Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

🎥 My C-SPAN Debut (VIDEO)

Best State of the Union Address Ever

Live painting at President Biden’s third State of the Union (SOTU) address was, for me, a milestone three years in the making.

During Biden’s first SOTU, in 2022, I staked out the bathroom outside the House chamber, a popular spot for members who’d been pregaming over dinner.

NPR had me on the following morning with The New Republic editor Michael Tomasky who I mistakenly referred to as editor of The Nation.

I emailed Tomasky to apologize after our segment. He said, in essence, no sweat and pitch me anytime. So I did! And I’ve been reporting for The New Republic ever since.

By Biden’s 2nd SOTU, I was an emerging artist, so I brought a sketch pad and pencil to draw the reporters staking out the long processions of luminaries that walk through Statuary Hall on their way to the House chamber. Here’s one of the sketches I drew last year — 

One of my SOTU sketches of reporters from 2023

The sketch hung on my fridge for over a year, reminding me each day of the art potential of SOTU. So this month at Biden’s 3rd SOTU, I made my move, bringing a full-on oil painting kit to the Capitol. Speaker Johnson’s team gave me the green light to paint above Statuary Hall, and the rest was history.

Artist’s Note

The paintings I banged out during SOTU were hindered by two factors — 

  • Inexperience. I haven’t live painted much. The 4 to 7 portraits I paint each week are almost entirely based on reference photos.

  • Lighting. A floodlight from a news broadcaster was shining directly up at me during SOTU, hindering my ability to see color properly.

The result is two canvases that still require some extra work before I’d call them final versions. That that end, I’ve begun color correcting the lower one while I decide what to do next with one up top — 

My live paintings of SOTU, in progress.

Whether either of these will hang in the Speaker’s office has yet to be determined. Nancy Pelosi’s team hung one of my pop art portraits of her in the press room of the Speaker’s suite. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership didn’t much engage with my portraits which, to be fair, is probably because I only had time to paint him once before he was vacated.

Anyway, my C-SPAN debut, which you can watch above if you haven’t already, went mini-viral. A reporter for Washingtonian reached out to write a profile of me as an oil painter. She came to my studio last night with a photographer to interview me and some of my painting friends. I’ll be sure to share the profile here when it runs. Meanwhile, feel free to contact me directly about commissions.

Happy Friday!

— Pablo

Pablo's World
Updates about art