While attending Art Center I had the opportunity to work at the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena where I met "Ice House MC Guru" Frazer Smith. Frazer had his own radio show on KLSX 97.1 FM at the time and frequently had celebrity guests on his show. I started doing Celebrity Portraits in 1988 on masonite board in a quirky style I developed while in school.
There was never a more "down to earth and laid back guy" then the Fraze. I owe both him and Jonathan Michaels (talent coordinator extrodinaire) a big thanks for giving me the opportunity to add my "two cents" to a really great radio show.
It wasn't long after I had done Willie's portrait that a friend of mine from school called me and told me about the People Magazine article on Willie Dixon. Willie won a grammy award for "Best Traditional Blues Album" that year in 1988, so People Magazine did a story on him. My portrait ended up in a shot of Willie sitting in his living room. It was an exciting time for me, there was definitely a celebratory atmosphere in the late 1980's and I wasn't the only one riding the wave.
I did a portrait of Bob Hope using this golfing photograph his agent me. I was given a number of photographs to choose from. Mr. Hope had to back out from doing Frazer's show at the last minute and the portrait was lost over the years. If I have any surviving images of it, I haven't found them yet, more then likely they'd be film negatives.
David Lee Roth from Van Halen fame was another close call that didn't pan out. Like Bob Hope, I received a number of photographs from David's agent. but he was unable to make it on Frazer's show and had to back out. I remember starting his portrait but I don't ever remembering finishing it. There are no images of it.
There were two rock and roll piano players that I grew to admire when I was a young, one was Nicky Hopkins (studio man extrodinaire) who played on numerous Rolling Stones albums, including my favorite, "Exile on Main Street" and Billy Powell the soul of the original Lynyrd Skynyrd. Unfortunately both have passed away but I did get a chance to meet Nicky Hopkins on Frazer's show in 1988. I never did a portrait of Nicky but John and I did get a chance to hang out with him for a bit at A+M Recording Studios in Hollywood later on.
Jonathan Michaels set up this contact with a gentleman by the name of David Brody down in Memphis, Tennessee. Initially the idea was for me to do a portrait of Elvis Presley for the Graceland Estate. This soon changed when the portrait was finished and we sent it to David instead who ran The Laugh Factroy Comedy Club there in Memphis. It didn't really matter to me, I was excited enough to see it go to Memphis!
This is worth noting – I took a different approach to doing this portrait of Elvis that I hadn't previously done on any others. I wanted to make a photographic image of Elvis that did not exist but looked like a real photo. So I combined elements from two different shots of him. There is no photograph of Elvis in existance that looks like my portrait. This portrait is 4 foot by 8 foot on masonite board.
It was May eleventh, 1990 MDA held it's Spring Gala, "A Night Under the Stars" honoring August A. Busch III and Norm Crosby, in the International Ballroom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Former President Ronald Reagan was Honorary Chairman that evening. I was selected as a contributing artist, along with other artists such as Peter Max, to donate work to MDA's silent auction. Jonathan Michaels who represented KLSX and my work at the time attended the event with me.
MDA asked if I would do portraits of both former President Ronald Reagan and MDA's MC Ed McMahon, so I obliged. I then received an invitation to go to the Reagan Ranch to meet with President Reagan, they were thinking that I would do a portrait of him there. Without really thinking I simply told them that all I needed was a photograph. Mrs. Reagan sent me an official White House photograph, a personal favorite of hers, that later in 2004, would be turned into a stamp.
I donated four pieces that night, two portraits and two life drawings. The life drawings were bought by MDA. It was an incredible honor to have heard former President Ronald Reagan speak that night. The portraits never sold and I ended up giving the Reagan portrait to some friends of mine. Upon hearing the passing of President Reagan in 1995 my friends suggested that I contact the Reagan Library to see if they would accept the portrait as a donation.
In 2005 I contacted the Reagan Library and told them the story of President Reagan's portrait. I was invited there for an interview with the Ronald Reagan Foundation and brought images of the portrait and the Spring Gala event. They were excited to say the least and hoped that we could work out away to donate the piece to the Reagan Foundation. For the next few months I received numerous letters from the Reagan Foundation and shared the information but to this day President Reagan's portrait, remains with my friends.
1990 marked the end of my portrait work for KLSX, later that year I would graduate from Art Center.
When this article appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune I had just been asked by MDA to do a portrait of former President Ronald Reagan for their 1990 Spring Gala. I was fortunate enough to have had an intrest in my work at that time. Reagan would be the last portrait I'd do in that style. I wouldn't do another portrait like his for another 22 years.
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I now have a profile page on The Pasadena Artists Registry for those who are looking to hire me for projects in Pasadena, just click on the city seal above. When there click on "search for artists' and put in my name Joseph Powell. Please feel free to browse.