Fastest brush in the west


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DANVILLE — Local speed painter John Jansky already knows what he's wearing to a celebrity event in Malibu, Calif., next week in honor of Danville native Dick Van Dyke, who turns 90 next month.

A tuxedo, of course.

Never mind the paint splatters on the jacket.

But he is opting for pants this time rather than the shorts he often pairs with the $90 tuxedo jacket he scored at Burlington Coat Factory after retiring his first one when it became too stiff with dried paint that splatters, or is purposely wiped on his jacket, during his performances.

"It's almost surreal," Jansky said of the opportunity to hop a plane for California and speed paint Van Dyke in the presence of the song and dance icon most famous for his roles in "Mary Poppins," "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and TV's "Diagnosis Murder."

Several months ago, Jansky whipped up a portrait of Van Dyke in 4 minutes and 30 seconds during a fundraising event in downtown Danville. (His fastest portrait ever — of Howard Stern in 90 seconds — was for an "America's Got Talent" tryout. He's also speed-painted Barack Obama.)

A woman in the front row captured video of Jansky creating the Van Dyke portrait and posted it on Facebook.

The video eventually caught the eye of Van Dyke's wife, Arlene, who messaged Jansky on Facebook, asking if he really did paint her husband's likeness in less than five minutes.

"My heart was racing," Jansky said of the moment he saw her message on his smartphone.

After confirming that he did, in fact, paint it that fast, she asked if he'd be willing to come to California to perform during an event at the Malibu Playhouse, a nonprofit community theater where Arlene Van Dyke serves on the executive advisory board and Dick Van Dyke is listed as a supporter, along with other celebrities.

"Growing up in Danville, going to Danville High School, seeing his name and face all over — to me, this is a big deal," Jansky said.

A husband and father of three, Jansky works as an operations manager for the Auto Zone Distribution Center in Danville.

Since 2008, when he video-taped himself quickly painting a Barack Obama portrait, Jansky has been building a part-time career as a speed painter who blends music and magic into his swift yet precise portraits of famous people.

His craft has evolved in recent years. He likes the element of surprise, not revealing beforehand the subject of his paintings, and bumping up the "wow" moment sometimes by painting the image upside down. He's even painted while wielding an electric guitar that's on fire.

Requests for him to perform at concerts, festivals and charity events — where his portraits are often auctioned off — continue to grow.

But this request is extra special, he said, since he's going to be representing Danville at an event featuring Van Dyke.

"I'm anxious but not nervous," he said.

The Dick Van Dyke Fan Art Exhibit, which opens Oct. 2 at the Malibu Playhouse, features Jansky, who anticipates doing two paintings on 48-inch-by-48-inch canvasses, along with other artists, whose work will be auctioned off to benefit the theater.

The event also includes performances by The Vantastix, a vocal quartet featuring Van Dyke.

Jansky said he's supposed to receive some of the proceeds from the auction of his painting, but he told Arlene Van Dyke to keep it all for the theater, because he's not doing it for money.

"Just an opportunity to get a picture with Dick Van Dyke will be awesome," said Jansky, who lined up several Champaign and Danville businesses to sponsor part of his trip to California.