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Painting By The Numbers

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It's one thing to flatter your partner (and agency co-founder) in a piece of art. It's another to do so with a client in mind. Laughlin/Constable partner John Constable managed to do both for charity earlier this month.

The event, benefitting the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising and Design, featured artists creating paintings on the spot for auction. Constable, a former art director (he's now semi-retired), painted a picture of Steve Laughlin atop his beloved Buell motorcycle. (Buell is a client of the independent Milwaukee agency.)

"I have a history of automotive art," says Constable, who painted a 1957 Cadillac at last year's event. "This year I was groping for what would be different, and once I thought of a motorcycle, one thing led to another."

Ever the businessman, Constable knew the oil painting would sell quickly ... to Laughlin, who had agreed in advance to buy it. ("Flattery got him everywhere," jokes the benefactor.) But things got more expensive than Laughlin bargained for, as he got into a bidding war with a couple who wanted the painting for their 12-year-old son. "The kid left in tears," says Laughlin, who promised the boy a silk-screened copy.

Laughlin won't say what he paid but insists it was on par with what you'd dish out at a gallery. "I was not offered the budget plan in our original negotiation," he says.

Things worked out for Constable as well. He has already received a commission from one of the charity's patrons to create a similar painting for a holiday gift.