Blog / 2008 / This Looks Like a Job for a Chicano!

February 17, 2008

One of the unexpected joys of my upcoming series Apple Pie is that it’s been an excellent excuse to reconnect with old friends by asking them to let me paint them. It was only when I sat down to think about who I might paint for my collection of portraits of first and second generation Americans that I realized how many of my friends were, like me, the children of immigrants.

For example, Luis and I went to high school and college together. It isn’t necessarily easier to paint people I know, but it is usually more fun. That was certainly true with Luis.

immigrant Superman sketch
sketch by Gwenn Seemel

This is the initial sketch of my friend as a special kind of Superman. I liked the idea of making a Mexican-American man into a different kind of alien, and Luis was happy to play along. To make this drawing, I was working from photos that show only his face, so I was inventing the hands—and not doing a very good job of it!

political art process photo
photo by David Vanadia

This is my first attempt at This Looks Like a Job for a Chicano! Ultimately, I abandoned this painting because it looked too much like my hands were undressing Luis, which makes sense since I had used my hands as models for the painting.

WIP painting portrait

After doing a second photo session with Luis where I got him to model the full pose, I started this painting. Between last spring when I was working on the first painting and this photo, my concept for the piece evolved, as you can see in the changed background of the painting.

painting process of a Mexican-American Superman

Here, I am underpainting certain areas in white so that the final color will have a luminosity.

Superman artwok painting in progress

As I work on a painting, I establish colors slowly, building up layers over the course of weeks and months.

Mexican-American Superman painting in process

In this photo, I still hadn’t worked much on Luis’ hands. I was intimidated after the mistake I made with the first painting.

work in progress, painting the real Superman

This is the home stretch. Propped on top of the painting are the two photos I worked from. Left: the full pose from the second session. Right: the photo from our first interview, which inspired the feel of the painting.

Mexican-American Superman painted by political artist Gwenn Seemel
Gwenn Seemel
This Looks Like a Job for a Chicano! (Mexican-American, Luis)
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué
19 x 25 inches
a Mexican man painted by portraitist Gwenn Seemel
detail image of This Looks Like a Job for a Chicano!

This is my first ever blog post. Many other entries from my early years of writing on the web no longer appear on my site, because the articles don’t feel relevant anymore, but this one made the cut as a way of honoring where I came from as a blogger and an artist.

For blog highlights, check out my ten-years-of-blogging top ten list.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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