A steel and glass pyramid stands tall in Nevada. A beam of light shoots out from its apex. For our last painting we decided on the most recognizable hotel on the strip. Our home base for 9 nights, the Luxor Hotel and Casino. Old is new, and new is old, the space time continuum quivers.
Per my modus operandi, I zoned out listening to the same album on repeat. I listened to Mac Miller’s K.I.D.S. on repeat for the first 7 hours of this painting. You can download K.I.D.S. here for free. Mac Miller is a very talented 19-year-old rapper from Pittsburgh.
Let me take you through the development…
After deciding on a head-on composition I dove in with yellow.
Feeling out where to place the pyramid… a little more up and to the left, a little more, perfect. Framing the main subject with the obelisk on the right edge of the canvas. Now there are essentially two edges on the right side.
I decided to lay down gold for the sky and silver for the pyramid. Here comes magenta to create some depth in the image.
More color and more depth. It’s time to add the details now that the general composition is solidified. I put down a dark color for the pyramid, but decided to revert back to the silver.
An action shot with my subject in the background. Headphone in the right ear.
Starting to carve out the form of the sphinx by adding shadows and blue on the headdress.
Jerry Shawback painting hard in the trenches of a vacant hotel lot across the street from the Luxor.
Another action shot now turned directly towards The Luxor.
It was hot out there and apparently my pockets got a little steamy. I decided to put in the trees and was instantly happy with this executive decision. Time to darken the pyramid for real this time.
Dramatic silhoutte photo opportunity on the way back to my easel.
Is that beam of light from the top of the pyramid visible from space? Apparently. Let me note for the record, even with this scientific miracle we had no wi-fi access in our room.
Everything is solidifying quite nicely. A big jump at this time with: highlights and shadows on the trees, reflections on the pyramid, the monorail track, and details on the sphinx.
The blue sky brings out the sphinx’s eyes, and here comes the monorail in the lower left.
View my other Las Vegas paintings:
I love helping a worthwhile cause and I love painting in front of an audience. On the night of the highly anticipated Broadway Bares: Las Vegas 2 Hot performance at Planet Hollywood, Borbay and I painted live in front of 1,000 people.
Here’s how we got involved…
I met Sheila at the sign back on day one. She and her friend Veronica came over to see what I was working on and then requested a painted tattoo. She was friendly so I gladly offered my skills. While I was finishing her “I <3 NV” tattoo Sheila invited us to Broadway Bares. A one night all-star charity event she was choreographing and performing in. Very cool. Even better, I offered our painting services. The next day we received a call from organizer and performer Paula Caselton. She saw our work online and wanted us to join the show.
The locals said it was beautiful, but warned us not to go a block past the uncovered part because it gets kind of sketchy. After walking up and down the street three times we decided on a view focused on the legendary El Cortez Hotel & Casino. It is precariously located two blocks passed the covered portion right on the edge of town. A peaceful Saturday morning on the streets, but this tranquility did not last for long.
We set up our easels across the street from the El Cortez. The security crew came out to ask us the normal questions. Their presence was appreciated on this one. We quickly saw why locals warned us. After eleven o’clock the characters began to emerge from the shadows. Unpredictability hung in the air. While I painted I had several impromptu Las Vegas history lessons involving The El Cortez. While i’m sure they weren’t as thorough and accurate as wikipedia, they were a lot more entertaining and peppered with personal accounts.
To set the scene on day 1: It was hot and dry. We had a cooler of ice. A street festival was starting a block away featuring a concert with the Kottonmouth Kings and Everlast. The line to get into the stage area took place behind us for about 45 minutes during the middle of the day. We watched many malt liquor drinks infused with caffeine get consumed. A general festive energy was in the air. The passersby were some of the most colorful people I have ever met. From our position the music was three hours of noise.
This is the birth of the El Cortez Hotel, 600 Fremont Street painting…
While checking my phone in the morning before leaving for Fremont I came across this photo of Prince from his concert the night before in Los Angeles. It reminded me of my studio in NYC where I have the Purple Rain record hanging on the wall.
After 58 years the Las Vegas icon took its final bets today.
Two weeks ago we decided to paint The Sahara before it shut down.
Let’s celebrate with a recap…
Another dry sunny day in the desert. Great weather for never having to urinate while painting on location. It was particularly hot this morning. We set up on the edge of the property with a fence to our back supplying some welcomed shade.
I sit down for a moment to put on my leg protection.
We set up far away from casino operations. A security guard came out to see what we were doing and went on his way.
I decide on a bold composition that includes The Stratosphere. I block in the main forms with yellow. The proportions are off so I add some dark lines to fix the yellow.
Focusing on The Stratosphere, giving it volume. I add some green to the sky to shake things up. Perhaps inspired by the sounds of the rattling roller coaster and screaming riders.
Time to add the letters. The font is pretty cool. I like how they use the “S” as handles for the doors.
A few hours in to our new painting, the security guards changed shifts. The new crew forced us to leave the property. This is a parting shot of the first vantage point.
A cool view from inside the canopy as we went inside to try to talk to someone that could help us stay in the original location. Of course the referred person was no where to be found. Time to give up on the first location.
Once home to TV legend Dean Martin, now their claim to fame is a 6lb burrito.”It’s child size, literally.” In 2009 the burrito had 275 wins and 4 losses. I decided not to give it a shot.
Getting going in the new location across the street. The wind starts to pick up. At times I find myself holding the canvas securely while I paint. For a few minutes I walk behind me to see what Borbay is doing. As we are looking at his canvas I jokingly say “The wind is going to blow our easels over any second.” Less than a minute later a big gust comes and knocks both our easels over. Our other painting partner Jerry Shawback ends up with a painting covered in sand.
I have a breakthrough moment in the painting and decide to include aspects of both vantage points.
A few touches of detail in the highlights and shadows to wrap it up. That’s Jerry on the left.
The imagery conjures up memories of driving down the strip looking up at the casinos. The bold colors and improvised juxtaposition give the painting a dream like quality. The Sahara may not stand much longer, but it will remain a pillar of Las Vegas history.
This is truly the end of an era. The Sahara is gone, but not forgotten.
Borbay’s Sahara painting and recap:
View other paintings from the Las Vegas trip:
Check out this great time lapse video of Las Vegas that includes us painting, by Allan Gange.
It is my great pleasure to feature this great time lapse video of the Las Vegas strip by Allan Gange. The film features beautiful day and night shots all around Las Vegas. Allan filmed Borbay and I during our second day of painting The Welcome To Las Vegas Sign.
Here is how Allan describes the movie:
Day scenes, night scenes, time lapse and people studies. Filmed during my last trip to Las Vegas April 2011. Thanks to Ari Lankin (arilankin.com) and Borbay (borbay.com) who let me film them working. Music is Nightmare by Artie Shaw. I didn’t have a nightmare but thought the music suited the night scenes especially and the transition from day to night.
A quick anecdote about the filming:
Allan introduced himself, asked us if he could film, and then set up his camera. While he was filming me I could hear someone breathing behind me. I took a half step back and there was a giant camera in my face. I turned and said to the guy “Hey, how are you doing? You could at least say hello.” I wasn’t rude, but I wasn’t overly friendly. I’ve had people photographing and videotaping me all day, but this guy was up in my space. I felt his gut with my elbow, and he didnt even say hello. I instantly returned to painting without giving him much thought. He kept filming for a few more minutes over my shoulder. When he left Borbay says to me, ”You’re overly friendly to every person except for the camera guy working for NBC.” Oops.
Allan has other videos posted on his Vimeo account, and I can’t wait to see more, they keep getting better.
Great job Allan, this video is fire!
As most of you know I just wrapped up a nine night painting trip to Las Vegas with Borbay. Contrary to popular belief we not only managed to survive, but we painted hard. Flying to a destination to paint raises the stakes. Time is limited, the conditions are unknown, and the unexpected will occur.
We started our mission to paint Vegas with one definite painting, the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign. We encountered menacing painting conditions and a circus of visitors. Let me take you there…
The dry heat, blazing sun, and multidirectional dust filled wind was fierce, so I started with a quick compositional sketch.
Time to dive in with the paint. These were the quickest drying paint conditions I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes the paint would dry on the brush before I could put it on the canvas.
First major compositional decision to move the sign higher.
Our first Elvis visit. Borbay’s canvas is on the right.
Starting to really get rolling with most of the canvas touched.
This woman came to the sign to take a picture with her baby bump. I took a quick break to show my support.
Now that the composition is mapped out its time to start adding the details.
Time to add some palm trees, which always reminds me of this painting. At this point I’m starting to feel the painting really come alive.
Action shot of a happy Borbay showing off his dirty fingers. Stay tuned for his finished painting.
I loved the purple mountains in the background so I decided to feature them on the right side of the composition instead of a bunch of mismatched buildings. It was at this point that I realized this painting would incorporate my interest in the relationship of man, nature and technology. I’ll explain more at the end.
I started to add shadows in the last image, but painted over them when I decided to not capture the scene at that time of the day. And thats a wrap for our first day painting in the desert.
Before going to sleep I realized I lost paint that fell out of my easel on the walk home to the hotel. I knew I lost at least four tubes of paint. I decided it was worth a solo walk to look for the paint. Here are two night shots I took of the sign. On my night mission I found one tube. The next morning on our way to the sign Borbay found another tube. 2 of 4 tubes recovered, Hooker’s Green and Violet.
The beginning of day two started with the text in the sign and deciding to get rid of Mandalay Bay in the middle of the background.
Taking a moment to step back and look at my painting from a distance. I also wanted show you guys another Elvis.
Working on the grass, the path, and the road. I selected a composition that invites the viewer into the landscape. I talk more about this at the end.
Time to lock in the time of the day and add shadows again.
A picture of Borbay taking a quick break on the astroturf. See my hat to his left? I had just gotten up from laying down myself. It felt so good. See the canvas in the lower right hand side? That is of our local painter friend Jerry Shawback. We met Jerry on our first day when he came by to see what was going on and ask if he could join us. We met up with him early morning on day two. He turned out to be a great guy and painted with us for the rest of our trip.
It took little time for us to enmesh ourselves with the tourists and local people that frequent this must-see destination. Colorful 4/20 weddings, a preggers chick with “Vegas Baby” painted to match the sign on her belly, a consortium of Elvis’ and conversations with a dope photographer by the name of Gilbert fueled us as we painted. Gilbert showed up towards the end of our second day of painting. He came by to tell me he found paint we left yesterday and stashed it by the bus stop. Ten minutes later he returned with my other two missing tubes. 4 of 4 recovered. Thanks G-man!
I met Sheila and Veronica when Sheila asked me to paint her a tattoo. I was in the zone, but at least she didn’t ask me if I would do a caricature. It turns out Sheila and Veronica are very cool. They will rejoin us later in the week in a much sexier setting, stay tuned for the Broadway Bares painting update.
Sheila and Veronica posing under the sign after the tattoo.
And here is the finished painting.
The iconic sign from 1959 signifies you are entering this man made oasis in the middle of the desert. An oasis that continues to grow with each resort trumping the next. As I painted the sign I realized how beautiful the natural surroundings were. I decided to eliminate all of the resorts in the composition. A vintage throwback image of Vegas. There are three ways of entering the image. The grass on the left is a soft resting spot, the dirt in the middle weaves back and forth, and the hard cement on the right zips right into the background. We may be getting “there” faster, but what are we missing along the way? Which path are you on? Which path is American society on?
Painting on location is a beautiful experience. It’s a race against time as the light is continually changing. Being anchored in one spot all day, often days, allows you to learn things about a foreign location that you don’t even know about the street you live on. The location becomes a living entity. One thing for sure is this location was alive in full Vegas glory.
Here is Borbay’s finished painting. Learn more about his painting and his process by visiting his blog.
View my other Las Vegas paintings:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Planet Hollywood — Las Vegas, NV – April 23, 2011 — Time Out New York’s Most Creative New Yorker, Location Artist Borbay, and Artist Ari Lankin, will be painting live, at Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas for ‘Broadway Bares‘. Sharing the stage with Vegas’ biggest stars, including co-hosts Holly Madison and Josh Stricklan — their resulting 75-minute paintings will be auctioned off to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Upper East Side artist Borbay has painted edgy portraits and famed locations around the world, including The Guggenheim, TriBeCa Grand, Woolworth Building, Elaine’s, Chrysler Building, Hancock Tower (Chicago), Runaway Bay (Jamaica) and San Marco Cathedral (Milan). His architectural impressionist collage paintings have been featured in Time Out New York , Wall Street Journal Japan, New York Post, Whitewall, The Huffington Post, The Source and more.
About Ari Lankin
Lankin creates bodies of work in different visual styles ranging from conceptually based abstraction to photorealism. There is nothing he can’t paint. Lankin worked at The Guggenheim, produced a shoe with Adidas, and has collaborated in a wide variety of projects. “Life is my muse. We make things with tools and ideas. The show travels with us wherever we go.” Ari lives and works in Manhattan.
Ongoing Vegas Action
Lankin and Borbay have painted the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, and will be painting on Fremont Street tomorrow, prior to the charity event. Follow them live on the Twitter hashtag #VegasLive