Jun 28, 2012
01:01 PMDiscover Connecticut
Portrait of the Artist
“If I could telescope my life it would reveal that I left school before I was 16, took a job drawing comics and paperback books, then moved on to painting portraits, and three years ago I was honored at the San Diego Comic Con for being part of the Golden Age of Comics,” says artist Everett Raymond Kinstler of Easton. Indeed. Kinstler’s drawings of Hawkman and Zorro as well as those of pulp favorites The Shadow and Doc Savage are now collectibles. “If I had any talent it was for people,” he says. “I liked doing the pretty girl, the detective and the cowboy.
In the 1950s when Kinstler was 25 years old, the world of illustration began to change. The culture had shifted its attention to television, and it was hard to make a living. “You have to adapt,” he says. “Illustration is all about storytelling, and I had a flair for it, for interpreting people, so I began showing my portraits at galleries.” When he landed his first commissioned portrait from Forrest E. Mars Jr., the son of the chairman of M&M Mars, his . He’s now one of the leading portrait artists in the world.
Now at 85, Kinstler has painted portraits of seven U.S. presidents, cabinet members, numerous, celebrities, business people and families. This spring he was honored by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., in its Distinguished Illustrator Series in the retrospective Everett Raymond Kinstler: From Pulp to Portraits. The exhibition included work that spanned his career. An abridged version of the exhibit is now at Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Museum of Art. ‘This show is more personal,” he says, adding that portraits of his good friends Tony Bennett and Tom Wolfe are included, as are those of Connecticut luminaries Katharine Hepburn, Paul Newman, Christopher Plummer and Dave Brubeck.
“One of the things that’s been great fun for me through the years was meeting and painting some of the people that I used to watch in the movies, like John Wayne, Jimmy Cagney, Gene Hackman and Gregory Peck” he says. ‘“And to paint them in my studios.” Kinstlerpaints all his subjects from life (at his studios in New York City and Easton). He builds a rapport with his clients in order to look for what he calls “a hook” or a characteristic by which to capture their essence. In the case of John Wayne, he noticed he would often stand with his hands on his hips. Wayne told him that he got into the habit when he played football and his pants had no pockets.
So whom would he paint if he could pick any subject he wanted? “I’m painting the very people I should be painting,” he says. “So many so-called ‘name’ people are ephemeral. But many people who have contributed so much to the American life are people I get to paint on a daily basis and this stimulates me enormously.” And if he runs into someone who’s a little difficult, he takes the advice Katharine Hepburn gave him, “You do the best you can and you get on with it.”
“I’m coming around full circle with what I’m painting now,” he says of a series of four paintings he’s doing inspired by movies. “Going back to the things that meant so much to me—the comics, the illustrations and the movies,” he continues. “I wanted to get a feeling of different eras. So I took themes such as the Western. One of the pictures in my show is a pen-and-ink I did of a cowboy in 1950, and 60 years later I’m weaving it into this series. I’m having fun doing it—that’s been the key to this.”
For more info, call 203.254.4046 or visit fairfield.edu/musuem.