Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

Month: April, 2014

The Curtain is Coming Up.

Not yet, but soon.  Here’s a sneak peek.  A student recently asked me how you know when a painting is finished.  That is a much more difficult question than it seems upon first hearing it.  Of course the answer is so subjective, it would have a different answer for every artist, except to say, it is finished when it is finished.  And that’s no help to a student and would probably be different for every style of art as well.  For instance, I am sure the Impressionists must have called paintings finished that any Academic painter of the period would have considered to be a study.  I guess it has something to do with when the time comes that you can’t imagine any way to make any element of the painting any better than it is, you can call it finished.  Or in the case of an illustration, it is either that, or the deadline looms, whichever comes first.

On this painting, the deadline is getting close, but isn’t exactly looming yet.  So I am still taking everything to the point where I am happy with every little bit.  So far, so good.Image

My Bouguereau/Leighton Period

Here is my painting hanging high at the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park a few weeks ago.  I didn’t get to go, but a friend took the photo.  The show was hung Academy style, and they actually needed a tall ladder to get it down at the end of the show.  The guy that took this is about 6’4″, so you can get an idea.  I think binoculars should have been standard issue on entering the gallery!

This painting is San Gabriel VAlleygory and depicts the spirit of the valley.  It is 24″ x 48″ without the frame.

San Gabriel VAlleygory

San Gabriel VAlleygory

Frederic Lord Leighton’s Flaming June

Don’t be confused by the Old-Fashioned Cocktail, this is the actual painting.

Sir Frederic Leighton’s Flaming June

Old Fashioned Flaming June

Old Fashioned Flaming June

Lord Leighton painted what is probably his most recognized painting in 1895.  By 1960, Victorian painting was considered very old-fashioned and when this painting was put up for auction, it didn’t even meet its reserve price of $140!!!  I am sure that within 6 years, it would’ve been appreciated by all of the poster artists of San Francisco, but in 1963, Luis A. Ferré, a Puerto Rican industrialist and politician, was on a buying trip for a museum he had founded in Puerto Rico when he discovered the painting in a gallery in Amsterdam.  He purchased it for $1000 because of the low interest in art from that period.  But I keep thinking, if I had just washed a few more cars, and mowed a few more lawns, I could have bought it at that auction for $140…I guess it is better off in Puerto Rico.


Colorful Expressions


With the decision to concentrate on the more graphic shapes and simplified design of the woman, color was the next step to resolve.  I wanted it to be sophisticated and bright, and I wanted the Hurricane cocktail to read well against the background colors.  So I did a series of color studies and went through the set, discarding the ones I didn’t want.  I actually liked them all for different reasons, but choices had to be made.  There was a reckless moment there when I considered doing a poster of all the various color versions laid out like my color composite above.  But that passed quickly, and I resolved to settle on three variations.  I miss working with other artists and asking for their suggestions.  I can’t say I always took their suggestions, but as soon as they started to answer, I would find myself hoping they would pick a certain one, and then I knew which one I liked myself.  Here are the three finalists.  I am already working on the finished art, so I will make my decision very soon.

The judgement of Paris

The judgement of Paris

Homing In

Okay, so paring it down to the main elements, and also focusing more on the theme was my way to work through this.  Hurricanes!  A tricky image when you relate it to New Orleans post-Katrina.  Not a lot of humor there.  But I wanted it to be very graphic (as in simplified design, not carnage) and that would remove it a bit from being too much of a documentary on hurricanes.  I came up with four images and decided to choose from one of them.

Four final concepts to choose from

Four final concepts to choose from

I had already decided on the second one from the right and had started painting.  It was almost a third of the way finished, but I just wasn’t excited about it because I wanted to go more graphic and she didn’t seem to work unless I started painting very classically.  I really liked the pegasus/satyr on the right, but what does that have to do with cocktails or hurricanes?  So I kept coming back to the woman in the center.  She was graphic, majestic, honoring the Hurricane cocktail, and I liked her.  My decision was made and all I had to do was decide on the colors…

Getting Closer

Narrowing in on what it was I wanted to do was a little more difficult than I originally expected.   The theme drink at Tales of the Cocktail this year is the Hurricane.  I’ve had a few Hurricanes in the past and I can tell you they would make it difficult to concentrate.  This cocktail was invented at the famous Pat O’Brien’s Bar during WWII as a way to sell their overloaded inventory of rum.  It seems that because of the difficulty of importing Scotch whisky during the war, liquor salesmen required that bar owners purchase 50 cases of rum if they wanted to order even one case of whiskey or scotch.  The Hurricane took its name from being served in a glass that is shaped like a hurricane lamp and has become an iconic image associated with New Orleans.



  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • Juice of a half a lime
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grenadine
  • Garnish with an orange slice and cherry

Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.

Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.

Shake well.

Strain into a hurricane glass.

Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.


Once I decided to simplify, I narrowed things down to an albino alligator embodying the New Orleans spirit of Laissez les bon temps roulez!  Roulez-ing all over the French Quarter and I didn’t need all the extra people to show that, since the gator was the most exciting element to begin with.  I thought in this case to follow the Less is More attitude.  So these were the stages my design went through to that aim.


As this was evolving I started to develop an idea of what I wanted it to look like.  I kept leaning toward a very deconstructed Cubist look influenced by the work of Robert Delaunay, and driving the design in that direction.


  • Robert Delaunay series of the Eiffel Tower

I was pretty happy with the end results but after talking with the folks at Tales of the Cocktail, I came to understand that they were thinking of giving the Tales event a more international flavor.  Or at least not focusing as much on the fact that it takes place in New Orleans.  So we scrapped this direction and the design never got past these preliminary drawings.



Many False Starts

My desire to do something new, in a different style than previous years, always creates difficulties.  I thought I had hit on it with these rough sketches, but they were just getting too complex.  In talking with friends and thinking about the style I was hoping to work in, I decided that simpler was better.  When I was first starting out as an illustrator, we used to get assignments we called, “Stupendous, all-encompassing, mega-epics” meaning basically, everything plus the kitchen sink.  I wanted to avoid that this year.  I have a soft spot for those kinds of images, but sometimes being direct has its place.

So, though I liked the direction these were heading, I decided to try capturing the best of what was going on here, in a more pared down way.  And, in case you can’t tell what is going on here (my personal design sketches are very rough) this was a Mardi Gras parade in the French Quarter being lead by an alligator.  (The Audubon Park Zoo in New Orleans is famous for its albino gators so I was also considering using one of them.)  I was planning a second line Grand Marshall, a stilt walker, a waitress, and more, with a cubist line drawing of French Quarter balconies in the background.  I even thought about doing a horizontal image for the first time until I realized that horizontal pictures take up even more wall space than vertical.  People just don’t have enough wall space as it is.

In the end, these were rejected, as well as about five other designs.  I rejected them.  I am always the harshest critic of my work.

Two of my first concept sketches for the poster

Two of my first concept sketches for the poster