Artifacts #19 – Copying Robert Williams

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Back in early 1989 – aged 18 – I was going out with a girl who loved Guns n’ Roses‘ debut album with a passion. Wanting to make something personal for her as a present before her birthday I decided to paint a version of Robert Williams’ cover image from the original album cover (it was later replaced when the group blew up commercially). What I was thinking I don’t know what with the very dodgy subject matter it contained but that’s the fog of love for you.

I’d discovered Williams’ work a few years before via Zap Comix and loved this painting, despite the sexually assaulted woman (lord knows what she’d have thought of it, had it been finished). I set about copying it as accurately as possible in acrylics on a large piece of thick card, primed and gridded out to get the proportions correct. Below are a couple of in-progress shots I found from ’89 and you can see that I was enjoying painting the orange monster to start with. The chrome elements were incredibly difficult (and boring) to paint given the small reproduction I was working from (an LP cover borrowed from a friend, that I still have, sorry whoever has a sleeveless copy from back then).

Appetite_copy_progress1 March89 Appetite_copy_progress2 March89I’d covered up the lower part of the image, partly to stop it getting dirty as I was generally leaning on the bottom half but mostly because I was still living with my parents and I was embarrassed about the subject matter of the assaulted woman. I wasn’t looking forward to painting that part at all if truth be told but it was integral to the original. As it turned out I never got to because she dumped me about a month before her birthday, any impetus to finish it vanished instantly and it was filed away in an old portfolio.

Appetite_copy_detail6 Appetite_copy_detail2 Appetite_copy_detail3 Appetite_copy_detail4Appetite_copy_detail5Appetite_copy_detail7Over the years I’ve spotted it whilst rifling through the folder, pulled it out a few times and admired the level of dedication I must have had to go to such lengths. I recently shot details of some of the more finished bits to share here, you can see the layers of acrylic paint in parts and I was working with totally inadequate brushes, some with only a few hairs for tiny details.

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One day I’ll have to finish it, just so all that work doesn’t go to waste but I’ve no desire to include the stricken woman so maybe I’ll paint something else in her place. As much as I admire Williams’ work – and copying this gave me a next level appreciation of the techniques he used – his depiction of the woman in this piece is the only thing I’m not a fan of.

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