Wednesday, February 10, 2010

BAMA Interview (1969) - Part 1

Me talking: I've been a James Bama fan since I was 14 and bought my first Doc Savage paperback. Over the years it came to my attention he'd done some western covers, and later moved into serious western painting. But until I started hunting up artwork to accompany this interview, I didn't know he'd done pulps. And I sure didn't know he'd painted the box art for all those great Aurora monster models.

Cap'n Bob Napier and his co-editor Bob Jaunillo conducted this interview by mail for their first and only issue of Comickazi, published in 1969. It's reprinted here by kind permission of Mr. Napier. Here goes . . . . . .

For openers let’s find out a little bit about yourself, like where you were born and when.
I was born on April 28, 1928 in New York City.

Do you still live there?
No, I now make my home in Cody, Wyoming.

What hobbies or interests do you have outside of art?
Sports - I still play basketball, hike, ride and lift weights.

How about your art? When did you first become interested in it?
I’ve been interested in art ever since childhood.

Do you remember where your first printed work appeared?
Yes, it was in Sporting News when I was 15 years old.

What was your first professional job as an artist?
I have always free-lanced.

Did you ever think of following a career other than art?
I had always planned to be an artist.

You have the ability to use colors more effectively than most of the other cover illustrators working today. What techniques to you employ and what materials do you use?
Well, I try to put every cover in a color mood so it will read easily. I use oil paints on illustration board prepared with Shiva underpainting white.

As an artist, do you have a goal that you want to reach?
Yes, I want to do heroic, meaningful paintings in fine art.

Who are your personal favorites in the field of art and why?
Andrew Wyeth is the artist I most admire. He is the complete painter: conception and execution. Rembrandt is my all-time hero. He put life on canvas better than anyone ever did.

What is your opinion as to the direction art is taking today?
Modern art is really entertainment, “show business”, and requires a new act all the time. Good realism always has a permanent market.

You’ve painted most of the Doc Savage covers to date. Do you ever read the contents?
I’ve read all of the Doc Savages and I also conceived the covers for them.

Generally, what kind of reading material do you favor?
The classics, and the Sunday Times in New York.

While we are at it, who are your favorite authors?
Dostoyevsky, Dickens, etc.

OK, to get back to art, how long does it take you to produce a cover painting for a paperback book?
About five days.

Would you rather continue as you are now or go on to something else, say a strip or commercial work?
I have done commercial work for twenty years and I hate it! I will never do it again. I haven’t wanted to do a strip since I was seventeen years old, when Alex Raymond was my hero. I only do book covers now and paint for myself.

©1969 Jaunillo-Napier

Part 2 (The End) tomorrow. 

Doc Savage Covers
Western Art

Note: Killer Bait is from the collection of Mr. James Reasoner


Anonymous said...

Bama fans should know about Brian Kane's superb book, JAMES BAMA--AMERICAN REALIST from Flesk Publications, 2006. Should still be available from Bud Plant. The Deluxe edition includes Paul Jilbert's fine DVD documentary on Bama (Paul also did the more recent vido doc on Robert McGinnis - intereesting that both artists cite Andrew Wyeth as their idol). The Comickaze piece marked the first time I learned of Bama's non-Doc Savage work.

Art Scott

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks, Art. Sounds like a book I need.

Richard Prosch said...

Bama really knew his stuff. More than a few decades ago, I had those Aurora box illos hanging on my wall. Great post!

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