STAIRWAY TO HENNINGER

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<p>Artist James Henninger at his Arts Factory gallery Oct. 18.</p><p style="text-align:right;">photo by LauNCE RAKE</p>

It took a god of rock three years to find James Henninger.

When we say “god,” there are not many people (and fewer living) that we could be talking about, but Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant has to qualify. The man with the amazing range, a taste for American rock roots, a long-time songwriting partnership with guitar-slinger Jimmy Page, the flowing blonde locks and apparently a zucchini tucked into his tight blue jeans came looking to Henninger, a Las Vegas artist, for a family portrait.

Henninger of course obliged.

“Actually it was weird,” he said last week. “I have no idea how he found me. I was in the gallery, a bunch of guys came in.”

They noticed a piece on the people Henninger was completing for another client, and one man mentioned that he was looking for an artist to do a family portrait. Henninger traded contact info, and shortly afterward, Henninger talked to a someone new over the phone.

The stranger said he had checked out the Las Vegas’ artists work online and really liked, and asked if he would paint the family: Plant, his wife and daughter.

“I had no idea who he was,” Henninger said. “A friend told me… I don’t listen to music. It’s happened before.”

Henninger notes that for privacy reasons, he cannot show the family portrait, although he’s happy to show other portraits featuring Plant solo commissioned by other customers.

Henninger has been drawing for almost 40 years, but he just turned pro three years ago. He paints in a distinctive style that the artist called “photo impressionism,” with a nod towards photorealism.

“It’s one of the hardest things to do, to do photorealistic, so this is my impression of the portraits I do,” he says. “When I get better at it I will call it photorealistic.”

Whether its in any of various media for paintings or sculpture, Henninger says he works with a palate of eight tones, working up from white to black, to create his work.

He’s had some other brushes with fame, commissioned to do the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other from photos. And he’s done Mayor Carolyn Goodman’s official portrait.

Henninger said he’s preparing to deliver Plant’s family portrait this week.

You can often find Henninger wearing overalls while working at his gallery, near downtown in the Arts Factory. CL