2012 may be the year of the dragon in Chinese astrology, but it's the year of the father for local painter Cbabi Bayoc.
Bayoc, whose dad died when he was 11, has portrayed fathers in African-American families throughout his career. This year, the father of three is prioritizing his emphasis on dads in a much bigger way.
"365 Days w/Dad" is Bayoc's New Year's resolution and the name of his project. He plans to paint one father figure each day for the entire year.
The original paintings will be 18 x 24 inches and sell for $200, well below his typical asking price of $1,400. Bayoc will also offer smaller, limited edition, high-quality prints for $50 each. In addition, he's thinking of giving away free 18 x 24 posters from the series.
Recent reports of St. Louis kids playing the deadly "knockout" street game in which they attack random passersby helped reignite Bayoc's passion for promoting the presence of black fathers. It's a passion that goes back to his college days. In one of his first art assignments, he painted an African-American dad combing the hair of his daughter who wears a pink barrette. Afterward, a professor told him pictures of black fathers would never sell.
"I want to prove that people are starving for these images," Bayoc said.
But another kind of hunger is primarily driving the new project. Feeding the family and other responsibilities aren't easy for an artist during a recession.
"I guess it was a little bit out of desperation," Bayoc said. "We got to a financial low and the idea of getting a job came up. I realized I hadn't worked anywhere for real since college so the chances of getting something that could really take care of us were slim."
PLEDGE, THEN PANIC
Bayoc and his wife, Reine, who runs the SweetArt Bakery that also houses his studio, recently brainstormed about the problem.
"I need at least $200 a day, and I thought, 'How can I possibly do that?'" Bayoc said.
The wheels started turning and the idea began to take shape.
"I thought, 'If I'm willing to give eight to nine hours a day to a job, I can give eight to nine hours to an image that will do a lot more good than clocking in and out on a time clock will'," Bayoc said.
The plan is, that beginning Jan. 1, Bayoc will post a new image on Facebook every evening at 7. The first buyer to email him gets the painting.
To prepare for possible sickness or other emergencies, Bayoc will work ahead, perhaps completing two paintings on some days or at least starting a second one before the day's end. For one, he's planning to reprise the little girl with the pink barrette.
To pilot his idea, Bayoc completed a test painting of a little boy kissing his dad on the cheek. Hours after it went up on Facebook, it sold for $275, including shipping.
"It was this guy named George in France. He's bought work from me before," Bayoc said.
Now, as 2011 draws to a close, Bayoc is hoping for the best after making the "365 Days w/Dad" pledge.
"I do wake up some mornings in a panic, now that I've put it out there," Bayoc said. "I'm anxious and excited to see what happens."