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Archive for western conservative summit

John Andrews caricature

john andrews-web

This is the final caricature of the series. I couldn’t not do one of the man so instrumental in getting the Western Conservative Summit up a rolling and keeping it an entertaining and smashing success year after year. It’s also a tribute to someone I am blessed to call friend. Knowing John’s affinity for climbing 14ers, I put him on top, submitting, if you will, the Colorado Mountains. Which peak depicted is not important, what’s important is that John’s efforts are herculean, much like climbing a 14er. (which I’ve done three times, so I know). Never giving up, slowly but surely we hope to influence our culture, our generation, our politics for the good.

Jenny Beth Martin caricature

Jenny martin

The caricature of Jenny Beth Martin, affectionately known as the Tea Party lady. Didn’t know her before the Western Conservative Summit, but I had a chance to meet her and we chatted a bit. Again, I didn’t mention that I was the one who did her caricature (I’m not one to toot my own horn when it comes to my art, I guess). It was fun just hearing from her and learning about her struggles and the goals she has for this country.

This is another one that I feel I just simply hit a home run on. The likeness is spot on, and speaking of spots, I couldn’t help but have her hold a spot of tea. I also loved the color scheme on this (of course, green happens to be my favorite color…)

James Golden caricature

james golden

It seemed, as I was trying to find ANY photo reference that I could of James Golden, that he is a very private individual. Because of this, I won’t call him by his pen name, but he is much more popularly known as somebody else. I’ve known who he is for a long time, but because of the business he is in, I had never seen his face before. It’s tough to paint a guy when you don’t know what he looks like. I finally found two very low resolution photos of him online, and that’s all I had to work with. I ended up making the caricature a bit more generic due to the lack of any strong photo reference.

Golden works for one of the biggest media personalities in the world. If you can catch their attention, you’re sure to make it, but both are very private and are flooded with unsolicited queries that go unnoticed. I hope, I just hope, that Mr. Golden puts this in his office and that one day, the big guy he works for will look at it and go, you know? I think I might need to hire this illustrator for my next publication.

Finally, as James Golden spoke, I couldn’t help but try and redraw him from life, so that I would have something with a little more clarity to start from the next time I wanted to do his portrait. Now that he’s right in front of me, I saw exactly what he looked like, so I quickly jotted down the following from life.

james golden sketch-web

Guy Benson caricature

guy benson

I don’t don’t have cable, so I wasn’t aware of who Guy Benson was before starting this caricature. There was plenty of reference on the web and that made a world of difference.

This was like the 13th out of the 16 caricatures I did for the Summit, so by the time I got to Mr. Benson, I was a pro. I nailed it on this one. I love the way the brush work of the underpainting becomes the pattern in his blazer. I had a great time painting the plaid, and I attempted to push the distortion and stylization of the face as far as I could and I did so while maintaining likeness. Epic score!

Guy Benson seems like a very cool guy and I like the fact that he’s young. Perhaps one day Guy will know me on a first name basis and the next time he’s on Fox News he’ll say, “oh, that reminds me of a funny cartoon my friend Benjamin once did…”

Ted Cruz caricature

ted cruz

There are few people I admire more than Ted Cruz. Knowing he is from Texas, I decided to render him as a Texas Ranger, here to restore law and order back to the Senate.

I had a fun time with this caricature. But more than that, I had the distinct and priveleged honor to meet him in person. Like the other 100 or so people, I was shuffled in line and given only a few seconds to speak with him, get my picture taken, and move on. What do you say to a guy you really admire in just a few seconds worth of time? I was scared I might choke on my words and say something really stupid, or perhaps spit in his face accidently. As you know, the constant long term use of the prednizone has wreaked havoc on my vocal chords, so I was certain I was probably just going to end up squawking in the end.

But Ted Cruz, besides being shockingly short in size, was one of the most gentle men I’ve ever met, with a firm, but reassuring handshake. He did not know that I was the one who did the caricature of him, nor did I venture to volunteer that information. Instead, I simply said, “Thank you for your courage. Never give up. We’re praying for you.” As I walked away, he called me back, “Sir!” I turned and looked. “Thank you. That means so much to me.” “Have a good day,” I called out. “You too!” he cried out in his trademark Texas drawl.

Months later, in a seemingly liberal classroom, I was giving a presentation on the art of caricature. I showed classic examples from some of the greatest caricature artists both of the past and working today. I couldn’t resist throwing this into the slide show, as I was quite pleased with how it turned out and I wanted to show how you can add other story telling elements to your piece in order to compliment the caricature. After explaining all of this to my students, I mentioned I was the artist of this particular piece. I then mentioned that sometimes as artists, our talents can sometimes give us some great opportunities we might otherwise not have, such as the chance to meet someone like Ted Cruz. I then quickly showed this slide for a few seconds before moving on, one, because it’s not a really flattering photo of me, but two, because I know how certain people feel about Ted Cruz and I didn’t want to start any trouble.

me and ted cruz-sm

But to my shock, they begged me to go back, so I did, at which point the who class erupted in “how cool!” and “that’s sweet.” Find out, Ted Cruz is admired by a lot of people for his courage, including the young generation.

Mike Huckabee Caricature

mike huckabee

This is the first caricature I attempted in this new style. When we came up with the idea to do paintings for the dignitaries of Western Conservative Summit, there was only a week and a half until the event, and I still had days in which I taught. I realized that I needed to come up with a new style, and quickly.

I reflected on the painted animations I did for our church the previous Easter. I ended up hand painting close to 60 paintings in order for the animation to work, and as a result, I stumbled upon a painting technique and ultimately a new style for my artwork that would allow me to work in a very timely manner. For Easter, I was mostly painting backdrops and landscapes and very stylized cartoon characters. I hadn’t attempted to apply this technique to an actual person. I decided to start with Mr. Huckabee.

Using the limited and (as I now know) outdated photos of him from the internet, I pieced this together. I added the narrative element of him in front of a pulpit, something I admire deeply about him is his faith and his willingness to defend it.

I stumbled through this one, learning a lot along the way, stuff that would set me up for the other 15 caricatures. I wish I would have pushed the caricature more, but I was a bit unsure about where I was going with this, so I approached it cautiously. I took an entire day to paint Mr. Huckabee, but by the time I was wrapping up, I was cranking out four caricatures a day.

Huckabee’s schedule on the day of the summit was crazy. If I remember correctly, he flew in from New York as soon as he finished his show on Fox, his flight got delayed, he finally arrived late in Denver, drove through Denver traffic to get to the Summit, gave his presentation and then had to rush back to the airport for another engagement in Arkansas. Blech, I get airsick just thinking about it.

Jonah Goldberg Caricature

jonah goldberg

 

My portrait of Jonah Goldberg. I didn’t really know much about him before the Summit, but he ended up being one of the most entertaining presenters. Combined with Bill Whittle, the two of them provided comic relief that had the whole room in stitches. His latest book’s cover is pure red, so I decided I would use that as a starting point. I also love the way I chose not to show any definition in the jacket, instead let the sleeve and hand come out of the solid shape. I really should push for that more often in my work.

Western Conservative Summit Review

allen west

 

Western Conservative Summit, was, in a word, pretty dang awesome (okay, so that’s a few words). Just for reference, this past weekend Centennial Institute hosted the fourth annual Western Conservative Summit, a three-day gathering of like-minded conservatives (think CPAC of the West). The house was packed to the gills as we listened to big name guest speakers (like Allen West and Dick Morris) come in and encourage, train, brainstorm, inspire as we work to sway the country for the next few elections.

Most of the speakers were very optimistic about the future of the conservative movement.

Other observations that really stuck out for me:

Despite unfounded accusations to the contrary, the conservative and Republican movement is NOT a racist movement. (Never has been, check the history). This year, much more than last, the summit was an ethnically diverse event. Attendees and speakers were represented by all different races and colors, black, white, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, German, you name it. Not that race is important, as conservatives, it’s all about the content of your character that matters.

The Youth Vote

What WAS still missing was young people. While there was a large student delegation representing CCU, when you removed them, the amount of gray heads in the room was overwhelming. This was an issue that was addressed ad nauseum by many of the speakers. Why are the youth voting Democrat and how do we change this? True, a lot has to do with the liberal brainwashing centers otherwise known as public education, but it’s more than that. Deep down, most young folk are libertarian at heart. Nothing about liberalism is libertarian, except on social issues, and even there, the data is showing that the younger generation is actually MORE prolife than the baby boomers!

The problem is, they are believing the false narrative proclaimed about Republicans and Conservatives by the media, and Republicans do a lousy job at discrediting it. I loved what one student speaker said: Democrats and Liberals show up at college campuses all the time. If Republicans just simply showed up, who knows what kind of difference they could make (and not three months before the election, that comes off as disingenuous.)

And there may be some evidence to this. They shared some polling data from the last election. Overwhelmingly respondents voted Romney as better able to handle everything from the economy to foreign policy. Yet they voted Obama as being more likable and ultimately that’s what guided their vote.

The Third Party

Ted Cruz and several others lambasted the Republican Party for their willingness to cave in to Democrat demands, at the detriment of the country (all for the sake of perceived political gain). A few times the term “Democrat Lite” was used to describe much of today’s Republican leadership and the party in general. If there’s no distinction between Republicans and Democrats on voting day, the public will pick Democrat every single time.

Because of this, a question was posed to Jenny Beth Martin. She was asked if the Republicans continue to look more and more like Democrats, would the TEA Party break off and form a third party. She would not say no.

Use the Force, Luke!

Comic relief was provided by Jonah Goldberg and Bill Whittle. Whittle mentioned that the term “conservative” has a bad connotation for young people, and calling yourself one means instant turnoff. He suggests we change the term to something more appealing, you know, something like “rebel alliance.”

While I laughed out of my seat on that one, it does anger me that our language has to be defined for us. If it has a bad meaning, then we need to be out there changing that meaning. Conservative means freedom, it means liberty, it means charity, it means being allowed to make your own decisions. Whittle also reminded us (and encouraged us to remind our socialist utopian friends) that it’s socialism that has a history of 100 million dead on its hands. History proves that nothing good has ever come from socialism. It goes against basic human nature and requires force to be implemented.

About this illustration

So what does this have to do with the portrait of Allen West you see above, you’ve probably been asking as you’ve slogged through this editorial? I was given the unique privilege and opportunity to create painted caricatures of the speakers. The idea occurred only two weeks before the event, but because of my chalk art gig in Crested Butte the following weekend, I ended up having 7 days to work on this project.

I knew I wanted to develop a new illustration style. I’ve been playing around with a rough and painterly new modern look. I’ve been trying to represent the most amount of information with the largest brush strokes I could. I also start with a textured painted background, which I like to let come in and out of the composition, as I use more opaque paints to bring out the highlights in the foreground.

This new style allowed me to work a little faster than normal. If you do the math, that’s 2 pieces a day. Each piece took an average of 4 hours each. In addition, I still had to keep working on other client obligations. Those 7 straight days I worked roughly 12 hours each and I just cranked out those paintings. I really didn’t have a whole lot of time to think much about the painting. I just had to do it.

Each painting has a story. As I roll out all 14 over the next two weeks, I’ll reveal the story behind each one.

Allen West was the first of this experiment. I decided to add the slight indication of an army camo netting above him as part of the picture.

I then had the opportunity to meet him in person, which was way cool, because I absolutely admire the man. It was a long line, and they were cycling us through fairly quickly, so conversation was out of the question. If you had the chance to say just one thing to one of your heroes, what would you say?

When it was finally my turn I said to him, “Your courage is an inspiration to us all.” Then after the photo, I concluded by saying, “May God continue His blessings upon you.” At that, Mr. West grabbed my hand firmly and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Thank you. That means so much to me. And please, don’t ever forget to pray for me.”

Such is the man, and other events and run-ins with him the next few days solidified just how humble this guy really is. He accepted the above painting with honor, a Benjamin Hummel original, now in the home of former Congressman Allen West.

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