Being stuck at home in lockdown has meant more time for painting in the case of mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown. The 49-year-old is well known for his caricatures of celebrities and his latest subject is none other than the late Queen singer Freddie Mercury. Express.co.uk recently caught up with Brown on Zoom, who shared from his art studio just how he captured Freddie for his impressive new portrait.
The affable star said how it’s been very easy for him to get on with painting during the pandemic, due to the extra time on his hands.
He admitted that having “something bigger than you to be getting on with is really important.”
Even before he started taking magic seriously, Brown was drawing from an early age. He spoke of how he was “mesmerised” one day when his mother brought home a ream of yellow paper for him to use. It turns out those exaggerated famous faces he paints today found their origin in big-nosed witches he obsessively sketched as a boy.
The 49-year-old said: “I did Art A-level but I gave up because I was sick of drawing daffodils and peppers.”
But after pinching a bunch of paints from school, he started using acrylics, which he still works with to this day. And rather than inviting celebrities to sit for him, Brown prefers looking at photographs for his paintings.
The artist, who loves listening to Rufus Wainwright while at work, said: “I like to get on with it on my own. If I had to make conversation it would defeat the point!”
Asked why he almost exclusively captures well-known mugs, the illusionist replied: “It’s just how I see people; it’s more of an effort to do a straight portrait when I’m not exaggerating. That’s much harder. The character thing, I’m just sort of drawing what I see.
“You have a sense of what the final image is going to be. Freddie Mercury’s been in my head for a while.”
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So what I’ve gone and done is set up a 3D virtual gallery on my website art page showing a wide range of paintings, and links to prints and buying options for ALL of them. So enjoy the feeling of walking around a gallery like a cultured robot. #acrylic #caricature #art #portrait #acrylicpainting #artcollector #fineart #celebrity #drawing #prints #artprints #originals
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It turns out Brown is good friends with Kenny Everett side-kick Cleo Rocos, who was part of a close circle with Freddie Mercury and even Princess Diana.
The artist said: “I would just hear so many lovely stories about Freddie, but I didn’t really grow up listening to his music. He’s one of those iconic people floating around in my head for a few years. He just seemed an extraordinary, charismatic figure that slowly over the last few years I’ve slipped into liking and had become part of my world.”
But what’s particularly striking about his Freddie Mercury painting is how he’s not caricatured the Queen legend unlike other celebrities such as Benedict Cumberbatch and, more recently, Willem Dafoe.
Explaining why, he said: “Freddie was originally going to be a caricature with the teeth and amazing jawline. But in the end, there was something kind of more impactful in not doing it like that and trying something disciplined, rather than going for that exaggeration.”
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The pose Brown captured is based on a series of Freddie photos he found online, while he added that watching videos of the singer helped too.
Commenting on why people are so transfixed on rock stars like the Queen singer today, he said: “It’s transcendence. Finding something bigger than yourself and losing yourself in that thing.
While adding that in a more secular age “the god-figures become celebrities. Rock concerts are our form of worship.”
Sadly for potential buyers his Freddie painting has already sold to Little Britain star Matt Lucas.
Brown shared how the new Bake Off host already has a portrait of The Queen he painted a while back, adding: “He now has my Queen collection!”
But Freddie fans need not be disappointed as signed and numbered limited edition prints are still available in large and small for £150 and £250 each.
While in terms of which music legend to paint next, the artist admitted he’s thought about David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Prince and even Elvis Presley.
To order a Freddie Mercury print or see more of Derren Brown’s paintings in his impressive Virtual Gallery, click here.
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