I have just finished the first Mr. Peanut portrait and I can't wait to begin the second. I decided to do it in color (as opposed to just sepia tones which I was considering) but I kept it on the dark side to give it an aged look. I think it captures the essence of the Mr. Peanut man I remember as a child when I didn't realize that it was actually a human in a costume.
Due to a series of unfortunate events this is the first post for the new year. 2011 began for me with an abscess tooth which ultimately had to be pulled. Surprisingly this was NOT the tooth that broke the week before Christmas so I had 2 to take care of on opposite sides of my mouth. For this reason I ended up taking a break from my artwork for a few weeks but now that I'm feeling better my creativity is returning. I am beginning the year with a pair of portraits that may be the most curious I've done so far. They are portraits of one of my favorite subjects: Mr. Peanut. My long fascination with him began when I was a little girl and my Father took my Sister and Me to Atlantic City for the day. It was a big event for us and a sort of family tradition as he had also taken my Brother when he was a kid. This was back in the early 1960's when Atlantic City was a real amusement park like Coney Island. I remember that at Steel Pier we went down under the water in the Diving Bell, posed for old fashioned photos as old west sheriffs with my Father behind bars as the prisoner and watched a woman dive off the pier on a horse. It was a magical day but the most memorable part was meeting Mr. Peanut for the first time. I admit to being a bit terrified of him back then. You have to imaging being a 5 or 6 year old child seeing this gigantic peanut with dark, un-seeing eyes lumbering toward you on spindly black legs. He was silently menacing with a sort of black screen over the monacle and eye hole. In those days the Mr. Peanut people didn't talk to you, they just bobbed their giant peanut bodies up and down in a gesture of greeting. Since then I have have not only come to terms with my fear but actually embraced Mr. Peanut as a nostalgic representative of my childhood. I have a Mr. Peanut mechanical pencil that I love drawing with (except that I cannot find lead to fit it any more), I have a set of Mr. Peanut salt and pepper shakers and even bought a silver ashtray in a curio shop in Amsterdam. The shop owner had originally purchased it in Brooklyn and brought it back to Amsterdam where I bought it and brought it right back to New York!
As you can see he has been on my mind for a number of years but I was never sure how I wanted to portray him. For this pair of portraits I felt it was important to portray the Mr. Peanut that I best remember which is as the actual costume. There have been several versions over the years but after much research I've found the type that I believe was used in the early 1960's. I thought it would also be interesting to put a skyline of Atlantic City in it's hey day in the background and some striped bunting to lighten it up and make him seem less frightening. I've only gotten the sepia underpainting on the first portrait finished so far and I like it so much I am considering not putting in color at all. We'll see..