Though you may not know artist Jim Warren by name, you have undoubtedly seen his work, as the whimsically surreal and unique creations he has painted over the years have inspired artists and art lovers from around the world. As one of the most versatile and commercially successful painters living today and considered a "Living Legend of the Art World," Warren is one of the most creative and prolific artists of our time. His fine art and personalized portraitures have been commissioned by a clientele list that includes world-famous celebrities and prominent business leaders, while his collaborations with other artists are widely acclaimed and well received. In particular, Warren has partnered on paintings with marine life artist Wyland, artist Michael Godard, and, most notably, Walt Disney Studios. The Warren/Disney collaboration paintings were released as fine art prints in 2004. He continues to paint Disney characters and his own unique interpretations of Disney characters to this day.
"Disney had been a big inspiration for me and my art since a child while growing up near Disneyland in California," he recalled. "I am honored to be allowed by Disney to paint all their characters, and especially being art directed by their animators who have been working for Walt for 25 years. All of my Disney paintings are published and approved by Disney Fine Art."
His paintings have been seen around the world on billboards, large outdoor murals, set props for TV shows, and galleries across the country carry his works. The artist has also illustrated over two hundred book covers for major New York publishers, including titles from famed authors Arthur C. Clark, Clive Barker and Robin Cook. He has created collectible movie posters for Phantasm, Night of the Living Dead (the remake), Waxwork, and others. His work has also been featured on numerous magazine covers, including Twilight Zone and Heavy Metal Magazine. and magazine covers, numerous album and CD covers, most notably the Grammy award-winning cover for Bob Seger's album, Against The Wind.
"While beginning my career as an artist in high school in the 60s, I was interested in album cover art which at that time was very exiting art form," explained Warren, who is best known for his album and book covers, but has worked in surrealistic fantasy art for over forty years. "I was honored to be able to work for musicians such as Alice Cooper, Prince and Bob Seger. Although I am primarily a fine artist, I loved doing illustrations for record album covers, movie posters, book covers etc. and painted over 200 illustrations, mostly in the 80s. I have since returned to my roots, which is fine art for galleries, but I do occasionally do an illustration for projects that interest me."
Born and raised in Long Beach, California, Warren began drawing at the tender age of two. By age seven Warren knew he wanted to be a painter. A self-taught artist, he began using traditional oil paint and brushes on stretched canvas. However, it would be several more years before a pivotal event shaped the budding artist's career—the day he came across an issue of Life Magazine and discovered surrealist Salvador Dali. Looking at Dali's paintings in the pages of Life, Warren was set free. He knew his own art could be anything he wanted it to be and promptly set out to develop his own unique style. While he found inspiration from some of the great artists of all time—besides Dali, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, Rembrandt, Magritte, Monet, Peter Max and others—Warren prides himself on the famous advice he doles out to aspiring artists - "To hell with the rules...paint what you like."
It has been his ethos from the beginning. Warren's 1976 painting Sexual Explosion was banned from public exhibition during the 1970s. However, in 2011, it was named the "Most Famous Nude Painting in Modern Art" since the nudes of Picasso, Salvador Dalí, and Amedeo Modigliani. Warren's 1991 painting of Earth, Love It or Lose It was featured on posters, magazines, billboards, and T-shirts, becoming an iconic visual representation of the global environmental movement and the 1990 Earth Day poster. The original painting, named Oops, features a young girl standing on an image of the world that was also a balloon. The balloon had opened at the tie and looked to be whisking across the sky.
In 1986, Warren was commissioned to create a painting for another gifted individual, recording artist, Prince. As the story goes, Warren was given very limited information on which to base the painting other than a one-page sheet containing 13 instructions such as, "a fat man hugging a tiger," "two men with hair shorter on one side, playing the tambourine." Instead, he was instructed, "use your imagination," which, of course, he did. Prince loved it.
Warren's portrait painting work includes John Stamos, The Beach Boys, Brooke Shields, Kelsey Grammer, Kristin Chenoweth, Chaka Khan, and Juliette Lewis, among many others. His portrait of Stamos was unveiled at the Fame-Wall NYC in 2009. His portraits of Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes (both in Promises, Promises on Broadway) was unveiled at the Fame-Wall NYC in 2010. Warren's portraits of The Beach Boys' 50th Anniversary was unveiled at the Fame-Wall, Hollywood, California in 2010.
"I consider my portraits to be more personalized paintings rather than portraits in the traditional sense of the word," Warren said. "When I first started using my own children as models for some of my paintings 20 years ago, parents started asking if I could do a painting with their children in it, which I of course said, ‘Yes.' The process starts with me taking good photos of the children, adults, families or pets in the pose that was decided beforehand during a client consultation. I then put together a sketch, and when approved, I start the canvas."
Currently, Warren focuses primarily on his fine art paintings. Yet in spite of the endless, ongoing demand for these works, he has managed to find time to create two books of his work. Both contain clear and colorful representations of his art, many of which combine, "the effect of the real mixed with a touch of the unreal, to make you feel as though you're actually seeing something that in reality couldn't possibly be. Although Mother Nature is my favorite art director, I do take artistic license to create environments of my own."
In reflecting on the enormous commercial popularity he has enjoyed for all these years, Warren is equally generous with his appreciation for his fans. Questioned about what aspect of his work gave him the most pleasure, he said, "the letters I get from people around the world who say they have been touched in some way by my paintings. The fact that my art can create an effect like that for some people, and act as a positive influence in their lives, means a great deal to me."
Such is the art, and the heart, of Jim Warren.
Famous Fans Chime In:
"They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of Jim Warren's art, a million words would be insufficient to convey the depth and breadth of (his) genius," said Mike Love, lead singer for The Beach Boys, wrote the foreword for Warren's book, Art of Jim Warren - An American Original, released in 2015. "...And how could mere words describe such sheer talent. But somehow starting with a sketch on paper
sometimes aided by a photo or coming from his reservoir of unbounded imagination there culminates on canvas his end product of incredible beauty... His gentle and unassuming manner belies the amazing talent he possesses. Warren's art is like love, flowing from the tip of his brush that he shares with the millions of us who are fortunate enough to be touched and inspired by what he has given and continues to give to the world."
"Many of life's treasures come as a result of another's contribution to one's life. One of those life's treasures comes to our home as a result of the work of our friend, Mr. Jim Warren. It's as if God gifted us," said Pat Morita, actor and star of The Karate Kid.
"Jim is the greatest of the new millennium. His work carries on (in a most beautiful way) the torch for Dali, Norman Rockwell and Maxwell Parrish. I love this man's work," said singer Chaka Khan.
"Thank you Jim, for the childlike feeling of amazement you have brought back to me. You not only ‘hold the light', you create it," said Artie Kornfeld, co-creator of Woodstock.
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