BY MICKEY KRAMER
You'll typically find Walter DeForest pouring drinks at Ryan's Daughter, the East 85th Street pub. This Sunday he displayed another craft, as he roamed the bar using his artistic talents and sense of whimsy to make an unofficial attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for most portraits drawn in 12 hours.
DeForest is preparing for his one-man show, “Van Gogh Find Yourself,” in which he channels the artist while drawing portraits of audience members.
“Drawing for 12 hours helps me gain access to a creative process much like breathing. Breath is effortless. Acting in the show must be effortless as well and I cannot let drawing get in the way of the story,” said DeForest, also known as #VGFY and whose red beard gives him a resemblance to the troubled Dutch painter.
Around noon, three young brothers visiting from Ireland wandered into the bar to watch hurling matches, but were pleased to have their portraits done.
“It looks just like you,” Daniel, 15, said to middle brother Fergus.
Fergus, 11, called the quick drawing “very detailed.” The youngest sibling, Michael, 5, excitedly spilled two glasses of Sprite, but fortunately not on the finished drawings.
Bar regular Dennis Delisle, 69, was not surprised about the quality of the 5-minute portrait he received, raving about a drawing DeForest did for him months earlier. “He did a color work with chalk that was so good, I got it framed and paid him!” he said.
As he worked the room and the faces, DeForest explained that the first incarnation of “Van Gogh Find Yourself” incorporated a different f-word than “find.”
“I used to do many characters, but then was inspired to draw while in character, and the show evolved to just me as van Gogh,” he said. “It really was me 'finding myself,'” which is when he made the title change.
DeForest will perform “Van Gogh Find Yourself” four times this week (July 12-15) in New York City at 59E59 Theater's East to Edinburgh festival, before taking the show first to London and then to the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.
On August 10, nearby the Adam Smith statue in Edinburgh, DeForest will make an official attempt to break the most-portraits record, which is over 150.
“Vincent painted and drew quickly,” DeForest said of the painter. “That is how at the end of his life he was painting three paintings a day and wrote about an out-of-body experience while painting, watching it happen but not actively doing it ... effortless, enlightened and genius.”
DeForest connects to the artist in a number of ways: van Gogh was buried on July 30, which is DeForest's birthday. And while DeForest was born with a hole in his heart, van Gogh's life ended following a self-inflicted gunshot, yes, to the heart.
John Mansfield came into the bar with some work buddies, had his portrait done, and enjoyed the diversion. ”It was a great experience ... something different and fun.” Mansfield added that it was his first time visiting Ryan's Daughter and that it wouldn't be his last,
DeForest's long day included 56 personalized portraits.
“I took it slow, but it was a good warm-up and learning experience for my attempt next month,” he said.
DeForest concluded by alluding to a partial quote from van Gogh himself: “In time to come there will be hard days, empty of inspiration, so one must strike while the iron is hot.”