Summary: The inspiration for this piece was, first and foremost, the fact that I had started listening to a lot of Tom Waits music. A friend of mine was in the midst of painting a portrait of Waits, so the idea was instead to do a piece inspired by Waits’ music. I wanted to show 2 washed-up old lounge musicians; people who had once been stars but have now been relegated to dive bars and sideshow acts. I felt that many of the characters found in Waits’ music are people at the end of their rope, who have been forgotten by society and have achieved what I call the “American Nightmare,” rather than the “American Dream.”
The pianist is the background was meant to look like the actor Lee Marvin, but with an eye patch; the singer in the foreground is an imaginary character not based on any real person. The medium is sumi-e ink with red and blue colored inks (thus, the piece is “red, white, and blue” to symbolize America). Similarly to how many people view Tom Waits’ low, gravely voice, I tried to make the piece somewhat uncomfortable to look at. The result of this is that some have suggested I do a new version with more attractive people. Nevertheless, this was one of my most popular pieces back when it was completed and allows the viewer to create a story around their perception of the characters.