The Model

This lovely lass turned out to be my most important model now that I think about it. Certainly the one I photographed most.
She would patiently do whatever I asked when I was learning to use my first Nikon camera and some of the shots of her are the best I have ever taken.
Since my paintings used photos for a base it was natural that she was the focus of several attempts.

I believe I made at least four paintings of her. Some came out well… some did not.

I actually sold two that were based on her. She is the only real person, as in ‘person I actually knew’ that was the subject in any of the paintings I have actually sold to date.

This is one of my most commented on paintings when people see a photo of it. It is her head superimposed on a model from an ad I saw in a Cosmo magazine. She did not actually pose for this painting…I’ve never seen her unclothed. But it’s a good capture, I think…

It’s beautiful, to tell the truth…

Even if I do say so myself…

From The Bar ~The Face On The Barroom Floor~


Another segment of a project The Rise and Fall of a Saloon in the Latter Part off The Twentieth Century. These excerpts are not chronological. In fact very little logic prevails…

The Face On The Barroom Floor…

Actually, that’s a poem by Hugh Antoine D’Arcy.

This is more about the face on the barroom ceiling.

One of the Bartenders had an interesting idea, one he had seen at another bar somewhere down the road.

The ceiling at The Bar was made of simple twelve inch tiles of pressed paper. His suggestion was to buy new tiles and give them to the customer’s to decorate and put the results on the ceiling, replacing the old ones as we went along..

This went over very well. For every ten tiles passed out we would get six back. The missing tiles usually consigned to closets and are probably still there waiting to be decorated. Some were quite spectacular. One was a four tile masterpiece of a Japanese style tiger.

One was another four tile creation reminiscent of the sixties psychedelic hippie artwork.

Someone put up a cartoon dog. Droopy Dog.

I put one up. By then my artwork was taking hold. I actually ended up putting four up. One pair of tiles was God’s hand reaching out to Adam suggesting the Sistine rendition and a couple of panels of women’s heads, nicely drawn, one in black and white and the other in color.

But there was one I made that was off to one side. It was definitely eye catching and seemed to be the most spoken of. People constantly pointed at it and anyone who made a study of the ceiling project always remarked on that particular panel.

There wasn’t a lot of drawing involved. The lips and eye mostly. The shape of the face was just hinted at by a wash of airbrushed paint.



It resembled Marilyn as it was so intended.

In any case, I felt good because I could see how it affected new people. Any artist likes to know that people really like something he did.

The Owner? Well, he never said anything about it. At least not about that plaque.
The Owner… with The Owner, art just wasn’t his thing. He fancied himself a connoisseur in All Things. In truth, he had the artistic acumen of a goat. He tried to control the project of course. Claiming most of it was crap and he wasn’t going to allow it to be put it up.

I argued that the lesser efforts enhanced the better ones and if the project really took off then the lesser ones could be replaced. But The Owner. wasn’t having any of that. He finally said no tile could go up without his approval and the finished tiles just started piling up, unapproved. Some of it unremarkable, some of it superb, all of it colorful…

It got so people stopped asking “Where’s my tile?” as they looked in vain for the piece they had worked on and brought in. Finally people stopped asking for tiles altogether. They eventually knew whatever they made was not likely to go up so they didn’t try.

My Paintings…an Array…

A friend, Troy Weidenheimer, and I had an email exchange and he, being a talented man, told me about his work primarily in oil paintings. He posted a link to his site and I saw and liked what I saw.
Which put me in mind of photo friends I knew who had created “albums” accessible to the public to share their wares so I looked around and found a trove of my watercolors I made during my Barney Steels days.

There was a Certain Painting I saw and was forced to look at due to its placement that so offended me I said “I can do better than that.” and commenced working on my dormant drawing skills.

To shorten the saga I will say I disliked the idea of oil painting because of its inherent odor and messiness and went for watercolor. It helped that this was Alberto Vargas’ medium too. I also focused strictly on women, using photographs in lieu of live models although I did pay one lass who had a perfect figure a modelling fee to come and stand naked in front of me while I looked closely at the Female Body Assembly which is a subtly elusive thing to catch on paper.

Time was spent going from doodling on napkins to various types of paper and paints. I discovered the Windsor Newton Series Seven number two brush by reading a book written by Bill Mauldin and Vargas inspired me to take up the airbrush…
I also learned calligraphy and spent a couple of months designing a signature “Paper Dolls by Vann”

I’m not all that good an artist. The extremities are generally too small…hands and feet… but after they trend they become a trademark almost. But still, a trained art major can make me look like a finger-painting first grader. I sold a few but not enough to even make a chicken scratch in the money I spent on materials but, be it music, writing or art, I get driven and consumed by whatever stokes the creative furnance.

I had photographed many of my efforts but analog film takes a toll on color that digital does not so the colors are not true here, unfortunately. But, they are all I have. Some of my most iconic are gone…probably in landfill. Some I made I did not photograph and are forever beyond my reach.  Sadly, in August of 2016 I was forced to move and my new digs did not have room for my remaining paintings, easily over a hundred items.  I had to abandon them except for a few rescued head paintings and by now are gone forever.

Still, I wanted to be able to share some of my stuff, some that I dug up here and there. It was a fascinating period of creativity in my life… I love women and I like to think some of that shows in this slide show.

It might be worth checking back from time to time to see if I found any more photos…

Paper Dolls by Vann

~ Paper Dolls by Vann ~


She came in with a more or less country band, one of those that get thrown together by using people of varying skills and no rehearsals..

She was better than a ‘pretty good’ singer… lovely, confident voice…great fun to work with.  She liked cutting up a little bit, enjoying the moment and always sang with a smile.

Beautiful girl…

It was hard to tell how serious she was about her music because she sometimes had to be cued as to when to come back into the song after the instrumental break. 

If she missed the cue she would just laugh and somehow get things back on track with a little help from the band.

Cameras liked her a lot. 

Very photogenic…

She moved away…
 When I heard she was leaving I gave this to her.  I thought it was a pretty good “Lip and Eye” as I called those kind of renderings…

The Mating Dance ~ Save The Last Dance For Me…

The Mating Dance is a series of observations of human nature in pursuit of  (more or less) romantic endeavor   They are not in any particular order.  That would imply rationality .


He was a dancer.

Well, he wasn’t really a dancer.  He didn’t dance professionally or anything like that.  He was just a guy who had learned how to dance along the lines of the Western Swing dancing made popular in the roadhouses of the southwest.

Disco music was “in” when he learned and Saturday Night Fever had been a recent hit.  The Bar also booked some country flavored bands that suited the style nicely.

Men who go to saloons would do well to take up dancing.  It gains them many points and gives them a higher profile on the women’s radar.  He quickly found this out.  He had learned some basic moves and was a strong leader on the dance floor.  Women would ask him to dance because swing dancing, when done properly, was great fun.

He likened it to a trapeze act in which he was the ‘catcher’ and the lady was the ‘flyer’ as he led them through his series of moves.

His partners varied.  Some were good and interacted well.  Some were not and did not.

Some women took the words ‘swing dancing’ too literally and would grip his hand as if they were swinging on a rope over a creek.  Some never quite got the trick of how to hold his right hand properly and he would have to break stride to catch them and keep them from falling.  On one or two occasions he wasn’t quick enough and the poor dears would skid across the dance floor on their backs.  Thankfully, the only injuries suffered were to dignity and ego.

“Hang on and pay attention” he would tell them and off they would go, he and his partner of the moment.  He gained a reputation for his ability to dance and women would seek him out because they knew they would look good dancing with him.  His moves were much easier to follow than the elaborate moves shown in John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever movie and some of the women really jelled with his style.

She was not a dancer…

He had seen her sitting alone at a table looking a little sad on a Tuesday night.  She was a dark haired, pretty girl, with a nice figure and pretty legs.
There was a jazz band playing but no one was dancing so he asked her to dance in hope of cheering her up.
She initially declined, saying she didn’t dance well but he coaxed her up.  “Just hang on and pay attention, Honey.” he said.

Like so many before he led her through the basic moves he used and she quickly caught on.  He liked dancing with her because she was an ideal height and weight for him.  She learned quickly and didn’t make an issue over natural mistakes that happen when learning a New Thing.  But best of all it turned out that she was absolutely fearless on the dance floor.  Her trust in his ability to keep her from falling was almost childlike and they spent more and more time on the dance floor learning communication to such a degree that their connection was almost magical.  They incorporated some of the more strenuous moves from the old jitterbug days…in short they became a dance team.  She lived for their dancing sometimes wearing skirts that would flare out like disks when he spun her.

Dancing is a sensual exercise and on the dance floor they were like two lovers in one of the musicals made in the thirties.  Dancers who  convey this kind of intensity are more interesting to watch.

She got so she was quite demanding and he had to work hard to exhaust her so she would settle down and let him tend to his duties at The Bar.  Once the dance floor filled up they would no longer dance because there wasn’t enough room and they wouldn’t communicate again until closing time.
They grew very close and had love for each other but never joined as a couple.

Inevitably, as it always must happen, she left the carousel that was The Bar.  She left the state, actually and eventually got married and had children.

Every year she would call him on his birthday which was in April and he would call her on her birthday which was in January.  Always they would express their special love for each other and his final words at the end of their birthday calls were “Save The Last Dance For Me” after a song popular in the early and mid sixties.

One year he called and instead of getting her or her husband on the phone, he got their answering machine.  Thinking they were out celebrating the birthday he identified himself and said “Save The Last Dance For Me.” as he usually would.
About twenty minutes later her husband called back and gently told him that she had died a couple of months earlier…  “She just didn’t want to live anymore.” her husband said…

… she was almost thirty…

He still thinks of her almost every day.  Sometimes he thinks he sees her out of the corner of his eye, walking next to him…for some reason she is always barefoot in a summer dress… she is always happy…
and of course he always is reminded of her when he hears the song

Save The Last Dance For Me


Paper Dolls by Vann~


Kate Moss…

Popular fashion model of the seventies and eighties.

Thin girl, but one who had a yearning beauty that earned her a lot of money.

This is one of two that I did…side by side on the same piece of 20 x 30 illustration board.  One was a scrub because I had botched something and thought it ruined.  So I did an indetical copy on the available space.  Water color is tricky and treacherous but I somehow pulled it off and ended up with two looking so close to identical that you needed to look closeley to tell them apart.  Great hair for me.  Hair was always a problem for me.

A sharp knife broke up the set.  A guy bought one of them and , (gasp) had it framed.  A friend of mine saw  framed painting on his wall.  “That’s a Vann” his friend said…

Good feeling… someone bought a painting…  Even better to be reckognised…