Phil McKenney, a Montross original, keeps developing and expanding his original artistic pursuits. Currently, he is showcasing his portraits of Rock ‘n Roll stars of the mid to late 1950s while telling their stories and giving catchy renditions of some of their hit songs. This summer he’s given about one show a week, and last week he brightened the day for the seniors at Commonwealth Assisted Living in Farnham.
“I never saw this coming,” said the 1973 W&L High School grad. “If someone had told me 2 ½ years ago that I’d be doing this, I’d have said, ‘Man, you’ve got to be nuts!’ This is a whole new direction for me. I’ve never been in a band or sang in the church choir. I don’t think I’ve ever taken myself this far out of my comfort zone. But the artistic creative challenge makes it worth doing.”
Performing for seniors who knew the songs in their youth is also satisfying for McKenney. “Sometimes they sung along, or share a memory about the songs or artists,” he said. “When they enjoy it, I’m so glad.” Performing at Farnham has special meaning for him because his mom, Lucy Walker McKenney, lived there for a time until her passing in 2009.
McKenney began painting these portraits in January of 2016. “It wasn’t intentional,” he said. “I read a biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, a ‘50s singer I had always admired. When I finished it I was drawn to paint his portrait in a new style I was working on.”
He described the process using a traditional ink pen that you dip in black ink. It sometimes leaves accidental drips on the painting that gives it added interest, or he can make it drip where he wants for an individualized accent. There is a cartoonish approach with an element of caricature, a little color, and very little background.
“I try to capture the essence of the personality of the person without regard to any formal or established artistic style. I like a lot of open or white space in the portraits because that leaves out distractions and lets the viewer fill out the image using their own imagination.” McKenney said.
For the full article pick up a copy of this weeks Northern Neck News 8/29/18