Bukowski as a painter (1 Viewer)

Hi everyone,

I'm a film student working on an assignment for an art direction course. Our goal is to design a bar or restaurant based on a 20th century visual artist; architecture, decoration, furniture and wardrobe all included. Obviously, thinking about bars the first thing that pops into my mind is Bukowski, him being one of my favorite authors.

Even if Buk is generally known as a writer he did produce a great number of artwork too, as you all surely know. I'd like to ask your help for collecting information about Bukowski as a painter. Any hints, tips, links, opinions, quotes, etc related to Buk's paintings, drawings, doodles or other artwork you're aware of would be greatly appreciated.

Some questions: When did he start painting? I understand the art course he took at Los Angeles City College during his first marriage was a great inspiration, but did he already paint before that? Why did he paint and/or draw, what were his motivations? I know he produced many works to be included in limited editions, and the mechanical nature of this ultimately caused him to stop, but for the most part he must have painted just for fun, simply because he enjoyed it and found in it a (secondary?) outlet of expression. Did Buk continue to paint during his last years? I've also read that he was including doodles with his stories already in the 40s. What did Buk himself think about his art? What kind of ambitions did he have as a visual artist, if any? Any particular stories or poems about his paintings or drawings? What about artists he admired? Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec come to mind. They obviously mirror him with their tortured personalities, perhaps also in their style.

The collection of his paintings in this page (https://web.archive.org/web/2020/https://bukowski.net/paintings) is of GREAT help, many, many thanks for it, but unfortunately there are no dates or context. I suspect these might be hard to come by. Anyone know of other sources where I could find this kind of info?

Of course any open discussion is welcome too. What do you think about Buk as a painter? How does it compare to his writing? What do you think is the relationship between his writing, paintings and/or drawings? In my opinion you can spot an obvious similarity in style: he doesn't care about fancy technique or delicacies. Instead, his strenght is in simple, unashamed, powerful expression ("don't try", right?).

Thanks in advance!

PS. Here's an interesting article I found about Bukowski's drawings: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/issue/201102/bukowski-1.phtml
there are no dates or context...
Most of what you see there was done specifically for books, from 1963 to 1984. He painted and drew before that and after that, just not the assembly-line painting that he had to do for the books.

He wasn't inspired by the the LA College art course(s), he took them because he already enjoyed making art and his wife at the time thought he should try to use that interest to study commercial art, so he took the classes with the aim of becoming a commercial artist. When that wife disappeared, so did his efforts toward becoming a commercial artist. That should tell you all you need to know about his motivation and interest in that field.

He didn't talk about making art very often (in comparison to how much he talked about other things), so it isn't that easy to dig up letters or excerpts, but I'm sure someone with a more photographic memory than mine will be able to offer something.
he took them because he already enjoyed making art and his wife at the time thought he should try to use that interest to study commercial art, so he took the classes with the aim of becoming a commercial artist.

is that right??? i never knew that's why he went!

my god, imagine bukowski having to take orders from an art director?

i'm sure it would've been his first and last job.
Yeah, reading his writing makes it pretty clear that he was never cut out to to be a commercial anything.

The art classes were taken between the time he quit the mail carrier job and before he started as a clerk, so he was working at Supreme Lighting and the Graphic Arts Center - generally underperforming in the eyes of Barbara, apparently - so off he went to the art classes. He only lasted 3 or 4 months.
wow. worst idea ever.

i'm rusty on my bukowski history but didn't she recognize and support him as a great writer?

considering he had virtually no training he did some interesting paintings. he had an instinctive feel for the materials he used.

luckily he wasn't pretentious about his stuff. unlike so many cross over artistes.

those celebrity and "rock star" painters should have their hands cut off...
didn't she recognize and support him as a great writer?
Yes she did.

But then she married him, and shit got real, as they say. ;)

I'm sure she still respected him as a writer (even when she wanted to kill him in his sleep), but it's not uncommon for those who love us to want "better" for us - and for the family - whether that "better" is really better for the person or not.

What's funny is he went back to the P.O. and got what would become a "good job," right before they divorced. But I guess the marriage was too far gone by then.

For what it's worth, I don't claim to know the specific reasons that she left him (other than the "mental cruelty" the divorce papers listed), only she really knew the answer to that. I'm sure his job wasn't the only reason. It's rarely just one thing, is it. But "bettering" himself through the art education was something she encouraged.
I think I read this in Abel's "King of the Underground."

Part of an assignment for the class was to create a Christmas advertisement for Texaco -- the oil/gasoline company. And Bukowski worked the Texico star into a Christmas tree. The instructor humilated Bukowski over the design, but according to Bukowski the design was used by corporate the following Christmas. More self-created Bukowski mythes -- who knows?

Personally, I've always felt his drawings are much more significant than his paintings. And (again to reference Abel's book) he was doing them in the 1940s with the same chacters.
to design a bar or restaurant based on a 20th century visual artist; architecture, decoration, furniture and wardrobe all included
I must confess that I do like this idea, (even though there might be a lot of old veterans here, who despise such a task).
This could be a fun project for you to do (it should) and what you come up with could be an interesting piece of interior-art (it should).

I find your questions very valid and they show a lot of reflection and pre-research.
So, please keep us/me posted on this, willya?

On his Very early (1940s) drawing and story-accompanying drawings/illustrations in general, you may find some info here and there in articles/forewords by David Calonne, who's a big fan of them.

in Abel's "King of the Underground."
Yes, of course: Abel Debritto (the author of the article you link to in your post) is an expert, especially on (but not limited to) the early Bukowski, due to intense research for his PhD, which should be a standard source for questions like yours.

Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec
Van Gogh is meantioned often, mostly in the classic context of the suffering, unnoticed outsider-genius.
On Toulouse-Lautrec I only remember his poem 'The Drunk With The Little Legs' at the moment.

One clear influence for his line-drawing was James Thurber.
He even mentions him on several occations (but mostly for his writing, as I seem to remember, not for his drawing).
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"the sunday artist" is a great poem about art and the art class he took.


one of his best lines and one that says alot about his approach to art is when the teacher says something about "i want you to draw like mondrian" and bukowski says - to himself - he doesn't want to draw like mondrian, he wants to draw "like a sparrow eaten by a cat"

not exactly "commercial art" material there...
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For what it's worth, there are two bars here in the Boston area that are more or less (generally less) inspired by Bukowski: http://bukowskitavern.net/

For the record, the Cambridge location actually pays a bit more tribute to Buk than the original Back Bay Boston location. Perhaps this will inspire you what not to do.
I always thought that Bukowski often used colours to describe his subjects in his writings. Because of that I conclude that he was a true painter.
This is what I discovered when I did a search in 37 of his books.
He used red 6,396 times, blue 816, yellow 460 times, white 1,088, black 1,050, pink 202, orange 218, purple 162, brown 274 times and green 662 times.
That is quite a palette. And so many more... :p
yellow 460 times
and at many occasions he stated, that yellow was his favorite colour.

(but you can't create a decent bar in bright yellow. Even a sort of butter-yellow or curry-yellow may suck at such a place, at least if this colour dominates the joint.)

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