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Paul and Elvis: Circus Mind Book Process March 4th, 2013

Last year I was asked by Ryan Cox to contribute to a book filled with his poetry about the musicians he loves, A Circus Mind. Since I was asked to paint Elvis and Paul McCartney I jumped at the chance, especially since I got to work with a bunch of talented artists: Elissa Parente, Andy Potts, Julia Minamata, Samone Murphy, & Zela Lobb and my friend and one of the talented illustrators,  Dushan Milic was the designer of the book. Everyone did a beautiful job and I was so excited to have the book delivered to me this week.

Elvis' Last Days - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

A Circus Mind - by Ryan Cox - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

My first illustration was about the urban legend suggesting that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a look-alike. For more about this legend check out this link. So I illustrated a sad confused looking Paul in his coffin surrounded by hints of his demise and the use of his doppelganger. I love the hilarious side note that the Beatles started resenting the fake Paul and nicknamed him “Faul”.

Paul is Dead - A Circus Mind - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

Alan Parson, engineer of The Beatles “White Album”, claimed that he created the phase “turn me on dead man”, which can be heard when playback “number 9″ from “Revolution 9″ in reverse direction. But John Lennon, who created Revolution 9 said that the “Number 9″ was just an engineer’s testing tape with a voice saying “This is EMI Test Series Number 9″. Believers of this “Paul is Dead” conspiracy believe that this hints to poor Paul’s death.

Paul is Dead - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

Another one of these hints to Paul’s death is visual clues on the Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. If a mirror is placed horizontally across the middle of the Sgt Pepper bass drum, bisecting the words ‘Lonely hearts’, the phrase “I ONE IX HE DIE” can be seen. This was taken to mean “11 9 HE DIE”, a reference to the supposed date of the ‘real’ Paul’s death, 9 November. Another interpretation of this is that “1 ONE 1″ represents the three other Beatles, and the X represents the dead McCartney. A diamond symbol between HE and DIE points upwards to McCartney. Surely there must have been easier ways to suggest this wicked ruse? Just reading about it is exhausting.


Paul is Dead - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

In an edition of Life magazine dated 7 November 1969, McCartney reassured fans that “Rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” paraphrasing Mark Twain. “However,” he continued, “if I was dead, I’m sure I’d be the last to know.”

Paul is Dead - Process - Jacqui Oakley Illiustration

Here are my linears for Elvis and Paul. With Paul’s concept I was toying with the idea of adding even more symbols in the flowers that relate to the controversy of his supposed death as you can see from those wee pics I pasted in amongst the lilies. At the end I though this was a bit too much, although it would have been fun to paint doll and a walrus head.

Paul and Elvis sketch - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

He’s the process for chubby Elvis. It was actually really hard to do a portrait of Elvis in his last days. He really didn’t look like himself at all so I had to merge a bit of the younger Elvis with some extra flesh and a disheartened look. As usual with portraits I print out multiple images from the web and combine them so I understand the structure of the face and at the end the illustration has a more unique look. For me, the most important aspect of this portrait was for his eyes to communicate a subtle weariness over his life.

Elvis - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

At some point my Elvis was looking a bit too much like a sultry Bollywood star with his dark locks, his long eyelashes and seductive eyes, but I think I turned him around. Phew! There’s a lot of pressure to paint “the King”. Here’s some of the process:


Here’s a selection of pages from the book. There are many more beautiful illustrations by more illustrators too, so be sure to pick up the book here. Below is a vibrant Janis Joplin by Zela Lobb:

A Circus Mind - Janis Joplin - Zela Lobb Illustration

My Paul McCartney:

A Circus Mind - Paul is Dead - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

Dushan Milic’s portrait of Rick Rubin has to be my favourite. Such good colours and just look at that magnificent beard!

A Circus Mind - Rick Rubin - by Dushan Milic

Elissa Parente has tons of work in the book including this fabulous Bob Dylan piece. Her loose painterly style is so expressive.

A Circus Mind - Bob Dylan - Elissa Parente Illustration

and my chubby Elvis:

A Circus Mind - Elvis's Last Days - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

Elvis' Last Days - Jacqui Oakley Illustration

As I mentioned before there are tons of great images in this book, check out all the illustrators’ sites for more sneak peaks and be sure to buy a copy of The Circus Mind here. Thanks so much to Dushan and Ryan Cox for having me on this project. It turned out so great.

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