This Friday, March 13th artist Jason Edmiston and Mondo will open the doors on Edmiston’s second solo show at the Austin gallery with his new show ‘Eyes Without a Face.’ (to read our previous interview with Jason, click HERE)
Edmiston is a master portraitist and with ‘Eyes Without a Face‘ he takes that classic composition to a new and exciting direction. The show will feature a series of 150 portraits that puts the audience’s focus on the eyeline of some of the most prominent and compelling figures of pop culture. Catwoman, Leatherface, Divine, Jason Voorhies, and Voldemart all make appearances on Edmiston’s canvas.
Jason was kind enough to take my call a few days before he left for Austin to set up the gallery to talk about show.
‘Eyes Without a Face’ opens Friday March 13th at 7PM – 10PM and runs through April 4th.
Chris Jalufka (CJ): So are you working on the show right now?
Jason Edmiston (JE): Yeah.
CJ: The show was first announced on February 5th. How much of it was finished at that date?
JE: At that point, probably half of it. No, two thirds.
CJ: Two thirds, really?
JE: I know it sounds like I left it for the last minute which in some respect it is, but I’ve been working on it for the last year and a half. I’ve just been painting seriously for the last four months.
CJ: How long after your first solo show at Mondo (Rogues Gallery) did you and folks of Mondo decide to do another solo show?
JE: I conceptualized it for about a year and a half, right around that time when I was finishing up the first show. I thought this would be an interesting idea for my next show.
I talked to Rob Jones (Mondo Creative Director) about it when I was down there (in Austin) and he thought it had some legs so he told Mitch Putnam (Mondo Creative Director) about it and Mitch thought it was good, so we just started developing it and I’ve been working on it slowly gaining reference and getting themes. Well not themes, you know like subject matter. I didn’t start drawing and painting until just after MondoCon.
I had so much work to do, I kept getting all these jobs I didn’t want to turn down so I just kept delaying it. I have been working on it, it’s just seriously painting not until the last four or five months.
CJ: Right after MondoCon came the Texas Chainsaw Massacre print for Grey Matter Art, then the Rocky IV print came out from Skuzzles, then the Eyes Without a Face show was announced. For having a style that demands so much time and patience, you’re incredibly prolific.
JE: Yeah, that’s more my insanity of not wanting to say no to jobs, but I do work really long hours. For this show I’ve been working probably eighty hour weeks for the last couple months.
CJ: So are you starting on concepts now for Comic-Con?
JE: I got some ideas for prints for Comic-Con, but a lot of it is going to be bringing my archive, things that have come out throughout the year, saving a few prints for that. You’ve probably heard by now that there won’t be prints at the ‘Eyes’ show.
CJ: Yeah. Is that something that you wanted to have happen, to have the show be 100% paintings?
JE: That was another idea of the show from the beginning when I talked to Rob and Mitch. They wanted to have me back for a gallery show, the first show went really well. I basically sold out of the first show, I have a couple paintings left but I sold 90% of the paintings and the drawings that were for sale for that show but at the same time a lot of collectors couldn’t afford most of the paintings, because there were three and four and five thousand dollars, and even me, I couldn’t afford that kind of painting.
Usually when I buy paintings from artists they’re usually up and coming artists and $100 to $1,000 usually. I wanted to do a show that was more accessible to the average collector, and maybe get them into starting to collect more originals. So that was the double concept of the show, was to also bring the affordability aspect to my gallery shows.
CJ: That’s awesome.
JE: It’s going be really interesting to see how people receive it when they come to the gallery. A lot of the poster collecting crowd are expecting prints, or even these guys that line up that aren’t necessarily real collectors. You know that crowd. It’s no secret that that exists. And a lot of the times they ignore the art on the wall and they make a b-line right for the checkout and buy prints.
They’re completely missing the point of the show, to enjoy the work and maybe then go home with something that you really like and not just turn it into a consumer product. It shouldn’t be a merchandised show necessarily. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity of showing some art that people would enjoy and take some time a choose one that they like and go home with a little treasure if they like it that much.
CJ: Are there going to be sketches?
JE:Yeah, there will be pencil sketches for all the paintings in the show and they’ll all be available. We’re going to have them in a book or multiple books I believe. I’m not sure how I’m going to display them quite yet, they won’t be up on the wall, but they’ll be available for purchase. They’ll be very inexpensive. But those will definitely all be available.
That’s another thing, it’s another little souvenir. I don’t maybe have a few hundred dollars for a painting, but I have $25 for this sketch, you know what I mean?
CJ: Yeah, and that’s one thing that you do at conventions like Comic-Con, I’ve noticed that you always have all your sketches out. Prominently on display. For the ‘Eyes’ portraits, you can look at each one and you feel the rest of the face. The full character. Did you start with a full portrait drawing and work back from that?
JE: They’re cropped in a way that it shows the minimal amount, but it shows enough that you can get their likeness and kind of get a feel for the characters.
When I was first conceptualizing we tried a whole bunch of different close crops, just right around the eyes or showing as far as the ears, going to the sides of the head. This crop that I decided to use is a three to one ratio, just stopping it at their ears, it really just had enough meat on it to show enough of the character. If you’re looking through a slot in an exclusive club or something, like with a password kind of deal, it’s kind of that amount, like a mail slot. It was a bit of a challenge to get the right amount of visible face image.
A lot of these are compiled from a variety of different photo reference. Most of the time it’s based on more than one photo, but I already know what the face looks like. I don’t really have to envision the whole head. It’s more like a movie director where you’re choosing your shots. Exactly how much of this character do I want to show in this scene? I want to do a close-up of this character but how close?
I want to focus on their eyes and their expression, what they’re thinking about the other character, or what they’re looking at, and then I get into how do I want to light this, do I want to add some colored light to make it pop or to add some ridge lighting? A lot of that stuff is added after the fact, so it’s enhancing the photo reference to make it better than what’s out there.
CJ: With your Jason Voorhees ‘Eyes’ painting I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen his eye.
JE: Yeah, that’s the thing when you get that close on these characters, you don’t want to necessarily just black it out, even though a lot of times it’s like that.
Maybe in the movies it’s always shown like that, but I have seen some really cool photos of cos players dressing up as Jason and custom made masks and that got me thinking that I would be cool to show more of the face. Actually show the human behind the mask, it makes it a bit scarier.
CJ: Are all the paintings in your house, sitting in a studio?
JE: I shipped the first half already. They’re already at the gallery. The second half I’m shipping hopefully tomorrow. That’s what I’m planning on. I’m bringing a couple paintings with me, just some small paintings because I’m finishing up a few this weekend. It’s right down to the wire.
CJ: Are you flying out on Monday or Tuesday?
JE: Yeah, I’ll be there Tuesday. Also, you can tell your readers to look out for a large painting for outside the gallery.
CJ: Oh really?
JE: It’ll be installed outside the gallery. So if anybody is driving by, it should be probably be up maybe a day or two before the show.
CJ: I heard the paintings were actual size. Is it actual size per character?
JE: Yeah, actual size for each character. So say it’s Catwoman, it’s human size.
CJ: E.T. looks a bit bigger.
JE: Yeah, E.T.’s bigger but E.T. is the same size as the actual puppet. It’s physically the same size as it is in reality.
CJ: Probably tough to guess how big Frankenberry is.
JE: Some cartoon characters I’m guessing at how big they are in reality. How big is Mickey Mouse? I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a mouse size or if it’s a human. Bugs Bunny from Space Jam. Well, you know how big he is relationship to Michael Jordan. So you can use that as an example.
Those aren’t necessarily in the show. Not to say they didn’t make my initial list. I had an initial list of over 300. We had to narrow it down to 150. If I do continue this series, I’ll be pulling from that list because there’s a lot of cool ones that I just didn’t get time to or it’s just too many to do in a year. Hopefully people will dig the show and I’ll be able to do some follow-up pieces.
CJ: Have you thought about how you’re going to display these? Like, this character should go with this character?
JE: That’s an interesting point. I have to discuss that when I get down to the gallery. I was toying with the idea of maybe just linking them by size and then randomly spreading them out. I initially thought we would link them by property because there’s a few repeating characters. There’s a few Batman world characters. There’s a few, say, Disney characters. That sort of thing.
I was like, ‘Well, if I put this character over away from this character, will buyers know that they even exist?’ But that’s kind of the fun. It separates them so you don’t just look at a whole block and say, ‘Oh, I’ll go past this area because I know what to expect.’
CJ: Oh, here’s his Disney wall. Here’s his slasher wall.
JE: Exactly. So don’t you think it would be more interesting to maybe shake it up a bit and kind of spread that out?
CJ: Yeah, because then you’re guiding people through the whole show rather than just like, go straight to the ‘horror’ section and ignoring the rest. It’s going to be interesting to see how opening night goes, with no prints for people to rush to buy, they’ll have to take their time and take it all in.
JE: I hope so, yeah, then that’d be really great. I know what you mean. You don’t want them coming in and immediately going to a certain section. ‘Oh, I’m just going to go to the horror section because that’s all I care about and then I’ll pick the one I want and run.’ It’s kind of take your time, mill about.
CJ: Because they might find something surprising in that experience, or in the show. They’re going to be like, ‘Oh, I did not see that in Jason, but here it is.’
JE: Right, right. There could be one where you don’t know what property it’s from. There’s a few that are kind of like, ‘Oh, I’ve never seen this movie or I don’t know if this is from music or whatever.’ You have to think about it for a bit. If it’s right next to something else that you know is horror and they’re all horror, say, you’ll be like, “it’s obviously a horror movie.’ Now I just got to guess which one.
If you make it more of a guessing game I think it’s more fun. It’s going to be great to see them all up together because if you stand in the middle it’s really going to be like you’re being stared at.
You know, like in that episode of Star Trek when they go to the planet where it’s overpopulated and they’re literally standing on top of each other. Kirk sees the vision of all the eyes staring back at him. All these millions upon millions of eyes just staring at him.
I get that feeling, like it’s going to be like that once we get into the show. Not to mention I’ve got a 7 and a half foot wide painting in the show that will be a surprise that those eyes are mesmerizing when it see them in person. It’s hypnotic they’re so big.
CJ: You have a ton of dedicated fans online. Some I’ve met at Comic-Con and stuff like that. Quite a pool of avid collectors.
JE: Oh, cool. You never know how people react to you outside of a convention. They might just be nice to my face and then you never know if they actually like the work. To hear independent views is cool.
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