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.