Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

Month: January, 2017



After Peter left the studio to free-lance, his career really took off, as did his work.  I think at the studio he probably got work because of the studio, but when he left, he got work for himself.  Work where they really wanted his style.  He got into airbrush with a vengeance and brought his own sensibility to it.  Closeups of objects, where the details were so luscious that you didn’t realize it was a closeup of something as mundane as an electric plug or a telephone.  They were as sexy as the high-heeled shoes that he loved to paint.  Reflections, highlights, textures, he made them all sing.

And he was a wizard with type and borders too.  I think I probably love doing type and borders with my own work because of being around Peter and seeing that illustration was about the composition of the entire piece, not just the drawing and painting.  It was all about design as a whole.

Here are some of his most recognized illustrations that he did after leaving RWP&D, Inc.





Or edgewise at least.  I was just skimming an article for artists, explaining common mistakes fine artists make.  Things like not transporting art properly, reducing the price of their paintings to make a sale…but one thing really jumped out at me.  They were saying that you should always quote measurements as height by width.  I thought this was a really stupid article, but decided to look it up.  I found almost as many things online explaining how this was, in fact, the proper way to quote measurements for paintings.  I even found one explanation that said sheetrock is sold in 4′ x 8′ sheets because it is always hung horizontally…..?  It is 8′ tall because it is not hung that way!  Ceilings are standard at 8′, and sheetrock is that height as well.

Usually photographs are 8″ x 10″, or typing paper is 8.5″ x 11″ because they are vertical.

Okay, what is correct?  I don’t think I have ever done an illustration as a horizontal by mistake, but wouldn’t that be a nightmare?  Kind of like the Stonehenge mockup in This is Spinal Tap.





Rosenfeld, Wilson, Palombi and Dilts, Inc.?  Sounds like a law firm from a John Grisham novel.  But it was the name of the studio that Peter Palombi organized with two art directors and a rep, while he was still in art school.  They quickly got so busy that he dropped out of school, and I don’t know if he ever got his degree.  Who cares?  He got famous instead, and did some really amazing work.  He only stayed at the studio for about five years and left around 1974 I think.  He was well known in Los Angeles, but when he left the studio to go out on his own, he became one of the best known California illustrators of the period.  He did national advertising, Playboy Magazine illustrations, Rolling Stone Magazine covers…he was the first one I know who was able to make it work, even before FedEX, Fax machines, and computers.

I was friends with Peter in Chouinard Art Institute and we were in the same class.  In the first class we ever took, the teacher invited students to paint murals on the walls.  Peter and his roommate Pat Nagel did a mural about the Watt’s Riots that were going on at the time.  It must have been about 25 feet long by 14 feet tall in black and white and sepia.  This was the first time I realized that being the best artist in grammar school, junior high school and high school, didn’t count for much.  Everybody in the school had been the best in their previous schools, and they were just better.

When I graduated, I went to visit Peter, to see what work he was doing, and he asked me to help do a storyboard that night.  I stayed and I wound up staying for five years.  Peter was just starting, but I got to move up with him.  He had always had a way of working with Rapido-graph pens and magic markers on vellum, where you would wipe it and smear it with toilet paper.  It was mostly for comps and storyboards, but Peter was so good with it that he used it for finished art as well.

Here are some examples of finished work and comps he did with the markers.  Only the bears at lunch was a comp.  The 1920’s football player was done in dyes on vellum, and the Leyendecker style football player was oils.








1971-copyWhile I was still in art school, our teacher, Mike Salisbury took the class to a private screening at the United Artists Studio to see Yellow Submarine before it hit the theaters.  Four years later, while I was  working for Peter Palombi, I did my first airbrush illustration.  The images from Yellow Submarine were still floating around in my head, along with the psychedelic British illustrators of the time.  I’ve been trying to remember their names but other than Phillip Castle, I can’t remember them at all.  But I do remember that I was talking on the phone in the studio one day and started doodling.  I came up with this image that was an attempt to do something psychedelic as well as memories from my childhood in New Orleans.

The doodles were not directed at all, just stream of consciousness.  After the call I started to put them into some sort of coherent order.  The giant clown head statue at Ponchartrain Beach (the only amusement park in the city) was my inspiration.  You could climb up his collar ruff and sit on his tongue.  Being that high off the ground was a mind-bending experience for a kid in New Orleans!  And that was the start of the picture.  So, this was the result.  A sample to show that I could use an airbrush.  I can’t tell you how happy I was when the computer came along and I never had to clean another airbrush in my life.  I hated that thing!  I never became an airbrush artist, but I used it on every painting I ever did.  And I cussed at it constantly.  We did not get along.

I remember one afternoon I was so mad at it that I opened my studio window and pitched the airbrush out  over four lanes of rush-hour traffic on Western Avenue!  Of course I had to go buy a new one the very next day, but I can’t describe the satisfaction of pitching the cursed thing!  And for at least one day, I had a clean airbrush.


I did this page of boys, right around the same time I did the Cliques drawings.  I had gone to junior high school in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California, and I really missed being there.  All my friends had gone on to high school where they were taking Life Drawing, Design classes, Ceramics classes,  Oil painting …while I was stuck in New Orleans with Art 1, Art 2, and Art 3.  All exactly the same except for the name.  I was so jealous.  So when I graduated, I only applied to art schools in California, and only really considered two.  Art Center and Chouinard.  My mom would only agree to Chouinard because they actually gave you a BFA degree, and I needed “something to fall back on” in case I couldn’t make it as a starving artist.  I don’t know what good my degree would have done me anyway, high school was much harder.

But I’m getting sidetracked.   These were my California dreamin’ drawings.  These guys were all California kids, doing California things.  Dressed in Pendleton shirts, wheat-colored jeans, and track shoes with three stripes on the sides.  There is even a guy with a UCLA sweatshirt on.  They are skateboarding, something you can’t do very well in New Orleans because none of the streets are in good enough shape due to the marshy ground and oak tree roots breaking up the sidewalks.  These guys are riding go-carts and mini-bikes, and playing with yo-yo’s.  I wonder why I didn’t have any guys with surfboards?

By the time I did get back out to CA, I was too busy with school to do any of these things in the drawings except basketball, and body surfing.  I never could afford a surfboard, and never learned.  Besides, by then, we were all Hippies.  Pretend Hippies anyway.  Hey, what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?california-dreamin


Back when I was in high school we had different cliques, but it seems that we only broke it down to two groups.  In Southern California my friends told me it was Surfers and Greasers, in New Orleans where I was at the time, it was Frats and Hoods.  These weren’t derogatory names, each group was proud of their look and style.  Since I did illustrations for the school paper, I did a cartoon of them and I was a hit with each group.  They all thought I had nailed them, and they loved it.

Frats wore button-down collar oxford cloth shirts in light blue, yellow, pink, or white, with socks to match, penny loafers, dickies sometimes, and very short, wheat colored jeans.  The jeans would be about 8″ above the ground.  The girls wore the same basic thing except for wearing khaki jumpers.  They both wore their fraternity pins, or sorority pins, and the girls wore their boyfriends class ring on a chain around their necks, like in the old Elvis Presley song.

The Hoods wore very loose, high-waisted slacks, skinny belts, and open-collar shirts, and usually sandals with socks.  They greased their hair back and did a sort of Elvis Presley thing with a pompadour and ducktails in back.  The girls were called Charmers, and wore beehive hairdos, lots of makeup, tight skirts and pointy-toed shoes.

Interestingly, the two groups had distinct ways of walking and carrying things.  Hoods slouched and carried their books high up under their armpits.  Frats carried their books down low on their hips.  Sorority girls carried smaller purses on a long strap slung over their shoulders.  Charmers carried fairly large purses with short straps, and always over their forearms.  The girls didn’t carry their books, their boyfriends carried them.

I found these pieces when I was cleaning out my house in New Orleans last year.  Flashback!

Two Norman Rockwell Originals for sale

See, you can still buy original Norman Rockwell paintings for only about $55,000 at auction!  Especially if you don’t really care if they are Norman Rockwells.  But these aren’t forgeries either.  Only the signatures have been forged, and they look pretty good. Some forgotten illustrator worked late into the night on these.  But there is no way either of these paintings could be by Rockwell.  Couldn’t be Rockwell when he was very young, the clothing is too much like the 1940’s for that.  Couldn’t be Rockwell when he was very old, he never got that bad.

These were at auction on a site called Invaluable Auctions.  As I understand it, they are just a collection of links to auctions around the world, not an actual auction site themselves.  But this is definitely a case of caveat emptor if you ever are tempted to buy through online auctions.  Always know the auction house as well as the stuff you are bidding on.  Or go ahead and pay $55,000 for a really cool forgery of Rockwell’s signature.  It would make a great story.