A Portrait of Tony Curtis

Continued (page 3 of 5)

Do you have a medium you prefer?
I’ve extended myself to another level. I know of one other artist [who] does this. I find myself on the edge of something new and intriguing. I’ve taken everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve drawn and I put them inside boxes. [It’s like] Joseph Cornell. It was an extension of Cornell for me. We were good friends. Fabulous man. It was through him I found an interest in that. I haven’t [created] any in about six months, but I have over 100 – 150, maybe. We’re going to do a book with [these boxes]. We’re going to photograph them and do a book for a table … or a bed [laughs]. Whatever is most appealing.

How do you come up with ideas to paint?
You know what does it? My desire to improve myself as a painter. The only way you can do it is with a pencil and a piece of paper and constantly be drawing those lines. Before you know it, you get what perspective is. You get what the interior of a room is. You get what a figure is. You begin to understand curves and straight lines – how to make them and how to stay within [them].

Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?
I [took some] at UCLA. Jan Stussy was the teacher – a fabulous man who allowed me the privilege of some of his classes.

When you were filming, you’d go all over the world. Did you ever take advantage of the landscapes you saw? Did you ever pull out a canvas and paint on a Sunday afternoon?

I’d take a camera and I would draw. I didn’t want to carry another satchel with paints. That came later, when I started painting in colors – watercolors and so on. 

So what you saw around you is what influenced you?
 Yeah, definitely. Art is an emotional experience. If you can show the pain and anger and laughter and joy of the human condition, then you’re working in it. You need that. That’s what art is. Art represents all of the emotions the human condition can have – inside and outside.

Who are your favorite artists?
I like Miró. van Gogh. I love the Italian artists. I forget all their names, but I’ve got them all over the place.

When you were a kid, you wanted to be an actor. Did you ever see a day when you’d be a full-time artist?
I never paid that much attention to it. I got into [art], but not that into it. I was going to wait for an opportunity. But you don’t sit at home and wait. You think about what else you’d like to do. I thought, well, I’d like to be an actor, so I saw a lot of movies. I’d like to be an athlete, a wrestler, so I extended myself in all these areas. I liked stories. I couldn’t write because I had a very poor education – there was no schooling of any kind – so I had no inclination toward being a writer. I had an inclination to be anything and everything I wanted, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have the ability to do it. I would have loved to have been a scientist. Couldn’t do it. A doctor. Couldn’t do it. I could have been any one of those because they all created an imagination. They were all rooted in imagination. I had an imagination. Not that that was good or bad. I had to calm my imagination because I couldn’t do [everything I wanted to do]. There were so many things I could have done.

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