Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Karloff as Morgan

The Old Dark House is a creepy film. Stranded motorists in an old, cavernous house that looks like it'll fall apart soon. They are greeted at the door by Boris!! I'm surprised they stuck around.

When the client requested this particular character, I found this amazing still of Karloff. I immediately knew I wanted to do a mostly monochromatic piece. Can't explain why, sometimes it just works out this way. The lighting was great, as was the make up by the amazing Jack Pierce. Absolute perfection!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Mord the executioner

Another Boris Karloff portrait in another great role for him. Mord the executioner from the 1939 film Tower of London. A pretty decent film with Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price as well. This was a fun one to paint, and went relatively quick. Some paintings just seem to drag when I paint them, others seemingly appear before my eyes. Happily, this was one of those.

Monday, September 26, 2011


I first heard about the amazing guitarist Jorma Kaukonen when a friend in college introduced me to the music of Hot Tuna. Jorma is one of those rare guitarists who can decimate your ear drums with a vicious wah-wah solo, then turn around and break your heart with a tender love song. He is universally recognized as one of the best finger style guitarists in the world, and rightly so. I enjoy both his electric performances and his acoustic ones.

This is an unfinished portrait of Jorma. I took it to a point where I thought it should be, and let it go. The reference photo was from Hot Tuna's last record (at the time) appropriately called "Final Vinyl". I painted it in college, found my original attempt a while back, and sorta went "ugh"! So I tried again, and I feel this is a more relaxed attempt.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Boris as Fu Manchu

Hats off to a friend of mine, Big Swan! He owns several of my paintings, and usually picks subjects that I may not have considered. This is one of those cases. I've seen the film in which Boris Karloff portrays the evil Fu Manchu, and thought he did a great job in it. For whatever reason I probably never would have thought about doing a portrait of this character. I tend to focus on Karloff's more popular portrayals, or straight portraits of the man.

This one was fun to do. Lots of bright colors, tempered by a darker color key to keep a somber tone to the piece. I thought I had it finished at one point, but found I kept tweaking this and that, adding color, fuzzing up the background a bit, etc. Sometimes you just have to declare it finished and let it go.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bela and the cursed canvas!!!

About thirty years ago I bought a three foot by four foot stretched canvas. I was much younger and full of youthful ambitions. One of which was to do a nice, large painting of something. Prior to this, the largest painting I had done was a six foot tall mural of Burt Silverman's cover to the Aqualung album by Jethro Tull.

This canvas would over the years accumulate around a dozen aborted paintings. There were portraits of Pete Rose, Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of my daughters, a few landscapes, and various illustrations that for one reason or the other just didn't pan out. I began to think the canvas was cursed. It was either that or the fact that my abilities were limited, and it couldn't be that!!

So fast forward to this year, and after toting this canvas to an apartment and two houses over the years I decided to try again. The photo reference I used was taken from a book by author David Skal. I originally saw the photo online somewhere, in a very small format. I thought it was such a great, unusual shot of Bela Lugosi in his definitive role I had to paint it. Skal's book had a larger version that was just fine to use as reference.

Painting it went pretty smooth, and when it came down to just finishing his hands and a bit of the background I hit the wall. Classic artistic block, big time! I really wanted to finish it and get it behind me, and break the "curse" so set my mind to it and got it done!

Friday, June 17, 2011


FJA is Forrest J Ackerman. Dr. Acula. He is the man who single handedly started fandom as we know it. He was the editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, my favorite magazine as a kid. I bought several issues, but rarely read them. I was too taken with the photos of Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney(s), etc. All my favorites were in there. Not to mention those breath-taking covers by Basil Gogos.

This portrait was painted in a looser style than I normally do. It's a fun, but challenging way to paint. It takes a lot of courage to leave slabs of color laying there without smoothing and blending them. It's also smaller (12"x12") than I usually paint portraits. Still, all in all a fun exercise.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Haunted Strangler

I belong to a great internet group called The Universal Monster Army. It's a place for folks who appreciate the classic monsters to hang out, and I've made some wonderful friendships with a lot of folks I'll probably never meet!! The subject often strays from monsters to just about anything. We laugh together, we cry together, and we support each other.

One of the ways I've been challenged as an artist is to paint new subjects. A fellow UMA'er has suggested several characters that quite frankly I never would have portrayed otherwise. That is how this one came about. He suggested I try to paint Boris Karloff in his role as the Haunted Strangler. No one needs to twist my arm to paint Mr. Karloff!! I've probably painted him more than any other subject, and enjoy each one.

With this one I tried to loosen up a bit in the background, and just have fun painting him. I don't believe one ever quits developing as an artist, and this is one of the things that keeps me painting.

Special thanks also goes to Rahsaan Roland Kirk whose music helped me finish this when my muse had abandoned me!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Frankenstein revisited

I never tire of painting Boris Karloff, especially as the monster. This painting is special for a couple reasons. First, I tried a couple of different techniques on this one. I tried to keep really loose on the background. I wanted to try a freer type of paint handling, keeping the values close, but trying to create some variety to the coloration. I also did some glazing on the top lintel as well.

The second was the fact that this was the first time I painted using an easel that my father in law made for me. It's made out of oak and is gorgeous. I usually don't paint standing up, but did for most of this one. It really makes a difference in how you hold the brush, how you approach the canvas, etc.

Painting time for me is getting scarce these days. I'm surprised I even finished this one. As I get older I still enjoy the process, but find I want to do more experimentation. Even after painting for the last forty years, it's still a rewarding experience.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Revisiting an old friend....

I'll lost count of how many times I've painted Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolf Man, let alone how many times I've worked from this same reference shot. It's got great lighting, pathos in his eyes, and is just such an iconic shot...who wouldn't want to paint from it? It was the client's idea for the background images, and I think they work.

I wonder if Jack Pierce, the make up artist who created the classic Universal Monsters had any idea that artists would be celebrating his creations, sixty, seventy years after they were made? When you think of how many various artists have drawn inspiration from his work it's staggering. He certainly deserved much more acclaim that what he received in his lifetime.

So this one is dedicated to Jack, as all of them should be. For he was the original monster artist!