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And the solution

I combined the three portraits as if they were individual pieces taped to a rustic stone wall. I got a chance to play with trompe l'oeil effects and show my painting stages- sketching, black and white oil study then full color oil study. These technical stages also mimic the developmental stages of a person, too.


36" x 36"
oil on canvas

Special thanks goes out to Mr. Dumont who commissioned the piece and entrusted
me with the concept of such a peculiar portrait.

Comments (51)



Steve M:

Ohhhhh...so this would be a jpeg of a photo of a painting of a sketch of a study of an oil of some photos.

You know, I don't think I've ever seen the 3 ages of a person in one painting before. You could be on to something.


Not to be a negative Nancy, but this is the same style you have used in the past for an awful lot of different things.

It's also just the same three pictures re-arranged.

What's the difference between doing this and putting them in a three-photo frame?

You are in a rut, Mr. Cox and need some inspiration.

john cox:

The Him

Thanks for expressing your thoughts, sir.

I just got a kick out of doing work that was so applicable to a triple portrait.

Yes, I've maintained a certain theme in my work and I intend to keep exploring the depths of realistic painting.


Everyone's an 'art critic'. You should hear the jibes I've had to suffer over my 4 "Elvis on velvet under blacklight paintings".


While it's antithetical to much of your work, I like the way you minimized the effect of that ridiculous "lift & squish" cleavage sling in your painting as compared to the photograph.

T. likes 'em natch'l.


Terwiliger: That was a good one. I appreciate this site not just for Johns art but for the general good nature of the posters.

Mr. Cox, I'm an artist myself and do not think that I am any better than you are. It did not appear that I offended you, so I am not trying to sound defensive.

I do assume, though, that when you post your work for commentary you are looking for creative criticism so I gave a little.

It's the same reason I don't play pool against people I know I can beat. You don't get any better that way.

john cox:

HEY TheHim

You made a good point and I wanted to let you know I take no umbrage when a commenter makes a personal, HONEST point.

I would suggest that this "rut" of which you speak is a bit vague. As an artist, you must know that focusing on a particular interest is no shortcut or narrow approach to one's thought process. In fact, I believe pursuing a visual theme opens up all kinds of possibilities.

I'd like to hear from any other artist out there about this matter of repetition in a body of work. When is it an obstacle to the creative process and when is it liberating?

Thanks for making yourself clear.

Steve M:

Picasso was also in a rut with whole Cubism thing. And Sargent with those endless portraits. Rubens and his fleshy women. Now that I think about it Art is one big rut.

john cox:


Pointed and absurd. Nice


Life is one big rut. You either get out there & live it--give it your best shot--knowing that just about everything is highly repetitive & derivative by nature--or you throw in the towel & become a loyal subject of somebody who has more gumption than you do.

If you keep working at it & you keep your eyes open, you might come across something a little bit different & make some small impact on the world.

If you're a loyal subject in a society that affords you many freedoms (including speech) yet makes no demands on you in terms of responsibility, you live comfortably & securely on your daily rations (like Cowboy's dog)--& you might even ridicule those who labor on--until you see somebody who persevered through the drudgery & made a little something for themselves, & then you stake a concocted "claim" to the fruits of their labor in the name of egalitarianism.



That little screed wasn't directed at you--it's more of a tangent.

However, your [hopefully] constructive criticism butted up with the responses that followed, & I integrated your point with the ideas in the responses that followed to flex my rhetorical muscles a little bit.


Terwiliger: I wouldn't know where to begin on that one.

Mr. Cox: I think, perhaps, I was projecting a bit with the "rut" comment. I find myself repeating themes sometimes, even when I don't find they fit as well as they should. It's a pattern I try and break so that I don't use a particular look or style just because I know I can.

It can be a particular problem when you have a deadline, such as a commissioned work like this one. Rather do it in a way I know will work out acceptably than take the risk.

I did a similar portrait of someone a little while back (which I unfortunately no longer have) and was VERY tempted to use a similar composition just because it seemed obvious. I went in an entirely different direction with it and was a lot more pleased wit the outcome.

Like I said, maybe it was projection.

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John Cox is a painter, cartoonist, and illustrator for hire. For information about purchasing existing work or commissioning new work, contact him by e-mail at john555cox [at] hotmail.com.

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