With Further Ado #204: Greg Hildebrandt Part 4 – Dissatisfaction as Part of the Process

Let’s get into the fourth part of our With Further Ado conversation with Greg Hildebrandt. The real purpose of this is talk about his two amazing 2023 calendars. During our last conversation, we were in the middle of a story, as Greg and Jean had just received an enthusiastic invitation for a one-man show at a prestigious Manhattan art gallery.

Please enjoy Part 4 of my interview with Greg Hildebrandt:

Greg Hildebrandt: Twenty minutes later Lou Meisel calls. He loved it! And he said “Okay, what are you talking about?” She <Jean> said, “A show. A one man show.” And he said, “Okay we’ll talk.”

Ed Catto: That’s incredible!

GH: And I got the same model back. Plus, another model in the meantime. Plus, a bunch of the jobs that I’m working on with about three other pinups. Get the model. Shoot the pictures. And Jean is talking with Lou. Lou is saying, “I’m going to need at least twenty-four paintings. I mean, how many does he have?“ And Jean replies, “Just this one, and he’s working on three photos.”

“That’s right – it’s three years until the show,” replied the gallery owner.

“No, no, no, no, at the end of this year you’ll have all the art,” said Jean.

He says, “What are you, kidding me?” She says “No, I guarantee you’ll have it.”

So now Lou wants to see them live – the paintings- so I finished off two more. We put them in the car, go into the city. He loved them. And he said “Okay!” We decided well what date was for the show, and we went home. And that’s all I did for the next ten or twelve months: it was pin-ups.

I put everything away, because she (Jean) manages everything – current business, family. You name it: she does it! I draw. I got twenty-four paintings done.

That show was terrific and that started a whole new thing. Of course, you’ve got to react, or respond to the kind of situation, where some people are saying, “Pin-up Artist?!? He does dragons and stuff. What do you mean pin-up art?”

EC: They put you in a certain box.

GH: But that’s always how it goes, especially in the New York gallery scene. I tried to do that once, years ago in the 70s. I had a wide range of stuff all over the place. And the galleries that would see me would say “You’re all over. You have got to land on something.”

I asked, “What do you mean, land on something?”

“Simple,” he said. He pointed to a painting that I just finished. A guy on a Harley. It was photo realistic. I went through a photo realistic period. It took me a month to make the headlight!

And he said, “Give me 20 of those!”

“What do you mean?”

“Give me 20 of those. The guy on the bike. You know, you’ve got to make a statement so you’re an expert in this one thing.”

<Greg mockingly pounds his fist and shakes his pointer finger, mimicking this advice he received from a gallery owner all those years ago.>

That was the mentality. It’s still there, I think, to some degree.

People think that if you if you have a variety – if you’re all over the place – then they think “This guy doesn’t know what he wants to do”. Well, he wants to do all that! That’s what he wants.

EC: It’s funny because I feel like you’re a guy who’s mastered so much. You’re the “Dragon Guy” on one hand, but you did all the Marvel work and the Star Wars art. If I’m a card guy, I might just know you from cards, right? And if I’m a Tolkien guy, I just know you from Tolkien.

GH: I love variety! I don’t want to stick to doing one thing. Jean has always had the philosophy …and I’ve always had the philosophy… When I was a kid, it wasn’t even a philosophy. We just had too much stuff that we were interested in!

That became the pin-up thing and then Jean’s managed to be the one because I only had that one show with Meisel. She manages everything now. It took a little while, because pin-up art was kind of a hard sell, believe it not. She finally got it: I’m all over the place. She got it all going and is constantly making it happen.

EC: Oh yeah, I love it and what one other thing I’m not sure how much you’re involved, but from what I’ve seen anything American Beauties calendar, it looks beautifully designed!

GH: That’s Jean and Keith. They designed the whole thing. Jean and Keith designed the whole thing. She wanted an Art Deco look; so, she and Keith worked on this whole thing, and the same with the Lord of the Rings. They’ve both designed all that stuff. Like I said, she had a publishing company. She’s an artist too. She’s got a great eye. She knows. She’ll come in when I’m working and say ‘da da da da’ <Meaning she makes specific suggestions.> And then I’ll react – all artists react- “What do you mean? What do you mean?!?” <He feigns indignance.>
And then, Sure enough, you know…

EC: ….She’s right, yes.

GH: It’s not only just technical… or “something’s crooked”. It’s like an analysis of the subject itself and what is conveyed and a deeper conversation also. It’s a person who knows. Four eyes on a subject are better than two.

EC: That’s great you have that ability in the relationship, especially with your spouse. Last question, (I know we’re coming to the end) with the with the Tolkien calendar, you also have that Heavy Metal center spread. Can you tell me about that?

GH: Well, Jean started to talk to Matt Medney of Heavy Metal, and Matt suggested that. They were talking about a centerfold of some kind, of Lord of the Rings.

And Matt said, “How about how about Taarna?” You know, their iconic warrior woman and with “a Lord of the Rings-y being”.

Some kind of a creature of being, or a Warlord, or something. I said, “Fantastic! Right up my alley.” And I designed it. It became for me, a new challenge of lighting. I don’t know how many people have seen it. I wanted two different colors of light source in there. There’s a main for left frontal warmth – like towards a low sun or a little fire or something hitting the whole scene. There’s going to be light flashing on her sword and blasting (out). And what color would I want that to be as it spreads out? It’s white at the core, but then the next color determines what direction you’re heading.

It’s an analysis thing again for me. (1) I don’t want it fiery, because that will go into oranges and reds and fire. (2) I don’t want it blue. Blue is great to use for lightning, but that will be too extreme.

So, I gave it is very subtle purple light. Actually, purple moves away from the center source.

It almost become – the true color of itself. All becomes the object become the true color itself.

There I take off to the layout. I do the drawing. I generally do fifty pictures.

EC: Wow!

GH: It’s not because I’m particularly dissatisfied with any one of them or not. I play with the subject: Where should it be coming in? What’s the primary center of interest? Who do I want as primary centers – the good guy? the bad guy? So, I’m going through all that.

Nobody sees what’s underneath the tip of iceberg. And we get the model posed. A woman, a bodybuilder.

I shot the pictures after my lighting setup, and I will go with the sketches were about the lights and then I went to the finish drawing. And then went to the painting and that’s what ended up in the book and the calendar.

EC: That looks fantastic. Those are going to be two great products.

GH: I enjoy this, you know. I’m very fortunate I’m still…. I said eleven before? …generally speaking, I’m about seven! There’s that enthusiasm that’s never left me.

EC: I can see it in your face and hear it in your voice. When it’s on the canvas too. I mean I’m not blowing smoke up your backside, but it seems like you’re at the top of your game. These images; they’re just fantastic.

GH: That’s one of the beautiful things about getting old: you (hopefully) get better. And fortunately, my health is good so that’s definitely a plus. I’ve never been content. I’m never being satisfied. I’m never satisfied …with anything. There’s always that degree. You have to seek and set your goal. It’s got to be perfection but you know you’ll never be perfect, so you have to you have to attune yourself to a sense of failure. You have to set up to fail quite yet you have to achieve, or attempt to achieve, perfection, knowing intellectually, you’re never going to get there. And you have to accept that and still stay on that path.

EC: And then go do it again tomorrow …

GH: That’s it! A as a kid was younger, I used to freak out simply because something’s wrong. Then, I finally just get to a point where you’re never perfect. That’s just part of the process. Dissatisfaction is part of the process, even though it’s balanced with a satisfaction. It’s hard to explain. It’s like a two-edged sword. It’s two opposites, but they are united.

EC: I love it! Wow! Well, Greg, this is just fantastic, thank you for the time and the insights a boy I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed our time together.

GH: Okay fantastic. I did too, Ed.

EC: Keep up the great work.

GH: Thank you, Sir.

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Both the Heavy Metal Presents, The Tolkien Art of The Brothers Hildebrandt 2023 and Heavy Metal Presents: American Beauties By Greg Hildebrandt 2023 calendars are currently available for preorder and will be released on September 13th, 2022 for the following calendar year.

The Tolkien Art of The Brothers Hildebrandt 2023 Calendar Will Feature Lord of The Rings’ artwork By The Brothers Hildebrandt originally created for 70s calendars and features a new Taarna centerfold by Greg Hildebrandt.

American Beauties By Greg Hildebrandt 2023 Calendar Features noir, sci-fi, and fantasy pin-up art by iconic artist Greg Hildebrandt.