The films Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, The Machinist, Secret Window and Donnie Darko all share a common theme: the antagonists exist solely in the minds of the protagonists. I find the more compelling link is that these five protagonists all suffer from an intense anxiety and loneliness. It is this internal struggle, the conflict of self, which drew me to these characters.
Being of fan of these films, I had initially considered doing paintings of one or two of them separately, but as the connections that drove these men became clearer to me, I felt combining them would generate a more powerful image.
Conceptually and compositionally, this painting is directly influenced by Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. As with the films, Manet’s painting also deals with isolation, and the sense that what the viewer is shown may not be reality. I was adamant that the painting would be interpretive to the viewer, left to decide for themselves if what I presented was real or not. Now that I had my concept, it was time to focus on the other elements of the painting.
Posture, body language and facial expressions all had to convey these feelings of anxiety. Many of my references are taken directly from the films, so I try to select those that are most appropriate to my concept. Whether it’s Russell Crowe clutching his briefcase or Johnny Depp looking over his shoulder, there’s always a moment or two that really defines what these characters are feeling at their core.
My color palette also had to work to convey the mood of this environment. I wanted very somber colors such as the blues for the imaginary friends contrasted with the warmer browns and deep reds of the bar. Everything had to work together in this painting to establish a connection, not just between the characters, but with the viewer.