An Interview with Charles L. Heald,
Cover Artist for Another Roadside Attraction.
My son recently gave me a signed first edition of Another Roadside Attraction for my birthday. I had seen the cover art of the jacket of that edition once before in the early 1970's and it had stuck with me, almost hauntingly. Now that I own the book and the art, I decided to find out about the artist. Thus I have came to Larry Heald's website and found haunting images aplenty. What a wonderful collection! I wanted to know more about this artist and his connection with the work of Tom Robbins and he kindly consented to the following email interview. --Dale Kirby
Was there something about the Northwest that drew you as an artist to move out there for your education?
Yes. That would be my brother, Paul. I was going to a small college, with a very small art department, back in
When did you get to know or know about Tom Robbins? Was it as an art
critic or a novelist?
I think it was around 1962. Paul had a show of his paintings at one of the handful of galleries that existed in
There certainly were a bunch of artists around, and they were all active, but there was no activity as a cohesive group. The show at the
Who were some of the people in the
Guy Anderson was the patriarch, a legend in his time. None of us flocked around him as some sort of guru, however. We just loved him, and he loved us. He was old enough to be the grandfather of most of us, and yet he had a youthful spirit no one could resist. A lifetime of creativity does that to a person it seems. Larry Beck and his wife, Gertrude Pacific, lived and worked in the Conway Bank. Clayton James was in LaConner, Paul Havas was on
How did you come to do the cover art for Another Roadside Attraction?
Tom wrote me a letter while he was living in
Did you read the book before you did the art?
No. I had no idea what the book was about, just the elements Tom mentioned. However I did know Tom, which was quite enough, and knowing a book can't be judged by its cover, I didn't worry about it. Tom wrote and told me to include the following: A Weenie Man (whatever that is) pointing a cane at a young gypsy-type woman holding the mummified body of Christ in a carnival tent, with a Skagit type landscape and including butterflies and mushrooms. Of course I had no idea what the book was about with those directions, but I could tell I was going to like it. Had I read the book first, and been given a "free hand", there's no telling what it would have looked like!
Was there a human model for the picture of Amanda?
No. However looking at it now, it does resemble my first wife a bit.
Have you had much contact with TR since you left the
I usually get up to
What are your influences--both artistically and philosophically--in your art?
I get asked this, or a variation of, this question from time to time and it always throws me for a loop. I should have a standardized answer prepared for convenience, but I'm generally not willing to think about it to the extent it would take to come up with anything worth passing along. To the question as you put it, I'd say: other artists, past and present, and philosophers, past and present, which includes everyone I know. Throw in the mysteries of the universe, the marvels of this planet we live on, the miracle of nature and life, and the baffling behavior of the human critter.
Your paintings are natural and supranatural at the same time. What are your theories on painting?
I really can't think of any. I just love to paint and then to see what happens. In a sense, I guess you might say I create my own reality, which in view of the confusing answer to the last question, makes a certain amount of sense.
I found the section fascinating where you showed pictures you had done some time before, and how they changed as you reworked them. Do you do a lot of "revising" as you work?
Right from the very beginning, I'm revising. Nothing is ever finished. At some point I quit, but that never means that a few days, weeks or years later I won't completely repaint the thing. Sometimes I start with a preconception, but never have I ended up with that concept. Often the paintings have nothing to do with the original idea. Something like life itself, perhaps.
One of your paintings in particular stirred my soul. It was the one of the mountain cabin with the crescent moon in the window. What was the inspiration for that image?
Have you illustrated any other books or done other cover art?
Only my own book which is entitled, "Homestead Fire Prevention and Supression", a book on fighting wildfires. Not exactly an artistic endeavor. However I did three album covers for some musician friends, The Youngbloods. "
What's your favorite work of yours?
I have some favorites from every period over the last 40 years of painting. Some of them were of the genre in which I was working, but often they were the ones that were instrumental in breaking me free from it. It's been suggested that the current series based on the
Any last thoughts?
These questions have stirred up all sorts of memories. The sixties and early seventies were a sweet time for artists, writers, musicians and other creative folk. Things went sour for many, but the spirit lives on in some. We obviously didn't change the world, although we thought we were at the time. It appeared as if we had something to look forward to. Like all things these days (worthwhile and otherwise), it became commercialized, popularized, commonplace and reduced to its dollar value. To the prez who says, "It's the economy, stupid", I'd like to say, "It's the stupid economy!", and besides that, buster! @#%^&*, etc.
:-) Thanks so much, Larry.