As I start with my series of write-ups on my past artwork, it is only appropriate that the first painting I write about is my first official Self Portrait. It makes sense chronologically, but it also lends itself to me paying homage to Romero Britto, who is without question the artist who has most influenced me as an artist.
It all started in my younger days at the good old institution of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School. My art teacher Ms. Parmly (who has also been a tremendous influence and turned me on to The Clash, Carol King and Cat Stevens) gave us an assignment where we were to emulate another artist’s style. At first I was completely lost. I had no idea who to use. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing with either impressionistic paintings or pointillism. I wanted something different, original, colorful. This is when I stumbled across Romero Britto. He was exactly what I was looking for. It was a match made in heaven.
I went on to complete the project. Looking at it now, all I can say is, holy smokes, I have gotten better at painting. Which I suppose is as it should be, as I painted it seven years ago and it was my first attempt at a Britto. How young and innocent I was back then. And how humorous it is that even from the very beginning of my painting career, the subjects of my paintings were always related to my crushes.
In high school, I had the biggest crush on one of my classmates named Britt Melewski (Britt, Britto, coincidence?). For any of the people reading this now who didn’t know me in high school, this admission is by no means a divulgence. My crushes were always common knowledge - Casey Champion anyone? I actually friended Casey on facebook about a year ago. Ed and I at work thought it would be funny because we both think I creeped him out in grammar school (sorry!). To make matters on that front funnier, he did not accept my friendship and instead let it pend for an entire year. I checked again about a week ago and the friendship was no longer pending. Either after a year of debate and weighing options Casey decided against us being facebook friends, or he never signed on in that time frame and facebook decided it was just really pathetic that it was still hanging out there and deleted it for me.
Anyway, I digress, back to Britto and Britt and why this is not a revelation by any means. Why you ask? Well, Mrs. Brennan beat me to it at the 2003 Senior Christmas concert. At RFH our teachers re-wrote classic Christmas songs making fun of the students and, lucky me, I made a cameo in “The 12 Days of Christmas” on day two. I believe it went something like, “On the 2nd day of Christmas Julie Dennebaum proclaimed with glee, I’m obsessed with Britt Melewski”, and then each time they counted back down it went “Julie wants Britt”, and Britt was sitting directly in front of me. Listen to that here (Thanks Lydia for recording this). Oh good times. Good times indeed.
The point of bringing all that up is that this painting depicts me (I had auburn hair in high school) and Britt holding hands. What a creepy weird-o I was in high school, no wonder I never had any dates. This painting really set the tone for my development going forward. I loved every second working on it. I loved the colors and the black outline. I was hooked on the Romero.
I went on to paint my own copies of his paintings because I wanted to have them decorating my dorm and, oddly enough, while attending Rutgers I did not have 50 grand to drop on an original (not that I have that now either).
My senior year at Rutgers, I decided to branch out from the copying. I had become comfortable enough with the Britto style to try my own creation in his style. I had also, in a fit of hair cutting urgency and poorness decided to cut my own hair. The painting was a good idea. The trying my hand being a coiffeuse was not such a good idea. I had started the side part sometime in college and decided to cut my hair while parted to the side. For anyone who is thinking about doing this, let me tell you this is a BAD IDEA! Always cut your hair on a straight part, otherwise your hair ends up being totally uneven if it is not parted exactly how you cut it. Sometimes I would have the part a little off and there would just be this extremely long strand on one side. It was a funny, failed experiment and one that I reflected in my self portrait. There were also debates about what color my hair was: dirty blonde or light brown? I tried to capture all of this in the painting while trying my very best to capture the spirit of Romero Britto.
My self portrait truly was the start of my experimentation with Britto’s style. It lead to many other paintings in his style and ultimately the birth of my own “pop art” style. Over half of my collection I can trace back to his style, and perchance all of it for the mere fact that he is what got me painting. He is the reason I started using acrylics and branched out from pencil drawings. Strange how he is one person who I will most likely never meet in my lifetime, but he has a profound effect on my life and the person I am today.
Next up on the Romero Britto inspired hit parade: Bar None