Extended Bio

I’ll try to tell you about myself as succinctly as possible: The eldest of nine children, I was born in downtown East Los Angeles, and grew up in Ontario, California, the former dairy capital of Southern California’s great “Inland Empire.” By age three, my mother, a professional photo tinting expert, could not deny I REALLY loved to draw; I drew prolifically, at the dinner table, in the bath tub, in my sleep (wait, isn’t this every artist’s story?). She gave me books of drawings by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, and suggested I copy their work. These masters became my first teachers. I never stopped creating art. Mom taught me that an artist should master the techniques of classical art before venturing into more contemporary forms of self-expression. For better or for worse, I took her advice to heart. My education in the Arts has continued for the last sixty+ years. My father, a professional photographer and filmmaker, gave me my first still camera at age 8, and my first movie camera at 11. I spent many hours punching hypo in his darkroom. Drawing, painting, film, photography… and Renaissance sensibilities… in my blood from an early age.

I attended UCLA; studied Art History and Motion Picture Sciences. At age 19 (1970), I moved to New York City where I became a graphic designer and illustrator working for Push Pin Studios. At the time, Push Pin was world famous for inventing the “Yellow Submarine” illustration style, and also for being the first group of “commercial” artists to ever exhibit in the Paris, Louvre. Not satisfied with commercial art, I segued into fine art. I studied with Gilbert Stone (a Prix di Rome scholar) whose mentor was the great Gregory Gillespie (also a Prix di Rome awardee). After my one-and-only Prix di Rome application was denied, I decided to go to Rome on my own, spending a year studying the art first hand; sobbing every time I gazed up at the Sistine Chapel. Returning to New York City, I apprenticed with the renowned Roger Hane, painter of the Carlos Castanedas, “Teachings of Don Juan” book covers. I made a living selling my paintings and doing portraits of wealthy aficionados. Patterson Sims (former curator New York Whitney Museum), Mick and Bianca Jagger, Keith Richards, and Margaux Hemingway are a few of the celebrities who collected my work. I helped pioneer Manhattan’s exclusive NoHo District when it was still sweat shops and sewing factories looking down over scab-covered winos crawling down the streets. My loft studio on 17th and Union Square was across the street from Andy Warhol’s Factory. Andy, who loved to tour the neighborhood, entourage in tow, stopped by often, mostly to give me a hard time for being old fashion. But he was really just jealous I was stealing his portrait clients. Or maybe he was stealing mine!

Collaborating with underground film director, Abel Ferrara, I left my mark on America’s sub-culture as Tony Coca-Cola, singer and guitarist for punk band, the Roosters in the cult movie, DRILLER KILLER, part of which was filmed in Ivan Karp’s legendary OK Harris gallery. (Did I mention I also studied piano in childhood. They said I was a prodigy and should apply to Juilliard, but I had no love for piano, and later switched to electric guitar.) I had painting exhibits and rubbed shoulders with superstars and socialites at Studio 54. My life-sized American Bison painting was permanently installed in the Hall of States at the National Visitor Center, Washington, D.C. Around that same time, I began to see the potential of motion pictures to be gigantic paintings that moved and made sound. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, I wrote my first moving painting—a 32-page treatment with drawings.

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In 1980, I moved back to Los Angeles. It was my great fortune to form a partnership with Mark Johnson (who went on to win the “Best Picture” Academy Award for RAINMAIN, and whose most recent coup includes the megahit series, BREAKING BAD.) Mark and I sold my movie treatment, and subsequent screenplay which was produced and is still in distribution today by MGM. (SOLARBABIES; Executive Producer, Mel Brooks, Brooksfilms Productions). Over the years, the film has attained widespread cult status. I became determined to make more films, and spent the next 30 years working in that domain. I mastered a range of skills working my way up from gopher to grip, then art director, production designer, and ultimately writer, director, producer. In my studio, there were always paintings and designs in progress no matter whatever else I was doing.

Meanwhile, the filmmaking process begins with the screenplay. I decided to learn to write them. (As a painter, I was accustomed to starting with a blank canvas, right?) During the years I pursued a career in motion pictures, I wrote over 40 screenplays and several novels. Some of my writing mentors have been Menno Meyjes (Academy Award nominee for THE COLOR PURPLE), Walon Green (Academy Award winner and acclaimed writer of THE WILD BUNCH), and Bruce Joel Rubin (Academy Award winning writer of GHOST). My first agent was Jack Rapke, head of the Motion Picture Department of the Creative Artists Agency, now producer for my friend, Robert Zemeckis (Academy Award winning director of FORREST GUMP).

To date, I’ve written, produced, and directed two feature films, DARK SPIRAL and LITTLE EDEN, as well as several short films, including award-winning, EPHEMORA. My novels, among them the FALCON LORD series, THE TERRIBLE QUEST OF THADDEUS PENNYBROOK’S KNEE-HIGH STEAMBOTS, ANATOMY OF A WEREWOLF, and MACHINE OF GOD (a Leonardo da Vinci historical fantasy), can be purchased on Amazon.com.

In the early 90’s, I learned how to use a computer and soon started my own multimedia business doing web design, graphic design, photography, and videography. I maintain this business to this day. To be sure, I’ve always continued to paint as you’ll see in the “Retrospective” section of this site. I’ve had several exhibitions over the years, and the good fortune to enjoy ongoing public support of my work. Because of dramatic changes in the motion picture business (specifically corporate domination and subsequent dumbing-down of movies), I’m now interested primarily in the art of painting, although I plan to make the occasional short art film. Because I believe we must be more responsible Stewards of the Environment, I’m currently developing the GODDESS short film project (see “Film and Video Art” section). We are blessed to have three “Best” Academy Award winners on our support team: Robert Zemeckis, Mark Johnson, and Michael Lantieri. Michael is the Special FX wizard who has worked his magic for all Zemeckis’s films, and most of Spielberg’s and Tim Burton’s as well. The GODDESS film is meant to raise global awareness of Man’s need to protect our home, Planet Earth.

I’ve often asked myself if I should have spent my time focused solely on painting since that’s my first love. But I always get the same answer: If Leonardo, my primary role model since childhood, were alive today, he’d be exploring a variety of media, including motion pictures. Still, the movie business is not all glamour, fun and games. After 30 years of chronic stress, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I beat it. My book, CONQUER THYSELF, chronicles that hair-raising adventure and includes the measures I took to restore my health. Today, I have more energy and passion than ever before.

Reviewing my paintings over the past 40+ years, you’ll see I’ve explored a range of styles from realism, to primitivism, to total abstraction, and finally to a combination of all the above resulting in what I call Auto-Expressionism. You may also notice a recurring theme—a juxtaposition of beauty and madness (with an underlying nod to sustainability). It seems a part of me struggles to balance the natural rhythms of nature with the often chaotic machinations of Man. A few years ago, I had another realization about Leonardo: If he were alive today, rather than trying to capture nature (specifically the human form) by painting it, he’d simply use a digital camera. A camera does a far better job and is much more efficient at it.

The Long and Short of all this is that I’m a Creativity Addict (and workaholic?). Inspiration strikes, and I am helpless to fight it. I’m compelled to grab hold, wrestle it to the ground, and stake it to its appropriate medium. (Maybe it’s fear that drives me.) After that, like some wild creature tagged, I set it loose again to fend for itself. Passion tamed… but only momentarily. This will continue until my last breath, I am certain.

I currently live in Santa Barbara, California with my remarkable wife and a spoiled cat who believes he is the Lion King. Some day, when he’s too old to protest, I intend to bring him to the zoo and show him a real lion. Hopefully, he’ll realize what a fool he’s been.

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