Shepard Fairey & Bob Dylan


When I was a freshman at the University of Rhode Island, I would frequently take a walk up the campus hill to the Emporium, a one-block stretch of coffee shops, restaurants, and stores. On my way back to the dorm, Bess Eaton iced coffee in hand, I would wait to cross the street at the corner of Fortin and Upper College Roads. That's where I first saw it - right on the stop sign, staring ominously back at me. While I never followed the world of wrestling, I did recognize his face from my all time favorite movie, The Princess Bride. Andre the Giant's mug was on a sticker and he was telling me to OBEY. You may not have heard of Shepard Fairey from his Obey Giant and Andre the Giant Has a Posse stickers, but I'm positive you are familiar with at least one piece of his work. Recall the President Obama HOPE poster, plastered everywhere during his campaign? That was Fairey.

Shepard Fairey holds many titles, among them are street artist, DJ, and guerrilla marketer. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, he once owned a small printing business in Providence, Rhode Island where he produced T-shirt and sticker prints. Fairey has come a long way from his Rhode Island days - he has served on the boards of nonprofit organizations, worked on campaigns for Pepsi, and designed cover art for The Black Eyed Peas and The Smashing Pumpkins. He has also been arrested numerous times for displaying his art, his message, on public property. His technique centers largely around graphic and poster design, silkscreening, and stenciling.

From what I can recall, the first time I heard Bob Dylan sing was in my grandmother's car. I was 13 and we were listening to the Forrest Gump soundtrack. There she sat, mimicking her best Bob Dylan voice while singing, "Everybody must get stoned!" It was quite an audio/visual experience. My love for Bob has flourished since that day and picking my favorite Dylan song would be like asking a mother to choose her favorite child. They each hold a special place in my heart for different reasons. I view him as a poet - when I really sit down and read the lyrics, I am so amazed at the fluidity of his writing and how important every word feels.

As I said before, there are too many Dylan favorites for me to choose from, but I did decide on "It's alright, Ma (I'm only bleeding)" for this mashup. I feel this song really captures the mood of the time period - the anger, resentment, and just an utter disappointment at life. I wanted to capture this mood somehow in a Fairey-esque painting, but really struggled in selecting a subject. I had Pat pose for a few reference photos until I finally came to the realization that I knew the man speaking in this song - a man who is suffering and insecure on the inside but puts on an "It's Alright Ma" bandaid to cover it all on the outside - Don Draper from my favorite series Mad Men. The character of Don Draper puzzles me so much! I hate him, I love him, he disgusts me, he enchants me - I can't figure him out! I watch him and think that he knows he is sinking, that the lies he tells and the secrets he keeps are pulling him under - yet the mirage of a life he has built somehow keeps him afloat. As I read through the lyrics of the song, the following section really stood out and justified my choice of using Don in my mashup.

"Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to. "

[To view the entire lyrics to this song click here.]

This mashup was quite a challenge for me. I'm no painter and I knew painting Don Draper was going to be tough. I started out by searching photos on the internet that I felt could be represent the song. I knew I also wanted to include the "falling ad man" that is featured in the opening credits of the show. Upon deciding on an image, I sketched it out, based solely on the shadows and highlights. From there, I transferred by sketch onto the canvas using carbon paper (Yes! They still make carbon paper and you can buy it at Staples. If you want, you can also purchase graphite transfer paper from your local craft store.) I then chose the four colors I knew I wanted to use and worked section by section applying the color. The project took a little over a week to complete. I think it would have taken longer but I was diligent in my quest to complete it, spending many nights painting on the living room floor (this girl's gotta buy an easel).

I hope you like it - I know I'm pretty I just have to figure out where to hang it.

Shepard Fairey artwork courtesy of

Bob Dylan lyrics courtesy of


  1. B, I've got to tell you that I find myself liking this painting more and more everytime I see it. The photo that is posted here does not do the painting justice. The colors really pop in real life. Well done.

  2. that is awesome. i can't believe you painted that from scratch - it looks exactly like him. and i second your thoughts on don draper - soooo confusing!!