Summary: In Spring 2010, I learned that New Orleans can be a very strange and unique place if you venture beyond Bourbon Street. On one of my excursions throughout the French Quarter, I stumbled upon a street musician who looked like a character out of a Tom Waits song. He was wearing black sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat over his long, somewhat disheveled hair, with a black leather jacket and dirty, torn blue jeans. He was playing guitar while seated atop a parked motorcycle, which featured 2 giant bull’s horns attached to the front. The music he was playing was certainly unlike most of the blues and jazz you heard throughout the rest of New Orleans; it had a crude sort of loneliness to it that drew you in and yet made you slightly afraid at the same time.
When I returned home from New Orleans, I immediately began working on a portrait of him based on a photo I had taken. However, I wanted the painting to be more of a “scene” rather than a portrait, so I opted to give him a different background than the one in my photograph. In fact, a couple blocks away from where I had seen him, I took another photo of a closed-up restaurant with bright green doors and a quintessential French Quarter balcony. With this new background, the painting still breathes the warmth and vibrancy of New Orleans, while also evoking the dark mysteriousness found in its voodoo history and culture.
I also opted to leave certain areas of the painting unfinished, which was partially a stylistic choice but also an attempt to say, “I don’t know the whole story behind this guy.” When the painting was finished, I posted it on the original Bleachwave website and later received a comment from a woman who claimed to know this man and said he goes by the name “Stoker.”