after Paul Cezanne.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Day 14.

Sometimes is difficult to draw small details with the big fat Sennelier oil pastels, and I have to complement the process with the little oil pastels, such is the case here. I can see that this painting is not finished; I need a longer nose, or rather a longer face.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Lucien Freud." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Day 15.

Isaac Hernández. “Self-portrait after Lucien Freud.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Day 15.

This one was really fun to create, even though it doesn’t necessarily show, judging by my expression. It took a while to find the right balance between looking like Mr. Freud and myself.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Frida Kahlo." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". Day 16.

Isaac Hernández. “Self-portrait after Frida Kahlo.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. Day 16.

Self as Frida became the most frustating painting of all, so far. The face is so small on the page that I tried scrapping off pastels with a pencil, but it didn’t look right. I must have changed the face 200 times, and it still doesn’t look right. I will come back to it for sure, but I really needed to take a break from Frida. Part of the problem is that I just don’t have the lips!

Isaac Hernandez. "(Red) White and Blue. Self-portrait after Helmut Newton's Picasso." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". Day 17.

Isaac Hernández. “(Red) White and Blue. Self-portrait after Helmut Newton’s Picasso.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. # 17.

After the frustration with Frida, I needed an easier subject. Somehow Picasso as seen by Helmut Newton seemed like the right subject. I feel like I know this photograph very well, as it hanged from my office for many years. My father wrote a poem about the photograph, too. I will find it and share it here in a future post.

Isaac Hernandez. "(Yellow) White and Blue. On the Road (self-portrait)." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". #18.

Isaac Hernández. “(Yellow) White and Blue. On the Road (self-portrait).” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. #18.

The first daily painting on the road was a success. Being away from home didn’t stop me. I really enjoy the slight abstraction here.

Isaac Hernandez. "Number 19." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". # 19.

Isaac Hernández. “Number 19.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. # 19.

Which brings us to the first real abstract of the year. This painting was the result of interactivity with my followers on Facebook, who made suggestions as to what I should paint next. I swear it started as an abstract road, so as to keep the continuity with the previous piece, but it just evolved to this.

Isaac Hernández. "Number 20." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9". # 20.

Isaac Hernández. “Number 20.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. # 20.

And finally, a bonus for the week, the abstract I worked on today, and which I normally wouldn’t post until next week. I probably will continue working on it and will post again.

See other weeks of oil pastels: • Week 1Week 2 Weeks 4-7

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

 

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A Painting a Day (6-12)

Isaac Hernandez. "After Van Gogh's Pair of Shoes." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Paintin

Isaac Hernández. “After Van Gogh’s Pair of Shoes.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″. Day 6

The reality of creating one painting a day for 365 days straight is starting to sink in. It’s going to be challenging, and not just because it’s becoming almost impossible to keep my nails clean. After all, I always say, “Happiness is having oil pastels in your fingernails.”

Isaac Hernandez. "New Year's Resolution." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 7.

Isaac Hernández. “New Year’s Resolution.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 7.

The challenge is not even drawing every day, as I really enjoy doing it. The difficult part is stopping. Every day I paint a new picture, but I also go back to work on the old pieces. By the time Spring comes around, I will have over 100 paintings on which I’ll be tempted to keep working on (or playing with). I will post the new paintings every Sunday. I’m going to try not to work on them once they are posted.

Isaac Hernandez. "Orange." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 5.

Isaac Hernández. “Orange.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 8.

Of course, no sooner I made that decision, I realized that I’m going to work on the orange above some more.

Isaac Hernandez. "Checkmate." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 8.

Isaac Hernández. “Checkmate.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 9.

I love how the project is taking shape. As I had stated in my first One Painting a Day post, the palette or subject matter of one painting dictates the next painting. The relationship from one painting to the next is not always obvious, not even to me, but somehow there’s a thread. But don’t take my word for it, as the idea keeps evolving.

Isaac Hernandez. "Waiting for Alvaro. Santa Monica." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 9.

Isaac Hernández. “Waiting for Alvaro. Santa Monica.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day”: Day 10.

On Day 10, I also started a new practice, posting a photo on location of the painting in progress, and posting it to Instagram.

Isaac Hernandez. "Sweet red roses." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 11.

Isaac Hernandez. “Sweet red roses.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 11.

I’m starting to have followers on Facebook and Instagram, which gives me extra responsibility in making this 365 paintings happen. And since I post on Instagram daily, there’s no cheating and making two paintings in one day to catch up for missing one day. I have to create daily.

Isaac Hernandez. "Dear Orange Tree." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 12.

Isaac Hernandez. “Dear Orange Tree.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 12.

This is it for this week. I’ll continue working on the orange tree above, as well. And I may continue playing with the paintings above (most probably). And I could work on the first five drawings, but I won’t post the changes here. To see the final paintings, you will have to come to the exhibit. Sign up to my mailing list (below) to be notified when the show opens. And/or make a comment to encourage me to continue or to suggest ideas of where to exhibit this crazy project.

See other weeks of oil pastels: • Week 1Week 3Weeks 4-7

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

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Thinking of Joel Rothschild

Joel Rothschild, author of Signals.

Twelve years ago, I photographed Joel Rothschild, author of “Signals: An Inspiring Story of Life After Life.” I found Signals a fascinating read, not only because of the beauty of the story, but for the content. I loved it even before I read Elizabeth Taylor’s testimonial: “I will treasure Signals always…it’s written from the heart.”

I was taken back to the 1980’s when Joel lost most of his friends to AIDS. With the epidemic as backdrop, Joel recounts how his lover contacted him from the After Life, as he had promised, in different ways. Sometimes he would visit in the form of a hummingbird. Once, even though hummingbirds don’t fly after the sun has gone down, one of these beautiful birds came to Joel on a full moon night.

I was so moved by the story that I gave the book to some friends who had just lost their mother. They both read it in a day. Just like me, they couldn’t put it down. Later, while talking to each other on the phone one morning, one said to the other, “You’re not going to believe it, sister, there’s a hummingbird flying right in front of me, looking straight into my eyes.” It was just like in the book. Their mother was visiting. The sister was shocked, “Oh my God! There’s a hummingbird flying right in front of me as well.”

Isaac Hernández, Thinking of Eric Rothschild, oil pastel on paper.

I gave Joel a small oil pastel drawing of a hummingbird and a green full moon that I had made especially for him. Ten years later I had the urge to draw a hummingbird with a full moon, again, this time against a pale moon. I’ve tried to connect with Joel by phone since, to no avail. Perhaps I should pay more attention to the skies and listen to the hummingbirds.

More than 27 million people have died from HIV infection. While you may not hear about many people dying from AIDS in the US anymore, There are more than 33 million people infected with HIV in the world, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. You can help by making a donation to an organization like the International Medical Corps or Doctors Without Borders. According to the RED Campaign, 700 babies are born with HIV every day. By 2015, that number could be close to zero.

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A Painting a Day (1-5)

New Year’s Day was almost over, and I thought to myself, “Oh s**t! If I want to do a painting/drawing each day, I better start working on it right now.” I really don’t know where that came from; it wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution. I must admit that it was tempting forget about this crazy idea of doing one painting a day for one year, or even to leave it until tomorrow… But I didn’t. And below are the results from the first five days.

Isaac Hernandez. "This morning's coffee." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 1

Isaac Hernandez. “This morning’s coffee.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 1

This is not the first time I have started a painting/drawing per day. Once I had a summer dream in Spain, in which I did one painting per day for a year and it became an art exhibit.

Isaac Hernandez. "The Last Persimmon." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series. Day 2.

Isaac Hernandez. “The Last Persimmon.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series. Day 2.

I’ve managed to make some significant pieces with this process, but it has been at times stressful, for if the end of the day comes and I don’t have something created, I stress and draw something too quickly. This time feels different. Even though I started this project/process without any planning, but just as a sudden thought as the day was waning, it quickly has taken shape, in the form of a square (or close to it) filled with oil pastel. This idea gives the project continuity and somehow it makes it more fun and easier to commit to it. Also, each painting will have some continuity from the previous one, whether it’s subject matter, color palette or some other aspect.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Picasso's Harlequin." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 3.

Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Picasso’s Harlequin.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 3.

The fact that they have some kind of continuity has also inspired me to turn it into an exhibit. I thought it would be fun to hang a show in the middle of the year, when the project is still in progress, and add new paintings to the exhibit as they are created, so that the exhibit evolves. I could even paint at the show itself so that the process becomes part of the exhibit. I will talk to Roy about this, since he hosted my last painting exhibit.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Irving Penn's Picasso." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 4.

Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Irving Penn’s Picasso.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 4.

It’s been very much fun so far. If you like what you see, please comment below and encourage me to continue, so that I don’t give up in the process. Also, please let me know if you like the idea of an exhibit and if you have any suggestions for locations worldwide. Finally, I’m going to need a lot of frames for 9×9″ paintings; please let me know if you have suggestions as how to frame these, or if you have frames or funds you’d like to donate. Nevertheless, I will continue painting. I must remind myself the process is what’s important.

Isaac Hernandez. "Self-portrait after Van Gogh with felt hat." Oil pastel on paper. 9x9" Part of the "A Painting a Day" Series: Day 5.

Isaac Hernandez. “Self-portrait after Van Gogh with felt hat.” Oil pastel on paper. 9×9″ Part of the “A Painting a Day” Series: Day 5.

I’ve already drawn number 6, but it’s not photographed yet. I will upload the whole year in this blog as the oil pastels get created, sometimes daily, others weekly. Be patient. My priority is not posting, but painting. Thank you for following.

See other weeks of oil pastels: • Week 2Week 3Weeks 4-7

Please comment below. Every word you write serves as encouragement for me not to give up. Also, I invite you to follow me on Instagram to see daily progress photos of the paintings. Instagram keeps me honest to really create daily. And the photos turn out to be pretty fun.

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Book Design

Cover-Sparkle-Light

I love to play in a wide variety of creative media. When I’m not taking photographs, creating films or writing articles/short stories/plays, I paint. But not many people know I also design books and logos. At  the launch of Ayn Cates Sullivan‘s Sparkle & The Light, I met a prospective client who wanted to know what books I had designed. So I chose to finally let the cat out of the bag and make this post.

Sparkle-spread

I was lucky to work with great team to create design showcasing Ayn’s magical stories and Belle DuCray’s beautiful illustrations. I’m grateful to book shepherd Ellen Reid, for bringing us together. And to designer Diana Musacchio and pre-press expert Quike Hernandez, for their invaluable technical skills and expertise.

DontJudgeABirdByItsFeathers

I love designing books, especially children’s books. I’ve been fortunate to work with Tori Nighthawk, a thirteen-year-old writer/illustrator, on her gorgeous book Don’t Judge a Bird by its Feathers. Tori has a gift with color, and with words. Her effort has been rewarded with several national and international awards, just months after the launch. The interactive app of the book, coming soon, will have  video, an excellent tool to highlight the flora and fauna of New Guinea featured throughout the book and in the informative glossary. I’m sure this won’t be Tori’s last book.

airplanesinthegarden

I’m eternally grateful to Joan Z. Calder, for whom I designed the very successful Airplanes in the Garden, already in its third edition. It’s a perfect story for young people and grown-ups, and it includes a guide on how to grow your very own butterfly garden.

Although I’ve been doing graphic design for many years, I landed on the world of book design thanks to Patricia Selbert and her autobiographical novel The House of Six Doors, now in its second edition, also with a host of awards. Her lyrical and captivating story as an immigrant 13-year-old girl from colorful Curaçao in colorless Los Angeles, her new home, provides courageous honesty and a new phrasing for what home can be. And it spawned a memoir version that is very well received among students of English as a second language. It was incredible fun to work on the team with such talented creatives as Patricia and Erika Römer at Publishing by the Seas. I also got to work with my talented wife Nancy Black on this project, as she managed production and communications, and with publicist Jenna Zelin. Thanks to their efforts, the book was featured on NPR.

The-House-of-Six-Doors-novelThe-House-of-Six-Doors-memoir

Creating books brings all my passions together into one place. For The House of Six Doors, for example, I was fortunate to play with every one of my passions:

• Art: I did the book cover painting, chapter headers, and the map of Curaçao.
• Design: I designed the book jacket,  interior pages (print and digital, including a Special Illustrated Edition), media kit, and the Publishing by the Seas logo.
• Photography: including book jacket photos, Special Edition photos, author photos, book trailers.
• Multimedia and video: including author interviews, a directed animation and video of the creation of the painting, Patricia Selbert author’s website and her personal blog.
• Words: I contributed to press releases, the media kit, web content, and co-wrote Inside the House of Six Doors, part of the Special Illustrated Edition.

There are other books that I’m working on, and others I’ve completed, including:
 TheFinder-Poems-JulieBergman
Julie Bergman‘s The Finder: Poems of a Private Investigator. Thank you, Julie for your detective poetry, and for introducing me to Terrence, author of the book below.
storiesfromthesecretwar
Terrence M. Burke’s Stories from the Secret War, a fascinating tale full of intrigue with a touch of humor.

Over my lifetime, I’ve photographed many people and almost never had my picture taken with them. After I photographed Kurt Russell and Bill Moyers, I gave them a copy of The House of Six Doors and got a picture together. It was great to share this work with them. I have a pretty awesome job.

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Sit, Yoshi, Sit, So I Can Paint

Isaac Hernández, Yoshi, oil pastel on paper, 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

Yoshi’s still sitting. Is it finished? Probably not. Paintings rarely are. The one below is a photograph of the work in progress, and it looks just as finished as the one above, perhaps.

Isaac Hernández, Yoshi (in progress), oil pastel on paper, 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

Some time in 2011, my horoscope at lcblack.com said: “It’s a good time to stay at home with family, reminiscing about the past and planning your future. Play games or paint a picture.”So I worked/played in the garden and painted a picture.

The blue pig I painted had received such great response that I decided to paint another pet. Yoshi, the greatest beagle in the world, was staying with us for a couple of weeks while his owners are on vacation, or rather being stuck in airports. I thought it would be great to send them a picture of their dog. Against the good judgement of my wife, who told me to use a photo to make the painting, I asked Yoshi to sit for me. Why paint from a photo when you can paint live?

Yoshi didn’t sit very long. That’s what happens when you don’t pay your models. I managed to follow him around the dinner table, in order to get his expression. And then I finally had to pay him, in dog food pellets, for him to sit still enough to draw the body and finish up the face. Sorry for spoiling Yoshi, Alejandro, I promise I didn’t give him more than a dozen pellets… well, maybe 13.

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Self as my Great Great Grandfather

Isaac Hernandez, self-portrait as my Great Great Grandfather, oil pastel on paper, 2010 (in progress). 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

Back in 2010 I started a self-portrait as my great great grandfather. My friend Bob Porter wrote a poem then. He came to visit again yesterday, and we decided to start a collaboration with poems and paintings.

Isaac Hernandez. Self as my great-grandfather, the Conde de Lipa. Oil pastel on paper, 2010-11.

Isaac Hernandez. Self as my Great Great Grandfather, the Conde de Lipa. Oil pastel on paper, 2010-11. 35.6×43.2cm (14″x17″).

It was 2011 before I could complete the drawing/painting, and before I could finally shave off the silly beard. It looked good on my ancestor, but not on me (and I couldn’t get the beard to curl on the sides like he did). Here’s Roberto’s poem:

Longing
©2010-13 Bob Porter

Out of the shadows
Like twin brothers, those eyes.
Visions of egalitarian turtle eggs
The taste of upright turkish coffee
The smell of onions, turmeric and coriander
In his dilapidated briefcase,
He carries an old, musty typewriter
He chews tobacco, from Georgia,
He carries a letter from Nietzsche, or is it de Tocqueville? carefully folded in his inner vest pocket
He dreams of revolution and Robespierre
Bonfires and barricades in the street
The sounds of gunfire and the sights of twisted lovers
But the eyes are not sure
And so he waits and watches
Longing for an answer
Or a clue…
Longing, longing…
Waiting, watching…

My great great grandfather, that’s my father’s great grandfather, was Polish. And he was also a pioneer photographer. He also had the title of Conde de Lipa and photographer to the Queen of Spain. I always thought it was a good story, but didn’t really gave it much importance. But over the last few weeks I’ve become obsessed with his life, researching why Captain Ludwik Tarszenski went to France and then on to Spain. It turns out he was some kind of war hero. But I’m not going to write more about him here. You can read about him in Wikipedia or in CondedeLipa.com. On with the show.

My box of good oil pastels is lost and I’ve been feeling anxious about it; I thought I was going to start biting my nails. Finally, I just went and bought a new one with the Art Essentials’ gift certificate I received for Christmas, from my friend who I gave the pig painting to. It was kind of weird synchronicity. I gave her oil pastels on paper and she gives me a paper worth oil pastels.

Finally, I had oil pastels. I was ready to paint/draw. We were also having a party with many guests, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. If I didn’t get my fingers dirty in oil pastels, I was going to go mad/der. I knew I had to entertain guests, so I did it the best way I could: they got to watch an artist at work. And some where inspired to create art. How great is that? At one point, I was retouching the painting, while Bob was writing the poem above, inspired by the painting, and Emma Jade was playing the piano.

Luis Tarszenski, Conde de Lipa, photographed by Amalia L. Lopez, one of his pupils.

I had the picture above on my phone’s screen while I painted the self-portrait, in order to keep a similar perspective and light, to inspire the mood, and to copy the suit. I also combed my hair to match Ludwik’s, but backwards (on the reflection of the mirror).

Even though I had a new box of oil pastels, I ended up painted with some left over colors I found: acid yellow and blue. I always try to use up all the colors in a box set; as I run out of my favorite colors, I use colors that normally I wouldn’t use, forcing me to try something new. I didn’t really want to paint it in black-and-white, because I tried those “colors” recently already, and I thought it would be boring to do the same thing again.

Since everybody says my paintings look like Van Gogh’s (I think they look like me, but I appreciate the compliments) I will bring up the painting that Vincent did of his mother from a photograph on view at the wonderful Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, and what he wrote to his brother, Theo: “I am doing a portrait of Mother for myself. I cannot stand the colorless photograph, and I am trying to do one in a harmony of color, as I see her in my memory.” This painting was in my mind as I drew myself as Conde de Lipa, but I hadn’t looked at it in years, until now. I didn’t remember the palette that Van Gogh used, but I remembered his words: “I cannot stand the colorless photograph.”

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The Leopard and the Pig

Isaac Hernandez. Leopard. Oil pastel on paper, 2010.


Back in 2010, in the middle of a marathon of self-portraits, I needed to draw something other than myself, something beautiful. I don’t do very many portraits that are not me. Or maybe it’s me.

I think the leopard is my spirit animal. As much as I’d love to fly, and even though I had a dream a long time ago that I fed a bald eagle ham and she gave me a hug as I lay on the ground, my heart is with the panthers. -December 2012 update: Recently, I dreamt about cuddling with a fox and a black panther. I never wanted to wake up.

I’m grateful for the large feline, who sat still for hours while I drew.

Isaac Hernández, Snooky, oil pastel on paper, 2010.

Some people eat pig, pardon me, pork, for Christmas. I have to admit I’ve done it too, even though we had a pet pig once. It was my father’s pig, which he won in an auction which raised money for a good cause. I can still see my mom’s face when my dad walked in the door with a pig on a leash, wearing a muzzle. At first, my dad said that he had won it in a Christmas raffle, but then the truth came out that he was the highest bidder! The taxi driver that brought him home wasn’t too amused with the pig either.

The pig lived on the balcony of our Madrid apartment’s kitchen until we found him a good home. It became the main attraction that Christmas. We all brought our friends over to see “el cerdo de mi padre”, which translates as “the pig of my father”, but also, “my father, the pig.” When he left a few weeks later to the farm house of the apartment building’s doorman, it was very sad. Nevertheless, we had a good time with the pig of my father. Thank you dad for being completely spontaneous and bringing a pig home!

I didn’t want to eat pig for Christmas. So I decided to paint pig instead. I made the painting as a present for a friend, the owner of the live pig.

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