Manchester University
Oak Leaves

November 10, 2017

Diesburg Paints MLK to Commemorate 50th Anniversary

Kylie Kroger 

With the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at Manchester approaching, the university is gearing up to celebrate. With multiple events planned to take place around campus to commemorate this event, faculty and students alike are getting prepared.
Art professor Jeffery Diesburg is honing his craft for the occasion. Taking over a sizeable amount of his art studio is his current project: a 5-by-5-foot canvas with a portrait of Dr. King in progress. This piece is significant to Manchester, as it reflects real-life moments from the time King spent on campus. "I got permission to use the references that Manchester University has," Diesburg said. "We have photographs from when King was here speaking. I liked this one because he's in motion. He is active." 

Viewing this piece of art so early in the process offered a preview to the coming attraction. While the piece was mostly constructed of hues of blue and variations of light, Diesburg has a clear vision of where he hopes the piece will end up. "Right now, it might look representational, but it's going to be brighter, with splashier colors," he said. "You can't see it yet, but there are going to be some more vibrant colors, like maybe a limey green, or something along those lines." 

With the charge of depicting such an important historical figure, Diesburg understands the importance of being accurate. "I spent more than ten hours on sketching alone," said Diesburg, taking into account both the sketch on the full-sized canvas, as well as the smaller sketch he uses for reference from the original photograph.  

In addition to his close eye for sketching, Diesburg has paid extensive attention to points that the untrained eye might not pick up, such as the style in which King trimmed his mustache, as well as the manner in which King wore his suits. "You can see he was purposefully trimming his mustache back," Diesburg said. "You can see that his mustache would have naturally grown down further, and that is a style choice I wouldn't necessarily know that King made without looking at a good reference."  

Diesburg has also taken close notice of lighting angles in relation to where King would have been giving his speech. He hopes to reflect that in the piece as well, as it can be helpful in choosing the hues within the painting.  

While there are endless amounts of paintings and artworks that Dr. King inspired, each has its own flare of originality. Diesburg is hoping to add a short phrase or quote to the painting to make it even more personal for the Manchester community.  

Diesburg says he hopes to have the painting completed by the end of the current semester.