Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

The Spirits Are Calling

77456_Poster.pdf.pdfActually, the spirits have already called and gone on their way.  It seems like it was a much more energetic Tales of the Cocktail this year than even previous years.  I sensed everyone was revved up.  We met people from all over the world as usual.  That is always exciting.  We met a bar owner from Cyprus.  He and his friends started the first bar on the island that embraces the cocktail culture, and originally it was a mobile bar.  They would cater for parties and events.  But they saved up and now they have their own cocktail lounge called Lost+Found Drinkery, the only bar of its kind on the Isle of Cyprus.  This year, the partners saved up to send Dinos to Tales of the Cocktails to meet and make connections and bring back experiences to share.  Kind of exciting.  Now my poster is hanging in a bar in Cyprus.  And bars in Sydney, and Moscow, and Panama, and even Cleveland!

This year’s theme was The Spirits Are Calling, so my poster depicts a burlesque beauty lounging in her martini glass while being surprised by a friendly ghost who is topping off her Daiquiri.  I don’t know if I’d want to drink that Martini, but the Daiquiri looks good.


I Can’t Help It….

I don’t really find anything funny about the KKK.  Always surprised that they are still in existence.  But this photo just cracked me up.  I believe it was taken around 1925 or so.  Just a few good old boys showing the colors and having fun.  This seems like a Twilight Zone episode somehow.

Whee!  Just hanging with the guys.

Whee! Just hanging with the guys.

Everybody Copies To Start


In his book, My Adventures As An Illustrator, Norman Rockwell talks about his admiration of J. C. Leyendecker’s work.  It is clear that he learned a lot from him.  But I have never seen a Rockwell painting that was so obviously influenced by Leyendecker’s style.  This is a very interesting piece because from the earliest Saturday Evening Post covers Rockwell ever did, his own style showed through.  I would love to know when this was painted because it is extremely well done, so it can’t be too early in his career.  But it is also heavily indebted to Leyendecker.  Even down to some subtle diagonal paint strokes under her eyebrow, and the stylization of her hair.

I actually thought it was a Leyendecker, until I looked at the hands and the tip of her nose.  I didn’t know for sure it was Rockwell, but it just didn’t seem completely right.  Confusing.

This painting sold for $845,000 and it is a pretty special piece.  I would love to know more about it.  Who was the client and what was the purpose of the painting?  And particularly, when was it painted?  Even though I see Rockwell doing a Leyendecker turn here, I don’t mean to put it down in any way.  It is a beautiful painting in itself.  And who ever did J. C. Leyendecker better than this?  Even F. X. Leyendecker didn’t do it.LEYENDECKER

I Kind of Like Los Angeles Too

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But you can see his point I suppose.

Most of All, I Remember Mr. Holland

hollandcecilWhen I made it back to Los Angeles after high school, I rented a small studio apartment in the Holland’s back yard for the last two years of college.  By that time Mr. Holland had suffered a stroke.  I wish I had spent more time with him then, but I was too involved with art school and girlfriends.  It wasn’t very sensitive on my part and I will always regret that.

Norma and Cecil Holland had two children.  Richard and Margaret.  I remember Richard had an animal sanctuary in Castaic.  I once drove Norma out there to visit and he taught me the safe way to pet a porcupine.  You pet with the grain, and as long as they aren’t nervous, everything will be fine.

Mr. Holland used to talk about his daughter who was a really great artist.  He always said she was the real artist in the family, and she did in fact turn out to be a well-known portrait painter.  Famous for painting Presidents and naval officers, among other things.  So when I found a website for Meg Holland Sargent, I remembered our conversations and knew I’d found her.

Her website shows her work, which is really beautiful, and it also has a video that she narrates about her father.  Her portrait of him at the top of the page shows him just slightly older than the way he looked when I knew him.  Check out:   Then go to TRIBUTES and click on Cecil Claude Holland to watch the video at the bottom.  I love the thought that they once had a swimming party at their Coldwater Canyon house for the Our Gang kids.

Usually it is those special teachers who have the biggest influence in your life. Teachers that connected and probably never knew how important such little things became in our lives.  A friend became a novelist because of our English teacher in high school, and I will always remember him for his encouragement to me, even though I never went the literary route.  There were history teachers, and English teachers, and art teachers, but most of all, I remember Mr. Holland.

A Real Renaissance Man

Cecil Holland could do everything.  He was a painter, a wood worker, a sculptor, an inventor, a jewelry maker, an engraver, and the best friend a kid ever had.  I remember that he used to smoke a pipe, and the tobacco smelled great.  But his pipes were memorable in themselves because he carved them.  He had a large collection displayed on the shelves of his sunporch.  Mostly they were white Meerschaum pipe bowls, all elaborately carved with wild animals, dragons, heroic figures and vegetation.

Mr. Holland taught me to do mosaic tiling.  Except I am not sure that he was the one who was doing most of the mosaic work I saw at their house.  His wife Norma, besides being an actress, was also an artist, and I think the mosaics might have been hers.  But I do remember him working on a large oil painting and explaining what he was doing as he painted.  He had also done some elaborate murals of jungle scenes and animals that were displayed in their home and I wonder if they had originally been in their Coldwater Canyon home.

He showed us a bomb he had designed for the Army Air Corp during WWII for use in the African Campaign.  He told how troops would advance across the desert while hiding behind tanks for protection.  This bomb would be dropped from an airplane, and about 30 feet above the ground, four or five cannon would drop from the sides and fire into the air and hit anyone hiding behind the tank.  Then the bomb would explode when it contacted the tank itself.  The mechanism was very simple and ingenious.  Pretty exciting stuff for a 13 year old.


The Ten Gallon “Hollywood Hat”

hollywood hat

There is a fascinating article on the internet about Mr. Holland at  that discusses this cowboy hat.  Joe Blitman bought the hat and did some pretty sophisticated detective work to figure out who it had originally belonged to.  Someone had gotten almost all of the biggest stars at MGM and 20th Century Fox to autograph the hat.  Eventually he managed to track it down to Cecil Holland.

In the article, Hazen Drive in Coldwater Canyon is named as the house where Mr. Holland and his wife Norma lived.  But when I knew him they were on Nagle Ave. in Sherman Oaks, though I do know about that house in the canyon from stories Mr. Holland told us.  He talked about a tunnel that secretly lead out of the library of the house into the hillside where there was a hidden barroom.  Prohibition would have been in effect at the time.  Mr. Holland would be behind the bar mixing drinks and his guests would be sitting on built-in benches, when he would press a button and toy spiders would descend from the ceiling on silken threads and land on the guest’s shoulders.  Mayhem would ensue!


Cecil Holland wearing his “Hollywood Hat” and there is still room for more signatures.  And what a dude, collar stay, stick pin, and a tie clip!  Nice knot too.

The Man of a Thousand Faces


Cecil Holland started as an actor in films.  I still have a photograph of him as Jesus, though I never found out what movie it was from.  Since this was still the very early days, a lot of the actors did their own makeup.  Mr. Holland was an artist, and he became so adept at makeup, that he was known as the Man of a Thousand Faces.

But as time went on, he was doing more makeup and less acting until he headed up and organized the first studio makeup department in Hollywood at MGM.  I know, among other films, he did Luise Rainer in The Good Earth and was in charge of all the makeup artists working on the original version of Ben Hur .  He even was responsible for doing the ring around the eye of Petey the dog in the Our Gang Comedies.  He worked with all the biggest names in Hollywood for years.

When his friend Lon Chaney was starting to get known, Mr. Holland gave him the use of his “Man of a Thousand Faces” nickname, having no longer any use for it, since he’d given up acting by that time.


Here is a photo of Clark Gable autographing a ten-gallon hat for Cecil Holland.  Snazzy sweater, eh?

The Most Wonderful Man


Around 1961 we were living in Sherman Oaks, California and all the neighborhood kids wanted skateboards.  In those days, you didn’t buy a skateboard, you built it from a plank of wood with an old roller skate screwed to the bottom.

Across the street lived Mr. Holland, who must have been about 74 at the time.  He had the most incredible workshop in his garage, with a band saw, a table saw, a drill press, even a lathe, and he would help all the kids build whatever they needed at the moment.  He taught us how to use the tools, and to do it safely.  The most dangerous thing about the shop was his crazy Manx cat who would scratch you every time you tried to pet him.

We must have driven him crazy because as I remember, we spent part of every day there.  I remember going over and knocking on his door to ask his wife if Mr. Holland could come out and help us.  I don’t ever remember being turned down.

He wouldn’t do the work for us, he would teach us how to handle the tools and guide us as we did it ourselves.  And as we worked, he would tell us the most amazing stories of his life.  He had been born in England in 1887 and ran away from home when he was 15.  Hopping a merchant ship he traveled the world.  I remember his showing us an old globe on which he had marked his travels with dotted lines that stopped short when he jumped ship in Vancouver and decided he needed to see America.  Eventually he made his way down to Los Angeles about the time the movie industry was starting to get underway in Hollywood.  He was there at the very beginning.

Who Is Responsible For This?

I don’t know if it would be the Production Designer or the Director of Photography or the Director himself, but someone is doing a lot of research from a lot of different sources before they make a film.  These are only a couple of the things I have noticed recently.



When I work, I watch videos…or listen to them mainly.  I occasionally look up at the screen, and that’s when I spotted these frames.  Sherlock Holmes, the one with Robert Downey Jr….He’s in a garret and there is a scene of him sitting by the bed, no question…The Death of Chatterton by Henry Wallis from 1856!  The window even has the same number of panes and a very similar handle.



What symbolism attaches, I really can’t figure out except that Chatterton was an unappreciated poet, as Holmes was under-appreciated for his skills?  Probably more for just artistic reasons than anything else.



The other had a less obvious connection, but Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley and Donald Sutherland has the family sitting in the background while one of the sisters writes a letter.  They are all illuminated by the fireplace light, a very chiaroscuro effect.  Because of the dramatic lighting and shadows and also because of Donald Sutherland’s hair, immediately paintings by Wright of Derby came to mind.  He would’ve been painting in the late 1700’s while Pride and Prejudice takes place a little later, at the turn of the century.  Though the scene isn’t taken from either of Joseph Wright’s paintings here, I think you can see the similarities in lighting and composition.





Always fun to find the inspirations behind various images.