This is an older painting that I put in the show. This is also the one that got the Nominee Ribbon. It is my William-Adolphe Rodriguezeau style.
This is an older painting that I put in the show. This is also the one that got the Nominee Ribbon. It is my William-Adolphe Rodriguezeau style.
They had to drag me, kicking and screaming, into Fine Art. I’m an illustrator, and except for a short deluded period in art school, that’s what I’ve always wanted to be. But all my friends have left illustration for fine art, and keep telling me how wonderful it is to create your own imagery. But see, I often have that with illustration anyway.
I figured I’d give it a try. It was fun, and I will do it again. I learned a lot about what has to be different next time. Like, I will need a more prestigious show, with people with more money, of course. I guess the question is, will the more prestigious show want me.
There is a thing in California, or maybe everywhere, I’m not exactly sure….but everyone seems to do landscapes and animals. Incredibly beautifully painted landscapes, by incredibly gifted artists. I think landscapes must sell well. But I really don’t want to paint pretty pictures. I have to look around more and pay attention to people who do more idiosyncratic work to see if there is a spot for me somewhere. I’m thinking of people like Kenton Nelson and Steve Huston. There are many others that are doing well with their own personal imagery. Steve has probably never painted a landscape in his life.
I love Eric Bowman’s work, and he does paint landscapes, but in such a personally distinctive way, that somehow it takes it out of the realm of painters that I am struggling to come to terms with right now. So, I am very confused, and searching for answers. This is all so new.
Since back in the beginning of my career, I’ve always enjoyed painting billowing fabric around figures. Very dramatic, and I love the reflected light, and the abstracted shapes. I painted cloaks, dresses, curtains, sheets blowing in the wind. I think I was inspired by N. C. Wyeth in that, and it evolved. So when it came time for this show, I thought to leave out the figures and just do the fabric. We went down to the beach at sunset and tossed bolts of fabric up in the air and shot away. Someone asked if we were doing a commercial for a fabric store.
I sold a painting I did during the Quick Draw, where you have to paint it in one hour. At $350, that was pretty decent. But I figure you’d have to paint several a day to make a living. I did win a nominee ribbon for Best in Show for my San Gabriel VAllegory painting I did a few years ago. There were five of those ribbons. But for my first fine art show, I was happy with that.
It was definitely an interesting experience, and it gave me a lot to think about. But for now, look for me in the Workbook, not American Artist.
Pop Art: Art based on modern popular culture and the mass media, especially as a critical or ironic comment on traditional fine art values.
When Andy Warhol painted his Campbell’s Tomato Soup can, and his Brillo boxes, it was obvious where the imagery came from. He was taking common, everyday objects that were universally recognized, and by enlarging them, he made them into fine art. He took utilitarian products and gave them value by enshrining them in art museums, and basically taking away their useful purpose. I get it.
I went to the Masters of the West 2018, and in the case of one painting, I think I missed the point. It is Billy Schenck’s large painting of The Wild Bunch which sold for $45,000. But I don’t think the N. C. Wyeth painting that it is based on, is quite as iconic as Campbell Soup cans. I doubt that most people who see the show will realize that he is mocking, or as the August 2014 article in Southwest Art Magazine describes it, he is taking “a stance…a pendulum between the romantic and irreverent.” I would imagine that most people would think he had designed the piece himself.
But maybe not. Maybe it is just way over my head. His work is in renowned art museums, and in private and corporate collections. He has had over 100 solo shows in the U.S. and Europe. I guess all those people know what makes something ART. But maybe not.
A friend sent me this photo of Bouguereau’s model for the painting “The Broken Pitcher” which was created back in 1891. A dopppelganger effect going on here, over a period of something like 126 years I suppose? I even saw myself on the Lloyd Thaxton Show back around 1968, when I knew I had never been on TV before. Very odd feeling.
I’ve seen this photo over the years, and always assumed it was shot in the 1990’s, thinking that waterproof cameras were probably not around too much earlier. But today I discovered that it was taken in 1947 by a woman named Toni Frissell. She was well known in her time, as a photographer for Vogue, and other fashion magazines, but also as the first female sports photographer for Sports Illustrated. She was known for her sense of composition and design, which is obvious in every image I have seen of hers. Miss Frissell was also noted for portrait photos of society people. One of her personal favorites was a shot she took of Winston Churchill at Blenheim Palace.
She was such an interesting woman.
The first time I saw this particular photograph, I saw it upside down. Before I realized what I was looking at, my gut reaction was, “OUCH!!!”
Paul has done some of my all-time favorite JazzFest posters. The first one Paul did was of Wynton Marsalis playing his trumpet inside an old French Quarter house. We view this scene through the open window, with the shutters folded back. Not an easy image to pull off, but he did it, and he made it moody and exciting.
The second was Harry Connick Jr. at the piano of a French Quarter apartment, looking through the open door onto the courtyard balcony. His handling of the scene was reminiscent of Matisse. I never particularly liked Matisse, except for his paper cut-outs, but this was a pretty nice poster. Harry Connick must have liked it well enough because at Irene’s Cuisine Restaurant in the French Quarter, they have an autographed poster hanging in their bar, signed to the owner in thanks for all the wonderful meals. Harry Connick is right, Irene’s is one of my “can’t miss” places to eat.
And his latest poster was for the 2016 JazzFest. He depicted the entire Marsalis Family inside the windows of a old Garden District home. One in each room. My neighbor said that she hadn’t bought a JazzFest poster for ten years, but this one was so great, she had to have it.
I love Paul’s work, so it is no surprise that I like his JazzFest posters so much. But the fact that two of them show musicians playing inside buildings, from the outside looking in, and that he manages to make the images work, is fascinating to me. I think this is a very difficult design problem to pull off. He manages to take the focus off the architecture, and still have it create the mood of New Orleans, while allowing the musicians to hold their own in the composition. I’m impressed.
Here is the poster for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for 2017. I really hope one day to be able to do one of these things. Such a cool project. This year’s poster was done by a New Orleans artist named Francis X. Pavy. I’m not sure, but I think he’s done a couple in the past, and maybe some Mardi Gras posters as well. Fingers crossed that one day I might get to do one myself. Usually the artists are local New Orleans artists, so I’d always hoped I would qualify.
Here are some other posters from previous years:
This one represents the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and was done by Terrance Osborne of New Orleans.
This is a portrait of Louis Prima, a famous trumpet player from New Orleans. He was always on TV and in movies when I was a kid. This was painted by Anthony Benedetto, better known as Tony Bennett. He is not from New Orleans, but if Tony Bennett agrees to do your poster, who’s complaining?
This is Fats Domino by James Michalopoulos.
This is Louis Armstrong by George Rodrigue. He’s the artist famous for the Blue Dog paintings. I always get compliments on my versatility when I am selling my posters at Tales of the Cocktail. People are always amazed that I can do the Blue Dog and the Tales posters as well. They love the Blue Dog.
Each year for the previous 8 years, I have been invited to do the official poster for Tales of the Cocktail. It is a liquor industry event held in New Orleans, in July every summer. Over the years, it has grown in size tremendously. Fifteen years ago, when it started, I believe there were about 32 people in attendance. Now that number is closer to 24,000 attendees. That translates into an approximately 16 million dollar impact on the local economy.
In 2017, since it is the 15th anniversary for Tales of the Cocktail, and it is the 200th anniversary for El Floridita (Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar in Havana, Cuba), we decided to do a poster to celebrate the occasion. Tales of the Cocktail is heading to Havana in October to present a special event at the bar. Though I was happy with the El Floridita image, I still wanted to do a poster specifically for Tales in New Orleans. So that lead to my doing two posters.
The El Floridita poster required a large number of images to commemorate their anniversary. Very tricky thing to design. In fact, I designed three tight versions and numerous rough sketches before I was satisfied. I even had one version about halfway finished at one point, and decided to scrap it and move on. In the end, I had to delete all the images of famous movie stars who visited whenever they were in Havana, and focus on Hemingway, but I did keep everything else that was required. It became a combination of vintage Cuban cigar box labels, and old postcard art, like the ones that would have said, “Greetings from Havana”.
After I finished the El Floridita poster, I focused more on the theme for this year’s event, which was “Craft Your Future”. The official cocktail this year is the martini. That evolved into a painting of a blacksmith crafting a martini on his anvil, with a 1930’s vision of the future in the buildings behind him. At first it looked like he was about to smash the martini, but after adding the sparks, and the gold rim on the glass, I don’t think that is a concern any longer. He is forging his future, and in total control of his craft.
Doing the Tales of the Cocktail is one of the most interesting projects I do every year, because I am in complete control, and don’t have to deliver it until I am satisfied with the end results. And other than giving me the theme and the official cocktail, Ann Tuennerman, the founder and director of Tales of the Cocktail, pretty much gives me the freedom to create.
(A friend scanned some of the images from the book and emailed them off to me. And some I got off the internet. Sorry things aren’t better quality.)
Peter S. Beagle wrote a novel in 1968 called The Last Unicorn. It was ranked one of the all-time best fantasy novels, and in 1982 it was made into an animated film as well. Due to popular demand, he wrote The Unicorn Sonata about 1996 and I was asked to illustrate the book and the cover art. We started with a phone conversation so I could learn about the world that Peter had created. He had very definite ideas of what Unicorns were not, but I had a little harder time figuring out what they actually were. I remember that they were not goats and not horses, but a little of both. Very delicate horses maybe?
I was fascinated by Peter Beagle. He called himself the black sheep of his family. His uncles were Moses, Raphael and Issac Soyer, three noted painters of the Social Realist school. I thought it was funny because when I mentioned I was doing the book, everyone knew The Last Unicorn and said it was one of their favorite books. But when I told a lot of people who his uncles were, they didn’t recognize the names. I always liked Raphael Soyer’s work in particular, but I guess no one ever made an animated movie from his paintings, so he didn’t have the name recognition. Anyway, Peter S. Beagle, hardly a blacksheep.
It has been a long time since I read The Unicorn Sonata, so my memory is a little hazy, but it concerns a thirteen year old girl from L.A. who follows some enchanting music across an invisible border by the mailbox on the corner, into Shi’rah, a land that is inhabited by satyrs, unicorns, phoenixes and other mystical creatures. Eventually she brings her grandmother across with her to help save the Unicorns and their music.
There were a total of eleven illustrations plus the cover art. I remember being inspired by old medieval tapestries with some of the pieces. The project paid decently, so I was able to spend a fair amount of time on each piece, and I did some in oils and some in acrylics. It was one of the last projects I did traditionally, before I switched to digital art. I still show the cover art in my illustration portfolio.
I remember that the art director had always planned the title to go right in the center. We had been talking about the cover as a border design, so that was where my thinking was focused, and what I was doing for them. I did three designs for borders, and they all were pretty decent. But two hours before FedEx arrived, I realized I wasn’t completely happy, and maybe I could do a cover design that just had the title dropped in over the artwork. I quickly did a rough layout, basically I visualized it exactly the way I finished it, right from the start. But it was odd, I presented three very tight comps of borders, and one very loose pencil sketch of the cover as it was eventually done, with a note explaining what I had in mind. It was so nice that they could interpret my scribbles and give me permission to finish that version. So often when a client has something specific in mind, like a border design in this case, they can’t open themselves up to a different direction. But the whole project went like that. I made notes of the scenes that I felt would call for illustrations, and they did as well. I think we agreed on almost every illustration.
In the end, I don’t believe Peter Beagle was completely in love with my illustrations, but the art director was. I can’t find his name, but if I do, I will post it later with an apology.
But two years out of art school, I did become one of the eight finalists for the best album cover art for 1972! That was pretty cool, but even then I knew it wasn’t exactly because my art work was so amazing. Those were the years of the concept album covers. And mine was one of those. Ernie Cefalu, one of the owners of Pacific Eye & Ear, an album design studio, asked me to do the cover for a band called Five Dollar Shoes.
I don’t mean to be too modest, but I really don’t even know if Ernie asked for me. I was working for Peter Palombi at the time, and Peter was probably busy, so he passed it over to me. Drew Struzan was the staff artist at PE&E, and I remember when I went over to pick up the project, Drew was sitting there working on his “Sabbath bloody Sabbath” cover for Black Sabbath. I suppose that was why they passed the Shoes album over to our studio. Besides, Five Dollar Shoes only had that one album, and not many people ever heard of them before or after. They were a little bit Glam, and this wasn’t a very important album. But Ernie had this idea to make the album like a tin of vintage shoe polish, to tie in with the band’s name. We were going to make it round, but I think it was Grand Funk Railroad who had a round album that same year, so Ernie decided on a square format with rounded corners.
The front cover was the lid of the shoe polish tin, you open it up and you see the inside of the lid, and the actual polish with spit on it for lubrication. Pull the sleeve out and you see the shoe polish almost gone, and the back cover is the bottom of the tin. And once Ernie gave me the concept, he left me completely alone. Great art director. I did the whole thing, logo design, illustration…it was such an exciting project.
Also a shock to get the nomination. When the notice came in the mail, I thought it was a prank. Nobody told me what to do, except I got four tickets to the awards ceremony. My roommate, Bob Krogle and I, rented a limo and took our girlfriends. We sat at a table with Bruce Botnick who I didn’t know, but he and his wife were very encouraging to me. He was a record producer for the Doors, Love, and many other bands and albums. I felt like he was much older, but I just looked him up and he was only two years older than me. Anyway, no one told me what to do if I won. I didn’t know if I was supposed to go up on stage and say anything. So it was sort of a relief to not win, I would have been terrified.
Almost better than the nomination (oh yeah, just being recognized is an honor in itself, I almost forgot to say that) was that I became a member of the recording academy and got to vote for album covers every year after that. I also got to order record albums for $1.50 every month or so. I have a fantastic collection of albums because I would order records by people I never even heard of, just because their names sounded interesting. At $1.50, you can’t go too far wrong. I gave a lot of album presents on Christmas and birthdays.
A year later, Ernie asked me to do the cover for George Carlin: Occupation Foole. Drew had done a beautiful prismacolor sketch for it of Carlin wearing a court jester’s hat, and I painted his design in a Leyendecker style. But Carlin said that his comedy was using his whole body, so they wound up using photography of him in silly poses. I had Drew’s sketch in my scrap file for years, but I think someone swiped it. That sketch was probably worth $20,000 or so nowadays! Ernie was selling the Five Dollar Shoes artwork for $80,000 or more a few years ago.
Sorry the Five Dollar Shoes scans are so poor. I only found them online, and this is the best I could do.