Painting Ron Jeremy Again & Again & Again
At least in part.
This is true: Austin artist Todd Mein – cartoonist, painter, videomaker, teacher, laidback and affable dude-about-town – was recently commissioned to paint three iterations of the same image of porn-industry legend Ron Jeremy. And single portraits of Elton John and Freddie Mercury and Morrissey and the Norse god Odin and … 1980s wrestling champion Lanny 'The Genius' Poffo.
Portraits: 16" x 20" each, acrylics on canvas.
For about $500 per painting.
Mein was hired for this job by a local entrepreneur who, he says, "co-owns a San Antonio IT company and a medical-marijuana dispensary in Denver."
Well, damn. This not being quite the sort of creative opportunity that presents itself every day, not even in the Keep-It-Weird capital of Texas, how did, uh, how … ?
"I met this person at a birthday party for my oldest brother," says Mein. "The guy's an old friend of my brother's – they go back to college days, they were in a fraternity together. And, essentially, he's been looking for someone to do portraits of his heroes for a long time, and he asked me if I was up for the task. And I was like, immediately, 'Heck yeah, man!' And so – I think the next day – he started texting me pictures of the heroes that he wanted me to do. And I've already completed the portraits of Elton John and Freddie Mercury, as well as three versions of that one specific Ron Jeremy image. It's Ron Jeremy in a leather jacket, with no shirt on, with his hands on his hips, and there's big bold text in the middle of the image: YES, YOU CAN."
So: Ron Jeremy – ‘The Hedgehog’ – as motivational tool? (Dare we even use a word like tool in this context?) And wrestler Poffo – the younger brother of the late Randy 'Macho Man' Savage? And that raven-heralded, Scandinavian All-father Odin? And a few music stars who are also gay icons? Is this IT-and-medical-marijuana mini-mogul, ah, is he for real?
"I don't know if his interest is ironic," says Mein, "or if it's just that he likes what he likes and is inspired by these people – some that happen to fit into the world of gay culture or whatever. He also wants me to do Rodney Dangerfield, and a couple of portraits of his personal dogs that I've met. He has two big Husky dogs – Nala and Dash are their names – but he's been kind of back and forth about having me do a portrait of Dash because Dash is kind of a dick. So I really don't know. It seems like, with his personality – obviously sort of like a frat dude at heart – he's just a fun-loving guy who has specific niche things that he's into that he likes to celebrate, and he's doing this through the artwork."
Which, anyway, is a decent gig for a young artist.
"Well, I'm 29," says Mein. "Gonna be 30 in September. And I'm thinking of this as a way to make some money, professionally, as an artist."
Note: Mein earns his more regular wages as a teaching artist for the City of Austin – getting paid to teach art and theatre to kids through the recreation centers – and as an administrative temp at UT.
"With these paintings," continues the Iowa native who grew up in, mostly, Kerrville, "I'm also honing my craft and my process with acrylics. I've always liked drawing and stuff – I cut my teeth illustrating for the Texas Travesty publication at UT when I was going to school there, did comics and centerspread illustrations and art for the features. And then, after that, I had time to figure out what my style was – through different illustrative practices, making posters and t-shirts, stuff like that. Most of my style of painting is like a more fine-art version of my cartooning style. Working on the Bob Dole painting [for last year's 'Presidential Losers' show at Salvage Vanguard Theatre's lobby gallery], I made an illustrated version of a photo and projected the transparency on canvas and worked with it that way."
So this current job is a win-win situation, then. Artist happy, client happy, good juju all around. Let's everybody have a Shiner and maybe some early-afternoon chips y queso and be grateful for the small mercies and odd tangents of this complex life.
But, wait: Something's still not quite making sense.
Something's, like, dangling unresolved.
Oh, right: Three. Why three portraits of Ron Jeremy?
"Well," says Mein, "one's for his home. One's for his IT company. And I think he gave the third one to a friend."
Ah, of course. Because doesn't everybody want a fine 16" x 20" acrylic portrait of Ron Jeremy hanging on some wall of wherever they live, reminding them in bold letters YES, YOU CAN …?