Tuesday, December 6, 2011

University Club

This commission for Vern King came to me by way "That Frame Place" in Brea, where I have sent clients for frame work since 1971. Vern saw that the sailor and young lady in this Norman Rockwell piece reminded him of his son and daughter-in-law, and decided to have an original oil painting made rather than buy a store bought print. This allowed him to personalize the piece, changing the Taxi to a Studebaker convertible, add himself in there and make the whole thing square rather than slightly portrait. We wrote up a contract that eliminated any confusion of this trying to be a forgery of the original Rockwell painting and proceeded. Vern supplied the photos that were needed and I got a poster of the original painting to work from. I was amazed to see Rockwell used a pretty rough unrelated texture to the whole thing. It looked as though he roughed up the gesso before he started, probably to paint the rock texture faster while working under a deadline. When looking carefully I could even see this texture in the surfaces that were supposed to be smooth, like the sidewalk, glass and the car. So I did all that too, trying to be faithful to the original and it really helps tie everything together. Too much texture would be a distraction, but he really had the touch. I learned a lot from this piece and thank Vern for the opportunity to create this new family heirloom.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I have been fortunate to have so many friends who are superior photographers. Joseph “Joey” Viles is one of those guys; one I have known since kindergarten and whose work always impresses me. While perusing his website I came across a black and white image of his brother Sonny with his wife Pam. It is a great shot so I called and asked for a good print so I could do a charcoal drawing from it and he obliged right away. The picture was taken with a 4X5 Polaroid and has such a rich texture, very much like the fine grain Tri-X film that I loved. I’m not much for shots taken with a flash as they are usually washed out with too much light; but in the hands of a professional, a controlled flash can be an effective tool, like here.

So I dug out my old charcoal pencils from the 70s and started laying out ovals and blocking in values. I use a knife and sandpaper pad to sharpen the pencils and sometimes fill a 1” brush with charcoal dust from the sandpaper to block in big areas. Then I start to map out the geography of the face. There are simple mathematic formulas for this and I follow them as far as they’ll take me. Then I jump off the bandwagon and draw what I see, making adjustments as necessary. I keep going until it looks right.

I did use the computer a couple times here in an attempt to be contemporary. I posterized the original, letting me know big areas of value, and this was amusing. When we were kids, Scott and I did a lot of silk screen work and we had to make all those posterizing value decisions with only our teenage brains, so the computer did little to improve on those years of good training. At one point I took a digital picture of my drawing, put it in the computer and printed it. Then printed a copy of Joey’s original on top, the same size, but a different color. This told me where my drawing deviated from the original and I fixed what needed to be fixed, which was minimal.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I was recently invited to participate in a show called "Speed" curated by Jeannie Denholm. The show was at the House of Balsamico in Irvine and was exhibited to private audiences during September and October. Jeannie picked four pieces for display and I created a new piece specifically for the theme. One piece, "Targa", was borrowed from the collection of Lee and Lynn Dudacek; while three others "Access", "Norm" and "TRC" were loaned from the collection of Jason Parr. My sincere thanks go to them for making these available for this show.

The fifth piece, "Sharknose" was painted specifically for the show and made its public debut there. This was based on a charcoal piece I had done almost twenty years ago, and it came to mind almost immediately after hearing the theme for the show.

This is Phil Hill at Monaco in 1961, the year he became the Formula One World Champion. I've never determined what made the front wheels shimmy this way, it must just be a nanosecond of wheel jerk that drivers corrected for intuitively lap after lap in these tests of concentration. But that is what made this image so attractive to me and what came to mind when thinking of "Speed".

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Hub

I’ve been doing a lot of paintings of people at work and constructed this view of Angels Baseball. Last year (2010) I went to a ball game late in the season. I enjoyed a walk around the stadium and checked out vantage points from all over the place. While in the nose bleed section I saw this great little cubby hole of activity near the dugout. So when the new season started I got on StubHub, looked for the appropriate seats and shot a few roles of film above this little scene.

In the center is the head coach who orchestrates everything around him, coaches, players, staff, media and at base, the fans; all going about their duties somewhat anonymously. Going clockwise we see the coaching staff, a player, and the ball boys, part of the staff. I particularly like the cameramen; broadcast, print and social media. The social media guy being a crossover between fan and journalist. Then a variety of fans. Note the ball boy tossing the ball back to the stat guy, the kid in the front row hoping it will get to him.

I call it "The Hub".

Friday, July 1, 2011

Orange County Fair 2011

Well, it's Fair time again and I submitted three pieces hoping to get in and all three made the cut. You never know how that stuff will work out and I'm happy they dug my paintings. So here's the three entries.


I'm doing a series on restoration experts and two of the pieces are entered in the fair competition. The first is "Junior", one of the pioneers who worked with George Barris in the 50s and developed exotic paint techniques for the automotive industry. I had the opportunity to work with him a few years ago and it's his ethic and approach to handwork that separates his results from all others in the field. (This won an Honorable Mention)

The Body Builder

Steve Beckman is a master in his field of fabrication. In "The Body Builder" he shapes flat sheet stock into the voluptuous forms of hand built exotic cars. In his work he replicates the shapes and volumes of the original hand hammered forms while insuring the metal stays unstressed.


This is my tribute to 911. No records of the view from inside the towers on that day exist, but this is the image that came to my mind on that day. It's a macabre scene, but one I think is a valid interpretation of the events. It's the last moment of American innocence.

Jason Parr has purchased the painting and we are hoping to circulate it around, perhaps make prints available etc. I'll keep you posted on it's progress. (This won the Staff Award)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Archive: Early Drawings

Jo and Ken

The Jam

Here's some early sketches from 1970~75. They're all pretty spontaneous, done from life or terrible photos. Some of these are a bit embarrassing, but hell, I was a teenager and rejected most of the opportunities to improve; had to do it the hard way...

I had gone textbook shopping with Saylor in LA and found this girl in one of them about Geography or some odd topic; but I liked the image.

This is Adam and Aaron Smith playing ball in the front yard, I think it was done from a photo.

Neil Young hopping around the junkyard.

Scott lived in a garage for a short time and we'd draw there. This was a wall...

Mark Ferree asleep. Done from life.

Must've got some colored pencils from someone, this is pretty rare for me. I don't know why I put these two together but years later Neil told a great story of he and Jimi stealing a truck together.

Magic Mountain excursion with Jo, Holly and Ken.

More Jimi, I like doing celebrities in everyday situations rather than performing.

But I never missed a great performance shot either...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Archive: First Oil Paintings

I don't know how it came about, it's been so long; but I acquired some oil paints and went to work. The first pieces were done of rockers, followed by a series for Jeanne Gladden that started with a portrait of her sister (I don't have access to that one).

Jimi - Collection of Scott McNeil
The first oil, this is where I learned you need to have a good drawing before you start painting.

The Poet - Collection of Aaron Smith
Drawing had improved, maybe tried to cram too much in...

EIAJ - Collection of Aaron Smith (way to go Aaron!)
Learning a bit about how strokes affect texture.

Dick - Collection of Gladden Family
This was done from a ridiculous picture, Dick's head was the size of a pencil eraser in the photo.

Jeanne - Collection of Gladden Family
Working from a better photo but still much to learn.

Jo - Collection of Gladden Family
This was the first of the three. During her lunch break Jeanne asked me to do this painting for Jo's graduation present. I delivered the painting to her before she got off work at six the same day (I like to work fast... ). It hung over their fireplace forever.

Richie - Collection of Richie Strickland

This was really my first piece of just doing an oil painting for the sake of painting. Rich and I were doing a lot of recording work back in '74 and this came about as we were sitting around. I seem to remember taking a Polaroid and working from that.

Archive: Markers

This is a medium I've always liked and never pursued. The commercial illustrations done with marker have always blown me away. I think the cost of a good set has kept me away from exploring with markers, maybe someday. These are in chronological order.

Jimi tuning while playing.

Taking a break...

Aurthur Rimbaud

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, March 11, 2011

Archive: Watercolor

Watercolors are merciless. It looks like I must have got a small set of them in late '73 or so and did these few pieces. It was one medium I didn't want to pursue.

A few years after I did the big painting for Tom's Schwinn I did some smaller paintings for Placentia Schwinn. This is a color study for one of the larger paintings.

This was done in the spring of '74, a pastoral portrait of Jeanne and Dick on their patio.

This was a Christmas gift for Jo. She was on World Campus Afloat and wrote about an amazing experience she had horseback riding in Fiji. This was my interpretation.

A Film About Jimi Hendrix came out in '73 and this was a painting that graced the album cover and posters for the movie. A bunch of us went to the opening night, which made for some great stories; and of course I had to do my version of the promo painting.

Saylor has always been the guru of alternative ideas. I guess this looks like he's got the ol' noggin' cranking away. This is dated '74.

Brant at an O'Neill park kegger in the same period of time. That's really his signature.

* * *

One of the reasons I never pursued watercolor is it can have an anemic quality, I liked stuff to be pretty intense back then. So later I tried painting watercolor style with ink instead of gum arabic based paint. This was better suited to my eye, but it is still a very unforgiving process.

A little looser, gestural, than most of my stuff, but I try to keep my drafting right on. I figure you can do anything with color if the drawing is solid.

This was for Scott's 40th birthday invitation. I did a whole bunch of portraits in this ink wash method, but since I didn't keep records back then this copy of the actual invite is all I have from this series.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Archive: Los Angeles Art Center

When I was in high school I received a scholarship from Art Center. It was an incredible score that I had almost no appreciation for. I figured art to be more or less free form an didn't understand how school could help. I went anyway, started while I was in high school on Saturday classes, then regular classes after graduation. I have very little from my lack of efforts there, but I'm pleased with what I did there and the way I drew as a kid.

The teachers there were very cool. In my first classes I found different teachers had differing approaches to drawing. I saw this as inconsistent and it made them less credible in my young eyes. I could smoke in class and that was a very important part of my acceptance of higher education.

This guy was a teacher named Carlos.

I didn't spend much time on faces in class. Sketches were quick, thirty seconds for the warm ups and twenty minutes for the long pose.

This was a typical scene. Model on the stand, apparently on a blanket, an alarm clock next to her head while the teacher points out all the things we should be paying attention to.

Drew was my favorite, the only teacher I really remember. Although every teacher had a lot to offer, he's the one who caught my attention; he also discovered I was ambidextrous. I didn't think about him for several decades until I took a class from Marshall Vandruff who was singing the praises of an artist named Drew Struzan. I remembered a teacher who drew named Drew and showed these to Marshall who confirmed the identity.