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Original painting by ©M&R Hess to advertise Prince's new spaghetti sauce: Chunky Style.The ad was a big hit; awards, buzz, media attention, increased sales, etc. but someone started a letter writing campaign about the 'inappropriate use' of the Mona Lisa and also insisted that any sauce that created a 'chunky' person should be avoided and the ad was pulled. Prince resigned the ad agency. Two years later the CEO of Prince bought the art to hang in the corporate offices. Go figure...
Cover art for the jazz album: Lenox Avenue Breakdown.
The idea was to simply paint a Harlem city scene with a sax shaped building using only my imagination and very little reference; sort of a mind experiment.
Richard Hess, father of the artist, 1991, 14"x20", oil and acrylic on canvas, collection of the artist
Time magazine cover article about the plight of the small farmer in America.
I went out to local farms and photographed grizzled old men for this image; I had 3 days to produce the cover.
This painting garnered lots of attention. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, the local farmer I used as the cover model was quite successful and wealthy, and the AP ran a wire story about Time using a 'rich' farmer to portray failed ones. Apologies were made.
For an article in Fortune magazine about Industry's long shadow of pollution.
The idea was to create something not too dark yet overwhelming.
A commission for U.S. Postal Stamps
This project was a great pleasure, yet not without it's trouble. Almost two years in the making, the 'Legends' series was the first in a new format the Postal Service wanted to create entitled 'Classic Collections'. Issued twice a year, the series was to consist of multiple stamps with a different related subject matter and a header. To further the educational value of the series, each stamp would also be printed on the obverse with a concise history of the subject. We started with eight stamps, then sixteen, and finally settled on twenty to give ourselves enough space to tell a more complete story (actually 24 paintings were made, but four were edited out).
THE CONTROVERSY part 1-Bill or Ben?Finally the paintings were complete, millions of the stamps were printed and a release date was set. Anticipation and media hype was high when the unthinkable happened. Just weeks before release a distant relative of Bill Pickett, one of the stamp subjects, came forward with a claim that the image used for the painting was not Bill at all, but his brother Ben! After much effort to verify the truth (which to my knowledge was never absolutely confirmed) the Postal Service made the unprecedented decision to recall the whole series, which by now had been shipped to post offices all across the country. They did not want there to be any doubt about the identity of anyone honored on a US postage stamp, and preferred to err on the side of historical accuracy by having a new portrait painted with an uncontested photo of Bill and reissuing the whole series.
THE CONTROVERSY part 2-Lottery FeverSo the stamps were recalled, but not before some had mysteriously and illegally fallen into the hands of collectors. Well, error stamps can be quite valuable and this was the first time in some 125 years of US Postal history that a suspected wrong person image had appeared on a US stamp. Initial prices for the error stamps were in the thousands of dollars. To help collectors feel less 'cheated', the Postal Service decided to hold a lottery to allow other people to purchase the error stamps, but at face value ($5.80). 150,000 lucky recipients were drawn from millions who wanted a set. The lottery then led to a law suit by the original owners of the ill-gotten error stamps against the Postal Service for devaluing their stamps. They ultimately lost. At present the error stamps sell for $150-$200.
A mural for the restaurant AquaTerra, Palm Beach, Fla. Five more in the series include: Onion, Grapes, Beet, Corn and Stone Crab.
I was asked to create a portrait of this jazz legend.
Many years later I found out that my close friend John Scofield (another jazz legend) was on this album.
After my first "American Classics" series of stamps for the US Postal Service (Legends of the West) I was asked to produce the next set based on the Civil War.
The Postal Service hired a firm to double and triple check all the details in each image including weather on the day depicted, number of buttons on a uniform, flag correctness, and a million other details to be absolutely sure there were no errors as had so often happened in other depictions of Civil War imagery. This war was one of the first to be heavily photographed. Turns out photographic evidence in old photos was not to be trusted; many soldiers would don fancy dress not their own for photos, and even pictures of dead lying on battlegrounds were sometimes massaged for more dramatic images.
Massive numbers of Civil War "experts" tried to find fault with features and details in the images, but only one small fault was actually found and it was the spacing of stars on a flag that "might" have been inaccurate. Overall a good result.
A book cover for a series of stories about otherworldly cats.
I was to make up a scenario based not on any specific story, but my own imagination, so this was lots of fun. My cat "Mojo" was the model.
I was commissioned by current Fordham University president Joseph McShane, S.J. to create a large portrait to hang in the W 60th St. Fordham campus in Manhattan honoring the man who helped create Lincoln Center in NYC.
Working with archival photographs I composed this image to capture a true likeness of the man and the original Lincoln Center.
A Forbes magazine cover regarding the fattening of America's waistline.
I was asked to deface the great Madame X portrait by John Singer Sargent for a Bacardi ad. Sorry Johnny!
I studied this magnificent portrait at the Met in NYC for days before finally trying to repaint it. A lovely learning experience.
A commissioned portrait of Robert Dallas Sr., founder of The Dallas Group.
One of six 4'x6' murals for AquaTerra restaurant in Palm Beach. Each painting depicts a main ingredient and the setting it comes from.
Art Webb's first jazz album. We wanted something unusual and dramatic.
Just goes to prove album art doesn't always lead to sales: I won awards for this image but only a few albums were sold, and I bought two...
To my embarrassment, O magazine commissioned me to paint a portrait of one of my painter idols, Frida Kahlo, as she was, and as she could be with so-called good grooming... Sorry Frida!
New immigrants at our door from all over the world.
For a series of books with stories about otherworldly feline subjects.
Fun to create strange human like cat portraits.
For an article in Time Magazine on the former NY governor.
I was given the assignment for Regards magazine to illustrate a story on the expensive business of building large office/residential towers.
I was asked for a cover image for a new How-to book on cat care.
I loved the title, "The Intelligent Cat" and loved old portraits so I combined a nineteenth century primitive style with the cat I knew best at the time: "Morris" the cat (a TV commercial cat).
Nominated for a national book award. Didn't win that but got other awards.
Book cover for a novel about a look alike Martin Luther King.
For an article on Mayor Daly of Chicago, then thought of as a "princely" character.
Children’s book cover and complete set of paintings about the life of a Civil War drummer boy.
Lipstick on a pig, indeed...