Brian Despain Art

  • The Stranger
  • Self Portrait
  • The Final Exodus
  • The Bartlett Regicide
  • The Exchange
  • A Vexing Quiet
  • The Discovery
  • The Dream

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The Discovery

The Discovery… There’s actually a funny little story behind this piece…

I've had a very similar doodle of that robot on a post-it note sitting on my desk at home for almost a year. It was one of those off the cuff ideas that wasn’t wholly formed but interested me enough to keep it around. Right before starting this painting I was casting about for ideas, rediscovered the doodle and thought, "Hey this would be a fun piece to do"... That’s when things started downhill.

Originally I wanted the robot to be a Cyclops. It was a vague attempt at trying to keep the humanity of the beast a little more subtle as I thought that would make him seem less "intelligent" and thus would make gag funnier, but after doing the drawing I realized that he looked so much like the character, Plankton, from Nickelodeon's "Sponge Bob Square Pants" animated extraveganza, that I had to modify the face. No real concern yet, just one of those irritating problems that arise when doing art. Then I started on the color study…

I couldn’t ever seem to hit the right combination of colors. I wanted a little bit of a two tone scheme to the robot but didn't want to make it too vibrant or plasticy looking. I must have spent hours making new layers and pushing the values and shifting the colors trying to really sell the thing, yet everything I did made the him look crappier and crappier. The number, normally an easy element to place, moved all over the piece, from the side of his head, to the front of his head, to a building in the background until finally landing on the poster. Even the composition and position of the robot kept changing. (Even now one of his hands is still significantly larger than the other. An artifact of me not paying attention as I move and resize bits and pieces of the prelimenary drawing.)

Once I finally got the color study nailed down I started on the final painting but somehow completely forgot how to mix paint. No matter what I did I couldn’t get the right colors into the image. It was either too magenta, too turquoise tooyellowtoogreentooblue… all bad. I had almost finished the entire painting when I realized that if I didn’t do something drastic this piece was going to kill me and be the literal and figurative end of my entire art career, so I sat down, took a deep breath and repainted the entire robot, the fence, some of the clouds and a few of the buildings in the back. The results were exactly what was needed. The entire piece came together in one evenings work.

Much more pleased with myself and the painting I was almost done. The only thing left to do was fill the blank spot on the side of his head where the number was originally going to go. I didn’t want to put another number in there as these robots have a silly ruleset I came up with when I started the series and as a result can only have the one number per image. I thought of any number (no pun intended.) of things to put there and finally decided a kanji character would sell the piece, so I went online and searched for hours for something that would work. I wanted it simple and I wanted it meaningful to the piece, a multilayered touch to finish out the experience and a subtle treasure for those willing to hunt. But no matter how many websites I went to I couldn’t find the perfect character. The next day at work I sought out the help of a co-worker who’d spent a fair bit of his life living in Japan and knew quite a bit of kanji. I explained to him my predicament so he sat down and started riffing off characters, still nothing fit until finally…

“Here’s one, this character means tree, and when I draw a box around it, do you know what that is?”


“Tree in a box… It means ‘problem’.”