Thursday, April 16, 2009

Working with Genius Pablo Ferro

My article on Blogcritics about my lucky break working with artist Pablo Ferro. Here is a collage of 2 pictures of the model I painted for a Rolling Stones live concert in VA, while working with Pablo.
Working With Genius Pablo Ferro
Written by Larry EstesPublished April 16, 2009

For one evening in 1981, I was working with someone that famed director, Stanley Kubrick, calls a genius. I call him a willing accomplice in my first lucky break.
His name is Pablo Ferro. He pioneered techniques for editing hand-drawn titles for such classics as Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange, and Beetlejuice, among others. He won an Art Directors Hall of Fame Award in 2000. You will be hearing more about him next year as a documentary about his creative contributions to film comes to completion.

In December of 1981, the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia was a stop on the Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You tour, which featured a nationally televised HBO-broadcast of the concert. I was working at a record store as a display artist when I got the call that I had several hours to “tattoo” a nude model, part of the opening act for a live Rolling Stones concert.

Needless to say, I was a bit nervous. Not only had I never painted on the fleshy surface of a human body, I never had to perform work under the scrutiny of Hollywood types and under the pressure of the strict deadline of a live concert by musicians billed as the “greatest rock and roll band in the world.”

I stopped at the local five-and-dime store and purchased brushes and some acrylic paint, then I sped off to Hampton. Like clockwork, a bus met me in the parking lot and Pablo opened the door to let me in. We pulled up to the backstage entrance to the coliseum.

Within minutes I found myself in a small room with Pablo and a drawing table. I was informed I was replacing the original artist that was just fired because the letters he stuck on the model kept peeling off. The model was fired, too, because she was too curvaceous for the letters to adhere.

Within minutes, the new model walked in and disrobed. I asked her to lie on her back so I could “tattoo” her face like Mick Jagger’s is done on the Tattoo You album cover. Another woman kept making the rounds with a tray full of grapes and other fruits. After I finished painting her face, I started adding similar black patterns to her nude body.

Pablo had been busy sketching letters on paper, but after a while he gave me full creative freedom, saying, “You got it.” Finally, I was told to add in color, the radio station numbers where the concert was being broadcast.

Soon, the videographer began a serpentine sweep from her feet to her head, scanning the numbers, while I was doing last minute touch-ups. It was a surreal experience to be in this fast-paced, creative zone where one action overlapped into another.

In retrospect, I can look at that experience as a privileged peek into the working mind of a genius. I have a new appreciation for text because of Pablo's obsession to treat it as more than just labels, and unleash its hidden magic as if it were some kind of dormant hieroglyphic yearning to erupt.

Years ago, I tried to find some information on Pablo, but I couldn’t. Last night, in pursuit of something to write about, I tried again, and was surprised to find so much information on his impressive career.

Lingering questions about who he is will continue to be edited out of our collective consciousness. In my case, my memories of working with Pablo have just become a lot more meaningful.

No Cussing

This monster looks confidently adamant about enforcing violations on his beat. No badge, no medals, no walkie talkie. Just good old intimidation. O yeah, he is carrying a stick of sorts.