Extra Credit

June 21, 2017

Home » Commentary » Extra Credit

I don’t like elementary school much because in books letters jump around or reverse themselves, and my friends read faster and get better grades and that’s okay, but I don’t want to flunk so I go to teachers and say, “Can I do extra credit projects?”

“Like what?”

“I’ll turn in some drawings and find some objects and put them together and make it artistic.”

Fortunately, they usually say okay and like my work enough to give me C-plusses or B-minuses for their classes, and that’s how it begins along with help from my mom who’s an artist.

At Encina High School in Sacramento I’m lucky they have a great art department. Gary Pruner’s one of my teachers. He paints very colorful and realistic pop art paintings. A lot of the students also take drama but I don’t want to and think they don’t take me seriously. I don’t have time for drama because I’m skiing more than a hundred days a year, often with my dad, and when not on the slopes I’m painting and making things from ceramics and other materials because I want to make my living as an artist. When I’m fifteen, in 1966, I enter a giant plaster Coke bottle in the State Fair and win a prize. At seventeen I first show my paintings in a group exhibition in a little San Francisco gallery no longer there. I’m encouraged by all this activity and think I’m building a foundation.

From high school I go to the San Francisco Art Institute and get a bachelor’s degree and then move to San Jose State and earn my master’s when I’m only twenty-three. Maybe I should’ve waited until I’m more mature because when I go to New York they tell me I’m too young. I don’t worry too much since I return to California in the mid-seventies and keep working and entering group exhibitions around the Bay Area and a few years later start getting in group shows in Los Angeles, and soon I start teaching at some art schools. But I don’t want to compete forty to fifty hours a week against guys who teach and nothing else. I’m determined to earn my way making art. Some people don’t like it. They frown upon the financial aspects of art. I tell them if you want to paint full-time, you’ve got to sell. It’s in the eighties and a good time because painting in the United States is taking off after more than a decade of people saying painting’s dead.

I’m selling quite a few works but not earning much, and still teaching at around age forty when the William Turner Gallery in L.A. gives me my first solo exhibition. I ask Bill Turner what he’ll charge for the paintings, and he says three or four thousand. I’m amazed. And since sales are good I can usually raise my prices every year. I buy a house in Venice, which is a pretty cool place twenty-five years ago, and build a large studio.

I need space because my paintings are large, about four-feet square or larger. They’re like walls. I paint faces and figures and put papers and pictures on top of them and then paint some more to make collages. For my exhibition Here Comes the Sun, this July at Caldwell Snyder in San Francisco, I paint two bikini-clad women by a swimming pool in a pop style influenced by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein but presented my way. I portray a young lady diving into blue sea churning white in her wake. I paint a lovely woman clad in a one-piece bathing suit during the Eisenhower years. I present a gorgeous lady smiling red-lipped after surfacing in an azure pool. In another work I add a large target next to a buxom woman. I paint the graceful back of a swimming-capped lady who can only be beautiful. I offer an iconic sixties pop lady, red-lipped and yellow-haired, next to a big round sign signaling OK. There’s a lot more and not only women but I don’t want to give everything away. Come and have a look.

How much do my paintings cost? They go for twenty to forty thousand each. It’s hard to say how long each painting takes to make because I’m usually working on several at a time. It’s like making a movie. I have finish dates six or seven months out, and I need twelve to fifteen paintings for most of my exhibitions. I’ve got this show in San Francisco, and another in New York this summer, and I also show in Europe as well as the Turner Gallery in L.A. Sometimes collectors commission me for pieces, too. I’m proud of what I’ve done but tell people not to compliment me too much. I just consider myself a solid AAA guy.

After selling all my California real estate, my wife and I moved to Austin, Texas for a few years and for the last few have been living in East Hampton, Long Island. I’ve added a large studio to my home, and I surf a lot when I’m not painting, and also enjoy going into New York to look at art. I know guys who sell their paintings for about a million each. Julian Schnabel, for example. He’s a very creative guy, also makes movies, and lives in a pink seven-story Italian villa in Greenwich Village. I probably would’ve moved to New York if I could’ve gotten the studio I wanted in Tribeca, but that was five million. I think we’ll be moving back to California, anyway, probably around Petaluma, about an hour north of San Francisco. I miss my friends.

Greg Miller in San Francisco

Paint it Blue by George Thomas Clark

George Thomas Clark

George Thomas Clark is the author of Hitler Here, a biographical novel published in India and the Czech Republic as well as the United States. His commentaries for GeorgeThomasClark.com are read in more than 50 countries a month.

Recent Commentary


HITLER HERE is a well researched and lyrically written biographical novel offering first-person stories by the Fuehrer and a variety of other characters. This intimate approach invites the reader to peer into Hitler’s mind, talk to Eva Braun, joust with Goering, Goebbels, and Himmler, debate with the generals, fight on land and at sea and…
See More
Art history and fiction merge to reveal the lives and emotions of great painters Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, William H. Johnson, Lee Krasner, and many others.
See More
This fast-moving collection blends fiction and movie history to illuminate the stimulating lives and careers of noted actors, actresses, and directors. Stars of this book include Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Alfred Hitchcock, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, and Spike Lee.
See More
In this collection of thirty-eight chiseled short stories, George Thomas Clark introduces readers to actors, alcoholics, addicts, writers famous and unknown, a general, a lovelorn farmer, a family besieged by cancer, extraterrestrials threatening the world, a couple time traveling back to a critical battle, a deranged husband chasing his wife, and many more memorable people…
See More
Anne Frank On Tour and Other Stories
This lively collection offers literary short stories founded on History, Love, Need, Excess, and Final Acts.
See More
In lucid prose author George Thomas Clark recalls the challenges of growing up in a family beset by divorce, depression, and alcoholism, and battling similar problems as an adult.
See More
Let’s invite many of the greatest boxers and their contemporaries to tell their own stories, some true, others tales based on history. The result is a fascinating look into the lives and battles of those who thrilled millions but often ruined themselves while so doing.
See More
In a rousing trip through the worlds of basketball and football, George Thomas Clark explores the professional basketball league in Mexico, the Herculean talents of Wilt Chamberlain, the artistry of LeBron James, the brilliance of Bill Walsh, and lots more. Half the stories are nonfiction and others are satirical pieces guided by the unwavering hand of an inspired storyteller.
See More
Get on board this collection of satirical stories, based on news, about the entertaining but absurd and often quite dangerous events following the election of President Donald J. Trump in November 2016 until January 6, 2021, shortly after his loss to Joe Biden.
See More
Join Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other notables on a raucous ride into a fictional world infused with facts from one of the roughest political races in modern U.S. history.
See More
History and literary fiction enliven the Barack Obama phenomenon from the African roots of his father and grandfather to the United States where young Obama struggles to control vices and establish his racial identity. Soon, the young politician is soaring but under fire from a variety of adversaries including Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh.
See More
These satirical columns allow startlingly candid Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush to explain their need to control the destinies of countries, regions, and, ultimately, the world. Osama bin Laden, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Karl Rove, and other notables, not all famous, also demand part of the stage.
See More
Where Will We Sleep
Determined to learn more about those who fate did not favor, the author toured tattered, handmade refuges of those without homes and interviewed them on the streets and in homeless shelters, and conversed with the poor in the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, and Spain, and on occasion wrote composite stories to illuminate their difficult lives.
See More
In search of stimulating stories, the author interviewed prostitutes in Madrid, Mexico City, Havana, and Managua and on many boulevards in the United States, and he talked to detectives and rode the rough roads of social workers who deal with human trafficking, which is contemporary slavery, and sometimes used several lives to create stories, and everywhere he ventured he witnessed struggles of those whose lives are bound In Other Hands.
See More
In compressed language Clark presents a compilation of short stories and creative columns about relationships between men and women.
See More