Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Paul Warhola

“You gotta have a little humor in your life,” Paul Warhola told me.

Mr. Warhola is the older brother of Andy Warhol. In the early 1990s he took time away from his junkyard business for a series of chicken feet paintings. As I sketched him at his son's house in Tivoli, New York, I wrote down word-for-word the story of his life as he told it to me.

“I got Andy started. We put wax over the funny papers and rubbed over it with a spoon. I got him his first camera. We dug out the basement and put in a red light.

“Shirley Temple sent him a photo, and it said ‘to Andy Warhola from Shirley Temple.’

“I had 150 chickens, and I don’t like to pen ‘em up. One day the chickens got into my paint. They got me started. They did my first painting. Time Magazine called me and she said ‘I understand you’re doing product paintings and copying your brother.’

“I says ‘No, I’m gonna let my chickens do my paintings.

“I’m getting tired of interviews. I go down to the dog track and I have fun. I break even. I don’t get carried away. It’s a form of entertainment.”

If you want to know more about Mr. Warhola, his junk business, and his relationship with Andy Warhol, don’t miss the illustrated memoir “Uncle Andy’s” by Paul Warhola’s son James.
For more about Andy Warhol and the Warhola family, visit


jeff said...

This is great, the other Warhol...

Anonymous said...

What about the other Dellesandro? This post was great! Thanks for forcing me to start my day with interesting things.

Sean U. said...

Thats great. You do so many things, and meet and know so many people. I wish I knew and could talk to so many cool people. Where do you get the time and contacts.

Great stuff.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Beautiful drawings you did, so full of character!

One of my young sons took that book "Uncle Andy's" out of the Library not long ago...and we all loved it! it's the kind of book where you spend lots of time blissfully poring over the illustrations.

Super Villain said...

was his brother spanish by any chance....Paul WarHOLA....ahhh...bad joke..

so funny what he says about being tired of interviews, haha, he's proably trying to talk about his chicken art the whole time while all the interviewer wants to know about is what as it like having warhol as a brother, haha, i would get tired of that too, haah!

but warhol's art and time was a great one, it dosnt seem like art movements happen like that anymore, artists in the 70's seemed more like a gang or family that moved and tried things together, now it seems like more individuals...i think it would be a great thing for artists to combine and colaborate like they once did...individuals artists are great, but movments really pushed art and ideas....maybe somthing artists as indiduals are not able to do alone?

keep up the great blog!

Shane White said...

Years ago I worked for an Antique Dealer/Interior Design firm in Pittsburgh. Many times I'd make deliveries to corporate offices downtown. I remember handling Paul's work amongst a few others from one of the Squirrel Hill galleries. It was black chicken feet on a 6 foot by 4.5 foot canvas.

Needless to say it wasn't doing anything for the designers once it was hanging in the board room of the start up tech company.

Guess they weren't into the dichotomy of "folksy" pop-art.


Doug said...

Super Wu-Man

Isn't that what is sort of happening here on the internet, on blogs like this one and others.I know it's very different in some ways, but really, I'm just old enough to remember what it was like without the internet. It would be a fantasy to be able to contact James, and others who post here let alone hear their views on various types of art and techniques, classic to contemporary on a daily basis. I remember a time when I had to go to a Library to view works of art, now there are sites like the Art Renewal data base. I think there are terrific movements happening in traditional and digital art, some more specific than others. I've learned a lot and have been influenced directly by many artists over the net, and I've noticed specialized sites dedicated to specific art techniques and genres. Or... maybe I just want this kind of thing as much as you and I'm stretching to find it :)

"I had a 150 chickens, THEY did MY first painting." you can't make this kind of stuff up! Absolutely fantastic!

Doug said...

Oh and one more quick thing, and what I really wanted to post here in the first place, James, I love your pencil sketches, there is a quality in your line that reminds me of Loomis and Rockwell among others.

Super Villain said...

good point, maybe the internet makes us feel so connected that we dont feel the need to really connect in "groups" anymore.

i mean when these artists were getting together back in the 70's i can only imagine the thrill they had finding people with similar interests...

now its as easy as gettting out of bed, walking a few feet, and there you are, all the artists you love, in a place where you can openly communicate.

i guess what i'm saying is, back in the day, they had to actually get out of the house, haha, drive somewhere meet up and form ideas and a movement in reality....

thats whats lost in my opinion, that feeling of a group/family in the art community, dont get me wrong i love the internet and everything it provides, art movments are expanding at amazing rates....but the heart of the movments....i dont know....dosnt feel the same....

not that i was even around in the 70' i guess i'm just talking.....but all i'm saying is a group of artists online dosnt feel as strong as a group of artists in real life talking and are the movements as strong in art now...even though they are massive....maybe?

just an observation.....

ninjabird said...

The character shooting out of the second portrait is really amazing! I love your blog and grew up on your books. Thanks for...creating so much, I guess. I just tried to explain the idea of Dinotopia to one of my friends who hadn't seen it, but I think I failed. The idea that certain kinds of worlds can still exist in only in illustration, and that every aspect of how something works is part of drawing it is very hard to convey when many people only think in photos.

If you haven't see this, I ran into this company of puppeteers, and it seems like something you'd like (giant mechanical squid and elephants!)

James Gurney said...

Captain Brushpen, yes I heard about those amazing puppeteers from Nantes a while ago and did blog post about them a while ago. I hope to visit Nantes next year and if I do, I'll do a live report.

SuperWu and Doug, I'm fairly new to the wonders of the web, and appreciate all your points. The Internet can be a way to organize flesh-and-blood groups, like the Sketch Crawl events that Charley Parker recently spotlighted in Lines and Colors.
Plein air paintouts are another great way to visit with other artists.

And thanks for all your nice words about the Paul Warhola sketches. I admire everyone in the Warhola family: they're all both smart and creative, willing to try anything whether or not anyone has tried it before.

Doug said...


just reading over the posts here, I thought I should clarify something, since I'm new at this and expressing ones self through writing, I'm finding, can be tricky.

My comment about the 150 chickens was not a criticism, but an observation, truth can be stranger than fiction.I wasn't judging his method, really, I have learned to view all forms of expressions with an open mind, ready to learn and hopefully, if I can grasp the concept, add another tool, another choice that might improve my own effort at the easel. I think it is fantastic that one would look at these chickens running around in paint, and see the possibility of art. It goes to your point of being smart and creative.

I much prefer meeting with artists in person, and I have been inspired to attempt Plein air painting, I've never heard of this practice before visiting this blog, being self taught for the most part, through books.

James Gurney said...

Hi, Doug, Don't worry, I took your comment just as you meant it. And you're right: you can't make this stuff up. I love to just write down what people say to me while I'm sketching their portraits and I'm amazed by the stories they tell.

As far as plein air events, maybe one of the blog readers can suggest websites where you can find out about plein air painting events and sketchcrawls in your area.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Most excellent! Thanks for this post.