My Second Birthday

My Second Birthday, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 40x60 inches

My Second Birthday, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 40×60 inches

In 1997 George Rodrigue first entertained an audience with a painting demonstration at the Red River Revel in Shreveport, Louisiana. His wife Wendy joined him on stage, sharing Rodrigue’s history, while clarifying his style and approach through anecdotes. “I can’t talk and paint at the same time,” said Rodrigue.

This began a tradition, and the artistic team, with their unscripted onstage banter, found themselves in demand across the United States. They presented similar events at the National Arts Educators Association Convention, the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, the Phoenix Art Museum, and numerous book fairs and schools.

For these demonstrations, Rodrigue used large brushes and paint straight from the tube, an approach he developed for public painting because, he admitted, “If I had to sit and watch an artist paint for as long as it really takes, I’d get bored.” He wanted his fans to see a complete painting materialize from a blank canvas in under an hour.

Subject matter usually included both the Blue Dog and the Oak Tree, while Wendy used the canvas as a visual aid to explain Rodrigue’s approach to his favorite and most famous shapes. Other elements favored by Rodrigue for these demonstrations are candles, flowers, and swirls, each adding interest to the composition. At the end of the hour, he named the painting based usually on its content or the location of the event.

In the case of My Second Birthday, named for the two candles, Rodrigue painted on stage at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while his friend Chef Paul Prudhomme cooked alongside him. Wendy and Chef’s assistant Shawn McBride moderated as the two Cajuns swapped stories for the audience.

Afterwards, Rodrigue returned the painting to his studio where he reworked it for anywhere from several days to a week. “People thought it looked good on the stage,” he said. “But I was never happy with it and always repainted it afterwards.”

Prior to these public painting demonstrations, Rodrigue’s brushwork typically was tight. However, influenced by his style on stage, he gradually loosened his approach in the studio as well. As a result many paintings since the late 1990s reveal looser, freer strokes. Eventually, Rodrigue admitted that his favorite way to paint is to simply walk up to the canvas without any preconceived ideas.

“I know it will have a Blue Dog,” said the artist, “but beyond that, the fun for me comes in just letting it happen. That’s why my favorite painting is always the one I’m working on now.”

Read more about George Rodrigue and Chef Paul Prudhomme at the Manship Theatre, including photographs showing the development of the painting My Second Birthday , here-