It’s a bit of a grim job, but local artist Tony Mraz is happy to do it.
When an influential celebrity dies-and if the staff at Aretha Frankenstein’s thinks the death is noteworthy enough-Mraz is commissioned to provide one of his signature chalk drawings on the restaurant’s welcome sign.
2016 has been a busy year for Mraz. He’s already paid tribute to David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy Kilmister, Merle Haggard and actor Kenny Baker (the actor who portrayed R2-D2 in the “Star Wars” franchise).
And this week, Mraz was once again called upon to pay homage-this time with a drawing of actor Gene Wilder, who died Monday. Mraz had completed the drawing by that evening, and it will remain until the next celebrity dies.
Mraz described his work as “cartoony realism.”
“When I do the chalk drawings, I go for their most iconic picture, but I try to make it look a little cartoony,” he said. “I want it to be instantly recognizable for what it is.”
In the case of Wilder, Mraz chose his iconic role of Willy Wonka and the now-famous photo that is also a popular internet meme.
“I was a big Gene Wilder fan when I was growing up,” Mraz said. “I was in the theater and I did the part of ‘Willy Wonka’ … [and] studied his acting and emulated him a lot. He was a big inspiration to me as far as acting goes.”
The chalk drawing is at 518 Tremont St. The full-size image can also be viewed on Aretha Frankenstein’s Facebook page.
Mraz said much of the art he’s bringing to the gallery will be more abstract than the chalk drawings.
“I’ve got several ongoing projects that I keep adding pieces to,” he said. “[There will be] the chalkboard drawings, the concert paintings, and I’m working on a series of larger-scale portraits.”
More of Mraz’s art can be viewed at his website.
Many locals will know his work from area music venues. His abstract paintings of concerts around town are among his most popular pieces.
As for the chalk drawings, Mraz said he hopes Wilder’s is the last for the time being.
“I hope that nobody else dies for at least a little while,” he said. “But I’ll be there when another one does.”