Artist Kristopher B. Meadows Honors Christopher Reeve
Kristopher B Meadows is a gifted portrait artist, sculptor and teacher, and a huge Christopher Reeve Superman fan. It has been an honor and pleasure to be able to call Kris a “Super Special Friend” for over 14 years. We first met at the 1994 Dixie Trek Convention where Christopher Reeve and Noel Neill were the Guests of Honor.
Kris is most well known in the Superman community for his amazing Christopher Reeve Superman paintings and custom-made action figure (see below). His greatest “claim-to-fame” is perhaps the American flag Superman painting entitled, “Someone To Believe In”, that instantly became the very art piece that Christopher Reeve recognized and acknowledged as his favorite as the Man of Steel. It proudly hung behind Chris’ desk even after his passing on October 10, 2004.
Kris’ ability to capture people’s likenesses in various art mediums is superb. In my years as a Christopher Reeve aficionado, I would rank Kris as the top portrait artist in the world who has perfectly captured Christopher Reeve’s likeness and essence as the Super Man we have come to know and love as our “friend” and inspiration. CapedWonder.com is thrilled to be able to showcase the Christopher Reeve Superman work of this incredibly dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic artist who strives for great detail and perfection.
Visit Kris’ official website here.
Below you’ll learn more from Kris about his Christopher Reeve works over the past 17 years.
Please enjoy these three videos shot by me at Kris’ home on October 31, 2014.
“Always A Friend”
Oil on canvas, 24″ x 20″, collection of the artist.
Updated 05 November 2015
Here are photos of Kris’ latest oil on canvas portrait, “Always A Friend”, named by Jim Bowers. It is yet another phenomenal creation by Kris.
Please excuse the heavy watermarking; it exists to protect Kris’ copyrighted work from unauthorized duplication.
“Someone To Believe In”
Oil on canvas, 48″ x 30″, collection of the artist.
“This painting is very special to me. It is the very first painting I ever did of Christopher Reeve. The photo I used for the painting of Chris came from the collection of Jim Bowers. Through Jim, I was able to get a framed copy of the painting to Chris which he had hung in his home office for four years before he passed away. Chris wrote a personal letter thanking me for the print.
The image of Chris struck me as almost identical to the one of the Statue of Liberty, therefore, I felt it appropriate to include the American flag in the background. The colors of the flag were influenced by the painting, Rosie The Riveter by Norman Rockwell. Here I chose to include three stripes each of the red and white along with four stars since Chris was 34 years old when he last donned the famous tights in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. I felt I had come full circle when I did this painting, as I learned to draw by copying comic book covers as a child…and no character was more beloved by me than Superman.
I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher Reeve on May 14, 1994…just barely a year before his accident that left him paralyzed. He could not have been any nicer and more genuine. He was told only to give one autograph and no photos per fan at the Dixie Trek Convention in Atlanta. Chris signed two photos for me, one Mint In Box Superman movie figure featuring his likeness, and I shot a photo with him, as did my girlfriend at the time. He truly embodied what it means to be a ‘Superman’. I still miss him.”
Chris was photographed in his New York home office with the print behind him by professional photographer Jez Coulson in 2003. Many of the photos appeared in various publications after Chris passed away, as well as in the Warner Bros. documentary, Look Up In The Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman. Two “best of” photos are featured below and are exclusive to this website.
“Last Son of Krypton”
Oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″, 1999, collection of Jim Bowers.
“This painting was done for my friend Jim Bowers in December of 1999 as a Christmas gift just three months before he left Atlanta to move to Reno. Jim was the first person I ever met that was as crazy about Christopher Reeve as Superman as I was…apparently we were not alone. There are tens of thousands of fans across the globe!
In this painting I wanted to include Jor-El (Brando) in the background as well as the doomed planet Krypton. I wanted to repeat the red, yellow and blue color scheme from Superman’s costume in the galaxies and stars in the atmosphere behind Jor-El’s head. I also chose to paint Jor-El’s head in a pale color of the green crystal that helps summon him to give his son the last of his powers to make Clark Kent Superman once again in Superman 2: The Donner Cut.”
Drawn on graphite on coquille paper, 16″ x 20″, collection of the artist.
“This image is the very first drawing of Christopher Reeve as Superman that I created as an adult. The drawing is done with graphite pencils: HB, 2B, 4B and an Ebony pencil (equal to an 8B soft black lead pencil) on coquille paper. The composition was carefully drawn freehand, lightly beginning with an HB pencil to avoid having to erase any areas. I find by taking my time to be accurate, I avoid having to erase any areas that might otherwise damage the paper’s surface, even though coquille paper is fairly durable. Then once my construction lines were complete I began the “fill-in” process starting with the eyes and moving down his face. Using progressively softer and darker pencils from an HB to an Ebony pencil, I worked toward building the details carefully and accurately. I usually begin with the face to establish the level of detail and realism and keep other areas a little less detailed than my main focal point.
The paper has an interesting stippled texture to it that allows for an easier half tone to be created when using soft pencils and light pressure. The graphite builds on the tops of the paper’s surface texture and leaves minute areas of white paper behind creating a stippled effect. Applying more pressure with a softer lead pencil will create darker, blacker areas of the drawing while lighter pressure and harder pencils will produce a grayer appearance. I wanted to create a multitude of subtle variations in the black and white drawing. I also wanted to capture the “construction” of the S-shield on his chest accurately in every detail. Even the top-stitching is visible around the outside edges of the three small “yellow” pieces of the S-shield. The texture of the hair presented a challenge of it’s own. It wasn’t difficult just time consuming and took a couple of days to get the right look and depth I was after. With the hair I began on the left side of the paper moving steadily toward the right side as I built up the hair’s texture. Since I am right handed this worked out well. My hand was always clear of resting on any areas of the hair that I had just penciled in. This way I wouldn’t risk smearing the hair which required building up the pencil layers to achieve the proper depth.
This paper is extremely difficult to find but is still being manufactured today. I hope to create more drawings like this one day.”
“Saving Grace: A Hero’s Rescue”
Oil on canvas, 24″ x 30″, 2004, collection of Brad Bartels.
“Brad Bartels commissioned me in 2004 to create a painting of Superman based on an illustration by Jon Bogdanov. Bogdanov’s illustration is taken from a collection of Superman stories printed by DC Comics in the late 80s. The original concept featured Superman stepping out onto a ledge of a burning apartment building after rescuing a baby from inside. In Bogdanov’s illustration the POV (point-of-view) was an arial shot looking downward at Superman and the baby with fire trucks on the city street several stories below. Alex Ross recreated this image in his watercolor/gouache technique in the late 90’s – early 2000’s when DC Comics published a tabloid size collection of Superman stories which recounted this scene. Again the POV was an arial shot looking down on the action.
For my re-invisioning of this scene I thought it would be best to focus “the camera” on the subjects themselves to capture the emotional connection between Superman and the child he had just saved. To me an upward shot (POV) suggested a feeling of the action being “larger than life” like our hero, Superman. Since Mr. Bartels was a proud new father of a baby girl, I wanted him to connect with the paternal quality and pride that Superman would feel in saving a child from impending doom. I posed my model, my wife’s cousin, Andrew “Andy” Ellinas, looking down toward the child in his arms with a doting, paternal look on his face in a brief moment before he (Superman) “flies” the child to safety. The child looks back at our hero with a gentle expression of peace and happiness knowing she is safe in his arms.
The title for this painting came to me when I thought it would be fun to infer a kind of double entendre (French for ‘double meaning’) in the title. “Saving Grace” (a term meaning a redeeming quality, especially one that compensates for one’s shortcomings) here refers to both the child’s name – “Grace” – and Superman’s redeeming quality – saving a child – despite his shortcoming of being unable to have children of his own as he is the last of his kind (keep in mind this was prior to Superman Returns being released in theaters). The child’s dependency on the hero to “save the day” or “Save Grace” gives our hero a sense of pride and joy to feel needed by the world he has adopted as his home. The emotion is evident in the close-up photo of Andy’s face. I remember telling Andy to “think happy thoughts while looking at the ‘child’ like it was your own daughter”. I think he did a great job of emoting and I did my best to carry the expression over into the portrait. I remember having the images of Superman (Reeve) saving Lois Lane (Kidder) in the helicopter rescue scene in Superman the Movie clearly in mind while creating this painting. The look of joy on his (Reeve’s) face as he saved the love of his life was what I was aiming for in my painting as well. After all Superman’s self appointed duty lies in being Earth’s greatest protector and he finds joy and purpose in doing so.
As for the overall color scheme I felt it best to set this scene at night. This created a higher color contrast between the warm yellows and reds of the fire set against the cool blues in the night sky that reflect in our hero as well as the child. In addition, the color scheme of the surrounding background repeats the colors of Superman’s costume thereby uniting the image chromatically (color wise). The window frame was created using stretcher bars used for making stretched canvases which are my favorite painting surface. The fire, brick and broken glass along the inside edge of the window frame were taken from references found on the internet. The “baby” doll was purchased at Toys R US. The Superman suit is one that my Grandmother and I made together many years ago. I shot the reference photos lying on my back looking upward toward “the action” in my studio in 2004. The painting commenced soon after. Needless to say Mr. Bartels was more than pleased with the final painting and he proudly displays it in his “Fortress of Solitude” (a room that was created to look identical to the interior of the Fortress of Solitude as seen in Superman the Movie).
These photos (below) of my wife’s cousin, Andrew “Andy” Ellinas, were the main reference images used for the painting Saving Grace: A Hero’s Rescue.”
Superman-The Movie Poster Concepts
“These are a few of the ink drawings I created in late 2000 – early 2001 using a fine tip permanent micron pen on smooth vellum paper. They represent what I would like to have seen in a movie poster using the main characters from the film in a collage type format. I was very inspired by the illustrations of Drew Struzan at the time. I abandoned this project temporarily until I could achieve a more satisfying composition and turned my attention toward other Superman related projects.
For my next project I created a perfect replica of the 1940 Ideal Superman wood doll that featured a ball jointed wood doll and wood composition figure complete with cloth cape. The figure was cast in a resin/wood pulp mixture directly from molds pulled from my original 1940 Ideal Superman Wood doll. After that, I turned my attention toward completion of my second prototype 12 3/4” cloth costumed Christopher Reeve Superman The Movie figure. Prior to finishing the Reeve figure I began work on a Bruce Timm Animated Supergirl maquette in scale with the Warner Bros. Studio Store animated maquettes. I finished the Reeve figure first then the Supergirl animated maquette by the end of the first quarter in 2004.
Weeks became months became years and now more than a decade later I am close to revisiting this project again very soon. I am determined to fulfill my dream of creating what I believe is the perfect Superman The Movie poster.”
Custom Superman Action Figure
In the late 90s, Kris took on the daunting task of creating a custom Christopher Reeve Superman action figure complete with a hand-sewn, movie-accurate costume. As you can see from the photos below, the end result is fantastic! Less than five were made, so the vast majority of fans consider it to be a prized collectible today.