Friday, December 3, 2010

The Bride

Usually Hollywood sequels to successful films are awful. Not so in the case of the film Bride of Frankenstein, 1935. Very atmospheric, and visually stunning, in this film we get to hear the monster speak, find his first true friend, lose his first true friend, and finally get a bride. For a few moments at least.

Jack Pierce, the make up wizard worked his magic once more for this film. Elsa Lanchester looked stunning as the brief bride. I have painted her a few times, and am very proud of the way this one turned out. In the past, when I've painted her with copper colored hair I got some favorable responses, telling me that this is the color she was supposed to have. How they know this from a black and white film is beyond me, but I'll take it.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Our dog just turned 15 this past week!! His name is Maui, and he is a Lhasa Apso. He was an orphan, who lived in three different houses before we got him at age 5 months. He has been an excellent watch dog and companion. Due to his temperament, he definitely likes some things his way. He has bitten all of us to prove his point. But like any member of the family when they attack you, you forgive them and love them anyways.

When we got him he came with a bowl, a collar and a stuffed plush hamburger. Definitely his favorite toy. He would get it, place it at our feet, and then sit and wait until we noticed him. His way of getting us to throw it for him. He would do this many, many times until you got sick of throwing it. He always liked to chase the squirrels or rabbits in the back yard, or visit with the neighboring dogs. He was even known to go down the kids' slide, and seemed to enjoy it! After he got a bath, he would spaz out and race in circles around the house, only to stop at the cabinet where we keep his dog treats.

It's been sad to see him in his elder years. Cataracts have taken much of his vision, and deafness his hearing. Definitely a reminder of the frailty and brevity of life. We've tried to consciously change how we do things due to his age. Like leaving the hall light on so he can navigate the stairs. Making sure nothing is left laying on the floor that he is not aware of.

Despite his slowing down, he still seems to enjoy life. Whereas before he would run to chase his hamburger several times, now it's usually once and then a nap. He likes begging for "people food" which we ultimately give in to.

Pets are definitely one of God's gifts to his creation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Boris Karloff, once more

I have probably painted actor Boris Karloff's likeness more than any other subject. There's something about his face and voice that has always appealed to me. He was the Frankenstein Monster, the Grinch, the Mummy and countless other characters on film, stage and in radio. He was a man of professional integrity, and there are numerous accounts of his generous nature. he really got his big break in acting later in his life. He was 42 years old when he first appeared as the Monster. He struggled for years as an actor, supplementing his income by doing manual labor.

He called make up man Jack Pierce "the greatest makeup man in the business". Pierce was the man responsible for creating the majority of Universal's classic monster icons. So this painting is a celebration of not only Boris Karloff, the man under the make up, but the man who created the make up, Jack Pierce.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Glenn Strange again

Funny how Glenn Strange was one of the later actors to perform as Frankenstein's monster, yet his likeness was the one usually found on monster toys and memorabilia from the 60's on. Personally I feel Boris Karloff is the quintessential monster, but Glenn was next as far as how the monster looked. Unfortunately the scripts he acted in as the monster gave him little to work with. But he looked very cool doing it!

I'm also surprised at the affinity a lot of fans still have for his portrayal. Perhaps it's because of his image being the one on the toys they collected and played with in their youth. All I know is he's a lot of fun to paint!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Arch Oboler

Funny how our culture elevates people not worthy of our time and effort, and easily tosses aside folks from the past who were truly artists. Well, maybe "tragic" would be a better word. Arch Oboler is a name from the past. I would guess the vast majority of people today don't know his name. He was an author, playwright, director and visionary. He was one of the first people who saw 3D as a viable way of viewing film. As popular as 3D seems to be today you'd think someone would mention his name.

I first became aware of Mr Oboler when I was about ten years old. I sent off for a cassette of some radio show called Lights Out. I wanted it because it starred Boris Karloff, one of my, and still favorite actors. Dramatic radio really appealed to me because it forced my imagination to engage. All the images had to be constructed in my mind. Oboler referred to radio as the "theater of the mind". He was right.

He wrote and produced many wonderful radio shows, some mediocre films, and authored a couple books.

I never really finished this portrait of him. I originally envisioned a skeletal hand holding an NBC microphone, as well as an old cathedral styled radio with tentacles oozing out of it. Maybe one day...

Friday, October 8, 2010


I've been a fan of the classic Universal monsters ever since I can remember. Since Halloween is coming up I thought I'd post this painting I did of Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler from, for me the definitive Dracula film of 1931. I recall seeing this film listed in the TV Guide magazine, with the word "melodrama" after it. As a young boy I didn't know what melodrama meant. I'm still not convinced Dracula is a melodramatic film. Oh, well...

Halloween was a great time when I was a kid. We'd dress up in the afternoon, get our milk-boxes for Unicef and go collect coins for them. This allowed us to scout out the terrain prior to going for the good stuff: the candy!! I usually wore a Ben Cooper costume of whatever cartoon character I was fond of at the time. When I was around 11 or 12, my mom made me a Dracula cape!! That was big stuff!! A white shirt, black pants, some plastic fangs and fake blood and I was good to go.

I loved staying up late n Saturday nights and watching the Cool Ghoul from Cincinnati and Dr. Creep from Dayton. These were the only chance you had to see a classic horror film back then. Those days made for some very fond memories that endure to this day.

Monday, September 13, 2010


This was my first attempt at doing a painting in an impressionistic style. I had known about the Impressionists for years, but really had no interest in them. A friend of mine challenged me to take another look. I did, and was hooked!! I think it's the looseness, the freedom in the brushwork that appeals to me. When you paint a portrait, there's a certain amount of anxiety in getting the likeness. It's hard to mess up painting a tree or a bush. There's still the usual things you have to get "right" in a painting, balance, color, tone, etc. but it's very freeing to paint landscapes. I've only done a handful of them in my life, but have enjoyed it immensely.

This painting is owned by that same friend who "challenged" me to give Impressionism another try. I thought it only right that he should have this one.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bela Lugosi

I found this great publicity still portrait of actor Bela Lugosi and really wanted to paint it. I like working from black and white photos so I can make up the colors as I go, and not be influenced by the colors in the photo. For this one I really wanted to pay homage to artist Frank Duveneck, whose brushwork is just sumptuous to say the least. Frank lived in Covington Kentucky around the turn of the century 1900's. He studied abroad, but he painted and taught close to Cincinnati. In fact, I believe the top floor of the Cincy Art Museum is his actual studio!! They have several of his paintings there, and I never tire of studying them. He can do so much with just a single brushstroke, just amazing to me. It's a shame he's not more well known.
Ironically, Bela Lugosi died yesterday in 1956. He was a proud man, which I think hampered him in life. He really was a very fine actor, but never got the chance to really show what he could do in America. There are still many fans of his, myself included.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Eddie the Waiter

One of my hobbies is collecting and listening to old time radio programs. One of my favorite comedy shows was entitled "Duffy's Tavern". Ed Gardner starred as Archie, the proprietor, and Eddie Green starred as Eddie the waiter. Archie was the dreamer who acted like he knew everything, Eddie was always there to bring him back to reality.

It's a shame, but a lot of the actors and actresses who appeared in radio are mostly forgotten. Try to do an internet search on Eddie Green and you'll see what I mean. I thought he did an excellent job in the portrayal of Eddie. Eddie was always trying to get in line to see his girlfriend, trying to make ends meet on his waiter's salary, and trying to talk some common sense into Archie when he needed it.

There was a movie made of Duffy's Tavern in 1945 where you can watch the characters as opposed to just listening to them. It had a lot of stars from that era, but overall didn't really capture the charm of the radio show. When Eddie Green passed away the radio show suddenly wasn't as funny as it had been with him. By the time Duffy's made it to television he probably would have made the show a lot better than it was. I would have liked to have been able to see him try.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vincent Price, again

I started doing a close up portrait of Vincent Price that wasn't turning out the way I wanted it to, so I stopped, found another reference shot, and produced this one instead. The below lighting really produced some great shadows on him, and that's what appeals to me about this portrait.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fat Freddy's Cat

When I was in college I discovered underground comics. Some of these were great, some not so great. The ones with Rick Griffin art in them were amazing. One series I really enjoyed was the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers by Gilbert Shelton. A sub series of this was Fat Freddy's Cat. I've never owned a cat, but have known several people who do. If any of them had a cat like Fat Freddy's, I might have got one.

Also in college I started trying my hand at sculpting. I mainly did comic characters like Cheech Wizard, Cerebus, Hal from the Bookie Parlor, (lol!!), etc... Most of these I gave away to friends as gifts. The only one I kept was Fat Freddy's Cat. When my wife and I were dating we would go to Phil Man's, and load up on FFC comics and read them at the drive-in before the film started.

I wonder whatever became of the Freak Brothers....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Andy and Barney

I guess growing up in the 60's I watched as much of "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Mayberry RFD" as the next guy. Yes, there's a bit of corn in both shows, but there's also a lot of happiness, respect for authority, and just good neighbor-ness in both. Like a Norman Rockwell painting, these shows depicted a different time in America. Some, like me, would say a better time. These shows are bittersweet now. Those days are long behind us, and will most likely never come again, at least not in this world environment.

They stand frozen in time. A video snapshot of a slower paced America, one filled with hope and decency. Sometimes the world today can be a terrible place. Thank God there is a Mayberry where we can return to, if for just a little while to remember how it used to be, and should be.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cool Ghoul

When you mention the "Cool Ghoul" a lot of folks think of John Zacherly. Not me. I immediately think of Cincinnati's WXIX horror host, the Cool Ghoul, aka Dick VonHoene. Many's the Saturday night I would drag my parent's black and white television set from their bedroom into my bedroom to watch the Ghoul's program, Scream-In. It was a mix of song, comedy sketches, and of course, a horror film. Ever mindful that young children might be watching, if a particular film like Black Sunday was being shown, the Ghoul would show the scary opening at the end, so as not to frighten the kiddies.

The Ghoul to me was more than just another late night entertainer. His show was a clubhouse, where 'monster kids' could meet and watch Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, or Lon Chaney among others do their thing. It was local television at it's finest, who's time we will never see again, and the medium is much poorer for it.

In 2002, I attempted to track down Dick VonHoene, and using the internet discovered he was doing a cable television show in Kentucky. I wrote him a fan letter, expressing thanks for the hours of entertainment. He graciously sent me an signed photo, which I then used to paint the above portrait. I had every intention of sending him the portrait, but dragged my feet. Sadly he passed away in 2004 and never got to see it. Certainly one of my major "artistic regrets". I later donated it to a Cincinnati event who auctioned it off for charity in his name. It just seemed the right thing to do to honor his memory.

Funny thing about this painting, when I posted it on my web site, it began appearing all over the internet. Most times without my permission. It was also used in an issue of a Cincinnati magazine that did an article on the Ghoul. As long as it's used to keep his memory alive, it's okay with me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Phantom of the Opera

For some reason I have always been fascinated by this character, as portrayed by Lon Chaney. I recall as a young adult getting a super 8mm copy of this film from the library, and it had the hand tinted Masque of the Red Death scene!! I watched it over and over in my basement.

When my oldest daughter was 14 she and I attended an outdoor ampitheater which showed the film accompanied by a live orchestra! It was quite thrilling. She had never seen the movie before, and I really didn't know what she would think of it. When it ended and we were making our way back to the car, she looked at me and said "Dad, I feel kinda sorry for the Phantom." She got it!! Even though the man is a murderer, Chaney's portrayal elicited much sympathy for the character. You felt like he was driven by madness, and all he wanted was to be loved.

I wish I had a larger scan of this painting. It is one of my favorite shots of the Phantom, but the original photo is a bit blurry. I was pleased with how it turned out, and will probably take another shot at it in the future. This was one of six monster paintings in a series where I painted one a week for six weeks.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ian Anderson

I was introduced to the music of Jethro Tull by a friend in high school art class. He brought in their first greatest hits collection, and as soon as I heard Bouree I was hooked! From the intense musicianship to the thought-provoking lyrics it was the band for me. I even painted the cover to their Aqualung album on my bedroom wall during my college years!

I saw them in concert five times, four of those during the "classic" years of 1978-1982. Definitely some of the best concerts I have ever seen, and I've seen a lot! Always theatrical, always humorous, always a great guitar solo from Martin Barre, and back then Ian did his amazing flute solo. I remember sitting on the campus commons, reflecting on some of their lyrics. Even though ian Anderson and I disagree on just who God is, his lyrics forced me to re-examine my own beliefs, and reach my own conclusions. For that I thank him.

The portrait of Ian was one of the first I had ever done where there was no prep work: just a blank canvas and have at it. It's a fun albeit nerve wracking way to paint, but I was satisfied with the results. It was painted in 1980, and I have no idea where the original is, buried in my studio somewhere. Aqualung is still buried beneath several coats of paint that it took to cover him up when Dad sold the house. I drive by that house sometimes and it's fun to image him still there, sleeping under all those coats of paint.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vincent Price

I can't recall when I first became aware of actor Vincent Price. It might have been on the 1960's teevee show Batman when he played Egghead. All I know is that I grew to admire his acting ability in films such as Dr. Phibes, Conqueror Worm, The Raven, House of Wax and many, many more.

He was a true renaissance man, having been an author, an art collector, and a pretty decent cook as I've been told. I really enjoy his radio appearances on shows such as Duffy's Tavern, Suspense, the Saint, etc.

He was the only one of the "old guard" I actually got to meet. There used to be a theater troupe in the Midwest known as the Kenley Players. They would always come through my home town, and on opening night they would have a cast party at a local pizzeria. The restaurant's walls were adorned with autographed photos of the actors of the day who ate there.

In the early 70's, I got word that Vincent was appearing as Fagan in Oliver Twist. My dad took me and the family to the pizzeria that night, and I got to meet Vincent, shake his hand and get his autograph. One of the happiest moments of my life!!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wolf Man

Out of all the classic Universal Monsters, I think I've painted Lon Chaney as the Wolf Man more than any other character. I've been painting him since I was in my teens, and still haven't tired of him. Maybe it's because out of all the monsters, he really didn't like being who he was. Dracula seemed to enjoy the power he had over mere mortals. The Frankenstein monster did elicit sympathy because of his loneliness, but Larry Talbot just wanted a break from turning into a blood thirsty animal every full moon.

Lon Chaney Jr portrayed Talbot with much pathos, and you really felt for his character. While you thrilled to see him run through the forest, you also rooted for him to find a way to break the curse, or at least I did. Chaney, Karloff and Lugosi never got their due in their time, but how many actors created iconic characters whose exploits are celebrated sixty, seventy years after their first appearances?

Hats off to make up wizard Jack Pierce, who created the visages of these monsters, but moreso to the folks who brought them to life!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010


This is a portrait I painted of my oldest daughter, Stephani. It seems like this was painted not so long ago. Stephani will be graduating college this year. Where does the time go? She was such a beautiful baby how could I not paint her?

Truth is, I really enjoy painting both my kids, and have done so quite often. With some success some of the time!! Children are a blessing from the Lord, and I couldn't be more proud of both my girls. Parenting is a challenge since no one gives you a manual. You just hope you do your best and learn from your mistakes.

Stephani is going to graduate school, and plans on being an English teacher. I know she will be an excellent one. She shares my love of reading, and hopes to instill that in her students. I can't believe all the activities that she has been, and is involved with, and still keeps her grades higher than I ever got mine.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Staci and Maui

This painting is about 10 years old. That's my youngest daughter, Staci and our dog, Maui. They were sitting on a picnic table in our back yard, and the light was cutting through the trees producing that wonderful dappled light effect I enjoy painting. Something obviously caught Maui's attention. Probably a rabbit or squirrel that happened to be in "his" yard.

Maui was an orphan when we got him. He had been in three other homes, and those owners couldn't handle having a puppy, so we ended up with him. I believe he was under a year old when he came to live with us. Now he's 14 and still acting like a puppy at times, despite loss of hearing and diminished sight.

In this painting I achieved a rather impressionistic approach that appeals to me, but doesn't come easily. I tend to over render, instead of letting the brushstrokes determine the forms and shadows. It wasn't until several years ago that I really came to understand impressionism and what it meant. It's a challenge to try to paint in that manner and make it turn out. I was pleased with the way this one turned out.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bela Lugosi

I think I've enjoyed Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula since I was ten years old. Back in those days, TV Guide would put a one word description of the genre of the film in it's listing. For Dracula they used the word "melodrama". I had to look that one up!

Whatever it meant I enjoyed watching that movie, and saw it several times back then, and have seen it many more times since. Lugosi's portrayal was the ultimate Dracula for me; suave, deadly and alluring. You rooted for him instead of being repulsed by him. I think that's the difference in the classic monsters versus the gorefest of today. Back then you had sympathy for the monsters. Some of them, the Wolf Man in particular didn't necessarily want to be the way they were.

Bela Lugosi was a fine actor, who like all of us had issues in his life. I believe these issues prevented us from seeing the full extent of his potential as an actor. I wish he would have done more radio plays, as the few we have are quite decent.

The photo I worked from for this portrait is actually from the film Mark of the Vampire, in which Lugosi plays an actor playing a vampire! It was based on the sadly lost film London After Midnight, starring Lon Chaney Sr. It remains one of my favorite photographs of Bela Lugosi.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Grandma Helen

Since I never knew any of my blood grandparents, we did the next best thing; we adopted one!! Her name was Helen Smith, and we moved next door to her soon after her husband had passed away. I was probably 4 or 5 years old. We were told to stay away from Mrs. Smith because she didn't like kids. Very soon after we moved in Helen had her handyman cut a hole in the hedge in her backyard that separated her yard from ours!

I remember sitting on her front porch drinking pop. Sometimes she would babysit me and my brothers, and we'd stay up late and watch roller derby and eat these small pizzas that you cooked in a toaster oven and cost a dime apiece!! She became a very important part of our family. She loved the occasional beer, Pepsi, Lawrence Welk and the song Tie a Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Whenever she went out to a restaurant with us, inevitably someone she knew would come up and greet her! It seemed like everybody knew her. Even in her later years she'd get a hundred Christmas cards!!

She ended up living at the Widow's Home downtown, and lost a leg. It didn't diminish her humor or warmth. When they were taking her to the hospital where she would later pass away, she asked the driver to stop and get them both a beer!! She was one of a kind, and I feel extremely blessed to have known her.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I grew up never knowing my blood grandparents. They were all gone before I was born. All I know about them is what my folks have told me, and through photographs. Those photos are priceless to me. It's the only "contact" I have with them.

This portrait is of my dad's dad. Painting it brought out some strange emotions in me. I was thinking about the fact that I never got to meet him, and wondered what he was like. What hobbies did he have, what were his worries, etc. I sorta felt cheated that I never got to know him, and wondered what he would think about me. These things I'll never know this side of Heaven.

The original photo I had to work from was quite tiny. I really like his face and was anxious to capture it in oils. He favors my older brother. I'm really looking forward to meeting him someday...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Even though I'm a fan of the Universal Monsters, the Creature from the Black Lagoon has never been a favorite of mine. He is hugely popular and has a large fan base. I've seen several of the films he was in, but he never really clicked with me. Maybe it's because he doesn't emote very well. I really don't know.

I do know he's very difficult to paint. I enjoy the challenge of painting him, but rendering all those scales can get very tedious! I've painted him several times and even though I swear I'll never do another portrait of him I end of trying it one more time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This is my mom at age four. She was an only child, and lost her parents while quite young. She looks very happy in this picture. Knowing now how her life would turn out made it quite melancholy to paint.

My folks did a great job raising us kids. Did they make mistakes? Sure. Same ones I swore I wouldn't make ( and did) when I became a parent. But the love and support was always there. They always supported my hobbies, whether it was model building, drawing, whatever. My mom helped me build and paint model kits, taught me how to play solitaire, and baked a theme cake for each one of us on our birthday. I remember once she did this awesome Jack Kirby face of Captain America in icing on a cake for me. I cut that section out and kept it in the freezer for years!! She helped me build and paint a model kit featuring the Banana Splits who were my favorite characters at that time. Then she made a cake and put them on it as decorations!! It was awesome.

A few years after my father retired, mom suffered several strokes. She still knows who I am, but can't live without assistance. I've prayed for a miracle for her for years. Maybe the miracle was all those wonderful years that I had with her, and still do. Her birthday is April Fool's day!!
Happy birthday, mom. Thanks for everything!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hal and the Bookie Parlor

March 29th would have been my friend Hal Blevin's 79th birthday. He fought cancer twice in his lifetime and beat it once. He and his wife, Sue ran the best comic book store Dayton Ohio ever had, the Bookie Parlor. It was more than a place to buy comics. You knew you'd get a friendly dose of Hal's attitude, which was always good for a laugh or two, and a great selection of comics, baseball cards, posters, t shirts, and supplies.

Everyone should have a Bookie Parlor as they grow up. It was a place to run to when life's demands got a bit overwhelming. You'd see some old friends, make some new ones, and just take a break for a while. Sort of like a bar without the alcohol! Their store existed at the perfect time in comics' history. There was exciting ground being broken, really talented artists whose styles you could spot a mile away. New comic book-related merchandise showing up everywhere. It seems to me all that has gone away. Gone are the days when you would see a favorite artist's name in the credit box and know you were in for a treat.

Hal and Sue were very important to my artistic life as well. They would display and sell my paintings for me, and always refused to take a commission. Because of connections I made through them I was able to visit Marvel Comics in 1986. I knew if a new Jeff Jones or Frank Frazetta book was coming out that they'd make sure they had it in stock for me. Speaking of Frazetta their first store had his posters everywhere, including the ceiling!! Artistic nirvana!!!

To this day I miss Hal's friendship, his sense of humor, and the atmosphere which only a place like the Bookie Parlor could provide. His wife, Sue is still an important part of our family.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paul Lawrence Dunbar

This painting has an interesting origin. One Sunday morning I was reading the paper, and saw an article entitled "Dunbar Pictures Wanted", or something like that. I just assumed someone was looking for photographs of Dayton native Paul Lawrence Dunbar the poet. I never read the article.

Later that afternoon, my wife was going to give me a haircut. I spread some papers on the floor, set my chair on them, and sat down. Right between my feet was that Dunbar article. This time, I noticed that it was actually an art contest, with a Dunbar theme! This gained my interest, so I read the article. The Dunbar library at Wright State University was sponsoring an art contest, and all you had to do was create a work of art based on one of his works. I went to the library and borrowed a book of his writings.

I also read a short biography about him, since I didn't know much about him. I also visited his grave at Woodland cemetery. My muse just did not want to cooperate. I was completely dry for an idea, and the deadline for entries was looming. One of his poems was entitled Lincoln, and was exactly that: an homage to Abraham Lincoln. Since my art mentor was Lloyd Ostendorf, renown Lincoln scholar it suddenly all came together and the picture you see is what I created.

I won first prize, which was $750 and the local paper wrote an article about the contest. I'd post the photo of me that was in the paper, but I look like a doofus in it. The painting is now part of Wright State University's Paul Lawrence Dunbar Library's permanent collection, and you can go see it in their African American Studies room.

If I hadn't of gotten a haircut that day none of this would have ever happened!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Glenn Strange

Like most people, when I think of the Frankenstein monster I think of Boris Karloff. He was the definitive actor for that role, to my estimation. Others played him as well, Lon Chaney Jr, Bela Lugosi, etc... Actor Glenn Strange took his turn, and did a pretty decent job. By the time Glenn took over the monster didn't seem to be much of a star any more, usually appearing with several of his cohorts like Dracula and the Wolf Man.

I found this great photo of Glenn as the monster and just had to paint it. The lighting is just superb. James Bama also used Glenn's likeness when he painted for Aurora models. It seems like a lot of the monster toys in the 60's and 70's where patterned after Glenn's likeness moreso than Boris'.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Staci Sleeping

When both my children were little I took a lot of photos of them sleeping. Some of these photos have been used as reference for paintings. They just looked so peaceful and lovely when they were asleep. Safe, and protected from the ugliness that the world sometimes is.

I remember taking the photo that was the basis for this painting. My wife and both girls had been attending a local fair with rides and games. Staci got tired early so she was returned to the house so the others could enjoy the rest of the fair. I laid Staci down on the couch and covered her up. She just naturally assumed this pose, and I photographed her. She looked so tranquil.

As I painted the blanket over her, it became apparent to me that I was painting it in the manner of Jeffrey Jones. People may not agree with this, but that's how I see it. I have been a fan of Jeffrey's work for almost forty years. You could easily spend forty years getting lost in Jeffrey's work. The brushwork, the color choice, the design, all of it is just right. Barbarians, beautiful women, dinosaurs, mermaids all color Jones' world. You can see for your self here.

So whether I meant to or not, I would like to think in some way I was painting a tribute to Jeffrey's art, to in some small way repay the debt I owe for all the years of inspiration, and enjoyment her art has brought me.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fred Allen

St Patrick's Day is the day we lost Fred Allen in 1956. A lot of folks don't know who he is, but should. Author, actor, radio personality. In his day his witticisms were compared to Mark Twain's.
He had several radio shows, many guest appearances, a few films, and appeared on the game show What's My Line in the 1950's. He lamented the birth of television, and was proved correct about it's influence in our lives.

Rather than have me blabber on about him, I'll let Fred speak for himself:

A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary

An actor's popularity is fleeting. His success has the life expectancy of a small boy who is about to look into a gas tank with a lighted match.

Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted.

I don't have to look up my family tree, because I know that I'm the sap

I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.

I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal lobotomy.

Life, in my estimation, is a biological misadventure that we terminate on the shoulders of six strange men whose only objective is to make a hole in one with you.

Television is the triumph of machine over people.

The first time I sang in the church choir; two hundred people changed their religion.

What's on your mind, if you will allow the overstatement?

Thanks, Fred. Rest in peace! I'll see you sometime down the line.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


For some reason I've always had a great love of trees. When we were kids we had three climbing trees in our side yard, and we made good use of them. I've always felt a great sense of peace when surrounded by trees. My favorite character in Lord of the Rings was Treebeard. The idea that the oldest race of species on earth (or Middle Earth) are the Ents is a wonderful thought. Even in the Bible, when Jesus is curing a blind man, He asks him what he sees. The man replies that he saw "men as trees, walking." I have no idea if this was what gave Professor Tolkien the idea for the Ents, but it's fun to speculate. Rush did a great song called The Trees, and gave a lesson for humanity as well.

When my mother first had a stroke, for some reason when we would go for rides in the car she would often comment about the trees. I never knew why. All this just enforces my fascination with trees, and especially the dappled light that only trees can form. I was trying to capture some of this in this painting. I took a photograph of the Three Sisters, a group of trees at a nature preserve that are over 550 years old!! It's rather ironic looking back, that the way I painted this you can only see two of the trees. One of them fell in 2008.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tree Frog

Back in college I *really* wanted to be a paperback book cover artist in the Fantasy genre. I greedily absorbed the works of Frazetta, Michael Whelan, Sanjulian, Jeff Jones and many more during this time. Very soon I would come to the realization either you're cut out for that work or you're not. Those guys were, I was not. I made a few attempts, and really enjoyed letting the imagination loose. In Fantasy art there are no boundaries.

I was also infatuated with tree frogs at the time. Their multi-colored bodies are very artistic. To combine my two interests I came up with this painting. I had read that the Brothers Hildebrandt did some of their paintings on gessoed masonite, so I gave it a try. It makes for very heavy paintings, literally. I liked the smoothness of the surface (which you have to sand in-between coats of the gesso), but in the end canvas won out for me. I usually use sanded down canvas panels with a coat or two of gesso on them.

This was a fun painting to do, and it rarely has been seen since it was created.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tales from the Morgue

I haven't done many small press comics, but enjoyed the ones I was part of. One of these was Tales from the Morgue. It was created by a guy named Ken Leach. He was trying to do something in the vein of the EC comics, or those classic DC House of Mystery type magazines. It was an opportunity for me to scratch my "Berni Wrightson itch". I wanted to draw and ink like Berni so *bad* back then. His stuff was just wonderful! Moody, dark and those gorgeous brushstrokes! What's not to like?

This should have taught me what Frank Frazetta always preached: never try to be someone you're not. You end up being a bad copy of whoever you're trying to emulate. I guess I can always just call this style a "tribute" to Berni. Isn't that a graceful way to cover up the truth?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Phantom of the Opera

Lon Chaney's portrayal of Erik, the Phantom of the Opera has long been a favorite of mine. I remember going to the library when you could borrow Super 8 films and watch them at home. they had a version of Phantom that actually had the hand tinted Mask of the Red Death scenes in it!! When I was eleven, my older brother bought me a Lon Chaney biography entitled Faces, Forms Films. What a treasure trove of images to draw, and I did, repeatedly! Chaney's portrayals of Wu, Quasimodo, Erik, they were all there. That book and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine loaded me up with lots of pictures to draw from.

Musician Keith LuBrant commissioned me to do this portrait of Erik. He wanted the moment just after Christine pulled Erik's mask off, exposing his visage. He chose a somewhat blurry photo for me to work from. Keith was an excellent client, giving me his opinion on how the piece was progressing, and always encouraging me. I've always thought of this piece as being created by Keith and me. I'm very please with the way it turned out.

Captains Kirk, Picard and a Bookie Parlor

There was an ad for "artists wanted" in an issue of the Comic Buyer's Guide in the early 90's. They were looking for portrait artists to paint pictures of celebrities. I like painting portraits and I like comic books so it looked like a great match! The company was Personality Comics, one of many short-lived comic book companies that sprung up at that time. I sent them some samples, and they sent me a try-out assignment: paint Mickey Mantle. I did, and they liked it enough to start sending me regular assignments. Sometimes the deadlines were unreal: you get a week to paint two covers and have it back to New York, or your payment will be delayed. They paid $200 per cover, plus ten copies of that issue, and they returned the art.

No matter if you hit your deadlines or not (and thanks to UPS I did), your payment was always delayed. It usually took a phone call (at my expense) to get them to send the check. Welcome to the big time!

It was pretty cool to walk into a comic book store and see my work staring back at me. One time I went into the Bookie Parlor, the best comic book shop in Dayton, Ohio, and the owner Hal Blevins showed me my Mickey Mantle try out assignment! They used my sample without paying me!! Cue Pink Floyd: "Welcome my son, welcome to the machine!" It took another long distance phone call to get paid for that one.

All in all it was fun painting Pink Floyd, Queen, Lou Gehrig, Madonna, the two Captains, Scotty from Star Trek, and Mark Lenard. I would take the originals to the Bookie Parlor and Hal would kindly sell them for me. He would later totally floor me by giving me a copy of the Mantle comic, *signed by Mickey Mantle*!!! One of his customers went to a Yankees Dream Week and had him sign a few copies. Hal was the best and I still miss him very much.


The imagery in the book of Ezekial in the Bible has always fascinated me. How he saw all that and didn't lose his mind had to be the grace of God!! Sometime in the 80's I got the courage to attempt to depict part of Ezekial's vision in a painting. I tried to keep it very bright, very orange to reflect how he described what he saw. I'm sure he had to describe it in relation to what he knew on earth. The face of the man in this painting is based on a photo I took of my Dad.

I'm not sure I would label this painting a success, but certainly an attempt. It would be interesting to try this one again, twenty years later.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Karn Evil 9

Okay, while I was in college I really set my sights on becoming a fantasy illustrator. Having devoured the works of Frank Frazetta, Jeffrey Jones and ingesting a monthly dose of Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated, I was hooked. Fantasy art combined the elements of make believe, other worldliness, and no boundaries. I saw common threads between a lot of the music I was listening to and this style of art. "Progressive rock" is to me one of the best things to happen to music. Groups like King Crimson, Jethro Tull, early Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes were all showcasing some very talented musicians. Some people view prog rock as elitist, much the same way they malign those who enjoy classical music. To me it's just a different form of music, which relies more on the listeners' ability to let their imagination cut loose.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer joined forces with lyricist Peter Sinfield to create an album entitled Brain Salad Surgery. It was, and is an amazing listen, even though it's close to forty years old. One song was titled Karn Evil 9, and had elements of a dark carnival side show. That song was the basis for this painting, which I did in 1983.

Shirley Temple

I remember watching Shirley Temple films when I was a child. I really don't remember too much about them, so I guess the monsters made more of an impression on me than Shirley did. When I was growing up in the 60's-70's a Nostalgia craze broke out. People were rediscovering Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy and many other of the stars from the early days of radio and film. I'm glad this happened because my Dad took me to see W C Fields films, and at my school the teacher played the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, which began my lifelong enjoyment of old time radio.

I did this portrait for a dear friend of mine. She has many favorites, Shirley Temple and cats among them. What better than to combine two of her loves into a painting for her? I remember she cried when she unwrapped this Christmas gift. What better reward can an artist ask for?

Billy Graham

I did this portrait of Billy Graham a long time ago. I enjoyed listening to him preach, and read a few of his books. At the time I had entertained hopes of doing covers for the Saturday Evening Post. They were using oil portraits of various people as covers at that time. I even made the trip to the Post in Indiana to show the art editor my work. When you enter the lobby you are amazed by the framed charcoal drawing Norman Rockwell did for his Saying Grace cover. I honestly felt like genuflecting before it! It's huge!!

My second surprise was seeing the art editor: he was a young guy about my age at that time, and he had spiked hair! Not my image of the Saturday Evening Post. He was very gracious, looked at my work and showed me around the place. Original artwork was abundant. Very nice Rockwells, Mead Schaeffers (!) He showed me an original Rockwell painting that was used as a cover in the 20's for a rival magazine. He said some workers were renovating a room and found it!! (I wanted to ask him if I could rummage around that room for a bit, but fought the urge.)

Needless to say, like a lot of magazines the Post opted for photography for their covers, ending a long tradition of using painted art. Just shows you where society's headed.

Wolf Man

The Wolf Man has always been one of my favorite Universal Monsters. Partly due to the acting talents of Lon Chaney Jr. His pathos in dealing with his curse evoked sympathy in me. I've painted him many times over the years, ever since I was ten years old!

I saw the recent Wolfman film, and it just didn't have the charm of the original 1941 version. The gore didn't appeal to me, and the acting (except for Anthony Hopkins) just didn't thrill me. Maybe it's the nostalga factor, maybe it's just that the earlier version was a better film. Who knows?

This particular portrait was done as a commission for musician Keith LuBrant. Keith is a very talented artist who has had his music placed in many television shows. I'm sure you've probably heard his work but didn't know it was him! You'll be seeing more of my work that was commissioned by Keith in days to come.

For more about Keith LuBrant, you can click here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Boris Karloff

I've been a fan of Boris Karloff for as long as I can remember. I'm sure my earliest encounter with Mr. Karloff was watching his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster, probably on Scream-In, a late night horror show hosted by Cincinnati's Cool Ghoul. I've seen many of his films, and enjoy watching his television series Thriller. Boris was quite a voracious reader, and I have a couple anthologies with stories he hand picked. I've painted him several times in character, but believe this is the first time sans make up.

This portrait was purchased by a friend of mine, who enabled Sara Karloff, Boris' daughter to see it. She christened it as "divine" which really made my day!! So here's Boris, an underrated actor, but then don't many of the absolute best get ignored?

Peel the Paint, the rebirth!!!

I used to have a web site entitled Peel the Paint, but AT&T decided they would no longer offer personal web pages so it went away. I decided to start it up again, this time as a blog. This will enable me to post my artwork, and write about each painting. I hope you enjoy viewing the artwork, and reading the comments.

First off, I wanted to start by posting a portrait of the Reverend Gary Davis. He's a favorite subject of mine, and I enjoy his music as well. This portrait was painted on masonite in oils. It was done with no prep work, just straight into the painting. It was actually done out of frustration. For months I had struggled with a picture I was trying to paint of Jesus appearing to St. John on the Isle of Patmos. Needless to say, I was in over my head. I didn't even try to cover that painting up, just dove right into this one of the Reverend, sketching it in oils over the existing painting.

I was pleased with the way it turned out. I like the lighting, and the dark quality of it, to echo Gary Davis' loss of sight. Guitars are never much fun to paint, but as you'll see they appear many times in my work.