Detail of Ice Cube from “N.W.A. (Nuthatches With Attitude)”
With the release of the film “Straight Outta Compton” it seemed like a good time to revisit the painting “N.W.A. (Nuthatches With Attitude)” — progress shots, funny reference pictures, and thoughts on why some ideas win out over others can all be found by clicking right here.
Detail of Eazy-E from “N.W.A. (Nuthatches With Attitude)”
Posted in Behind The Scenes
Tagged Audubon, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, N.W.A., nuthatches, NWA, Straight Outta Compton, WIP
“N.W.A. (Nuthatches With Attitude)” (detail)
It’s possible that everyone who creates for a living gets asked the question “Where do you get your ideas from?” whether you’re making movies, writing songs, painting pictures or creatings gastronomical delights. What I think is actually the more interesting question is “How do you choose which idea to pursue?” Because there are lots of ideas floating around out there, and when you cast your net you’re likely to pull up some good stuff and some things that are just sad and need to be thrown back. Sometimes the thing that makes one idea stick out from a sea of possibilities is if it can make me laugh.
Which is how I ended up painting “N.W.A. (Nuthatches With Attitude).” I love playing with the visual equivalent of a mash-up song — and here I could combine two things I totally dig: the incredible, influential work of John James Audubon (naturalist, painter, and bird nut after my own heart) and the incredible, influential California hip hop group N.W.A. There were other ideas but in a “survival of the fittest” concept contest, this one put the others down hard. (Though as usual, the entire time I’m painting it the little voice of doubt on my shoulder was going “Just ’cause you like it doesn’t mean anybody else will.” Which is why I listen to a lot of music and podcasts while I paint — to drown that evil little bastard out.)
The start of most any piece begins with the gathering of reference, so I was looking at things like this. (Why did they burn all the sports logos off the hats?)
I keep several branches in my studio, so I took a few snaps to get some ideas about what the birds might be sitting on…
This owl was kind enough to model my gold dookie rope, and I ended up with a sketch that looked like this:
The little green post-it notes were a way to keep track of who was who — Eazy-E was kinda, um, “not tall in stature”, and as it so happens there is actually a pygmy nuthatch (I love the universe), and MC Ren kinda needed to be an actual wren (props to Mark Matcho). The rest are proper nuthatches with Dr. Dre, as one of the founders of N.W.A., up top, DJ Yella in the middle, and Ice Cube in the lower left about to take flight (he split N.W.A., didn’t feel like he was getting his fair cut since he wrote most of the songs).
Lil’ Eazy-E with his Compton hat. (detail)
Put it all together and it looks something like this:
“N.W.A. (Nuthatches With Attitude)” oil on wood panel, 23 x 18