Richard Wagner was the first composer whose work I had a real infatuation with. I was in 11th grade and the history teacher, Mr. Honey, was introducing us to early 20th century European history. He dimmed the lights and turned on the record player in the back of the classroom and picked out some mood music, as he often did, and- Wait, you know what's coming next, right?
Well, suffice it to say that the details of the early stirrings of national feeling in post-World War I Germany were for me lost in the Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin. Immediately after the class I hit the school library and checked out an LP called something like "Best of Wagner", with excerpts from his operas. Including both of the Lohengrin preludes, Die Meistersinger Prelude, and the Overture to Tannhauser, which became my particular favorite and was the first thing I ever picked out and memorized on my brother's piano. Well, the first page, anyway; right afterward it gets too hard.
So you know I'm going to try drawing this guy, for my own amusement if no one else's. His face is quite distinctive and caricatures easily, especially when topped off by one of the theatrical hats he affected.
I had an ingenious technical idea: I'd paint the final in oils, but I'd use two colors that would fight each other. I'd use lead white and bitumen; lead white because it's fast- drying, permanent and thick, and bitumen because it was popular in the 19th Century, never fully dries, and therefore almost destroyed the 19th Century art it was used in. Over time, the painting would slowly fall apart, becoming dramatically uglier as the layers of paint, of equal permanence, shifted and cracked.
However, I got bored with the whole project. The painting was dull and didn't, as I secretly hoped, explode, but the sketches of Wagner were good. Here are a few.