When Jennifer Leaver asked Mickey’s Tavern bartender Fred if she could photograph and paint him, she never expected the piece would spark a full series of portraits of the local fixtures.
Leaver said she originally planned to only paint Fred because she liked his look, but in time, she found she wanted to paint all the bartenders of the Williamson Street establishment.
Leaver said she created 13 portraits in total, one for each of the bartenders at the tavern. However, only four are still in her possession, as locals who feel a strong connection to the bartenders purchased them almost immediately, she said.
She said she aimed to capture the individual personalities of each bartender in her artwork.
“I wanted them all to look visually similar and kind of have some cohesion, but at the same time be very individual,” Leaver said. “They each have their own unique personality.”
The bartenders were all excited about the idea of a collection of paintings done on their behalf, she said. Leaver began painting the series last August and finished the final portrait in January.
Karly Fordahl, bar manager at Mickey’s Tavern, said the bartenders enjoyed having their portraits done and the series of paintings was well-received at a showing at the bar Jan. 18.
“Everyone enjoyed it, including our customer base, which is a hugely regular customer base,” Fordahl said. “The show turnout was off the charts.”
Leaver, a 30-year-old artist from Mundelein, Ill., said her pursuit of art lead her to move out east where she attended the Rhode Island School of Design. After completing a four-year degree program, she worked in New York City before moving back to the Midwest. She now works as a graphic designer for Pacific Cycle in Madison.
She said the popularity that came with this series of paintings was a pleasant surprise. It is easily the most successful group of paintings she has done and was an enjoyable experience, she said.
Leaver added her success is mainly due to Madison’s appreciation for and support of the arts.
“Madison is very open,” Leaver said. “It seems like everyone here really supports local craftsmen.”
Leaver’s portraits can be found on her Tumblr page and other pieces of her work are in a display rotation at Mother’s Fool Cafe on Williamson Street.