Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

Month: April, 2015

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.