Abbreviated Portrait No. Nine: JN WAYN
Poteet on John Wayne:
John Wayne was one of the first figures I thought about after Marilyn and Elvis. I decided to mull this painting around a little longer because I believed it was important for his portrait to be right on the money. Like many other people, I see John Wayne as ‘Captain America with a cowboy hat’. John Wayne represents everything that is good and wholesome, honest and strong. I perceive him as red, white and blue. However, nearly without exception, others, when asked, saw the color ‘tan’ which they would describe as brown, leather, suede, etc. I saw that too but not as strongly as the red, white and blue. So, the painting is red, white, blue and tan with a single undulating line. I believe this one white line is what makes the painting identifiable as John Wayne. His portrait is probably the most recognizable since Marilyn's and I believe it will probably be the most popular. I think the tan that people see in their minds is not so much an association with John Wayne himself, but what he is associated with…the leather holster, leather vest, and probably more importantly, the leather saddle. So the tooled leather detail is an important part of the painting.
I began painting his portrait much earlier in the series but abandoned it because I wasn’t happy with the progression … it wasn’t what I saw in my mind. I was too eager and painted things that didn’t belong. I started to paint it again after a few months and this time, it was right. This painting is a little bit different than the others in the series. I made the center design of this painting larger than the other painting because to me John Wayne is larger than life. I didn’t refine the edges because I don’t see him as having refined edges. He is rough around the edges…yet pure and honest.
I see John Wayne as a big figure, a cowboy on a horse. In my mind, I see the slits for his eyes but it wasn’t necessary to add those, it would have been too much information. The movies from the later years of his life are the ones I remember the most, like his 1969 film “True Grit” (clip below) and the 1976 film “The Shootist”. I found it ironic that John Wayne’s character in the movie “The Shootist” was dying of cancer, when in real life he was also.
Poteet did paint a study to see dimensions and placement of the shapes on the canvas before beginning the full size painting.