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Lee Carvel (1936 – 2000) began drawing at an early age by creating his own comics. While attending elementary school near San Diego, he demonstrated his talent by painting a mural which so impressed his teachers that it was kept on display for many years. In high school, Lee did numerous sports illustrations and editorial cartoons for the local newspaper. As an adult, he turned to commercial billboards and freelance comics, but later returned to his love of fine art and portraits. He won numerous awards at art shows and his original canvas of Ronald Reagan was displayed at the White House during Mr. Reagan’s presidency. His other acclaimed portraits include John Wayne, Laurel and Hardy, Tommy Lasorda, Roy Rogers, and other famous personalities. Lee was a member of the Ventura County Art Commission. His artwork has been a favorite of collectors.

What's in a name?: An interesting bit of trivia is that this artist's birth name was Leo Raul Quintanar (his son has the same birth name) but his pen name for his art and writings was Lee Carvel. He had always liked the name Carvel, and I believe it was his take-off of the word "Marvel" and the Marvel comics that he loved as a kid. Shortly out of high school, he used to bill himself when he performed as a magician as "The Great Carvel". We still have his old bright red magic suitcases containing his magic tricks with that name painted on them in white and gold, and he still performed occasionally in his later life (he was a member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood). He adopted the name "Lee Carvel" when he began doing risque freelance comics and as he gained success there, the name stuck and he continued to use it. It is interesting to note, however, that he always signed religious art pieces that he did with his original birth name -- probably a reflection of his religious core.

Stories Behind Lee Carvel's Art

Share a story or art photo?: If you have a favorite story about Lee Carvel, or if you want to send me a quality photo of Lee Carvel Art to include on this web site, we would love to hear from you! Send me an email at the address above. You can also leave comments on our Blog. Many thanks to those who have already contributed stories and photos. . .
You are awesome!! -- Lee Jr.

Simi Valley and Western Art: Simi Valley is home to the old Corriganville Movie Ranch where many of the old westerns were made including the Lone Ranger series, some of Roy Roger's Westerns, and probably some with John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. In fact, over 1000 movie and TV shows were made there from 1937 - 1966 when it was then bought by Bob Hope and became Hopetown ranch. Dad and I had hiked around this old ranch to check out where many of the old westerns were made. I believe this was partly his inspiration for many of the western art pieces that he later created. The Chumash Indians had a village here called "Shimiji" which is believed to be the origin of the word "Simi" -- it is also believed to refer to this area as the "valley of the winds". Simi Valley also is where President Ronald Reagan is buried and where his presidential library is located.

1979 John Wayne portrait: Lee Carvel sold the original watercolor portrait to a fellow admirer of John Wayne and it hung in their family house for many years. It was sold upon liquidation of that estate to another collector who lives in northern California. This art collector's reaction upon first seeing the artwork was "the minute I saw the watercolor, I got very excited and bought it. I have known who Lee was for many years, and always marveled at his talent... He mirrored another artist... Gary Saderup. Both these men had a marvelous talent to create. I would have so loved to have met your father, and shook his hand. The world lost a wonderful artist at his passing. Finding information about your father is impossible at best, so reading what you wrote on the ebay listings was great. I would love to know more of him and if there is a publication anywhere that talks of him..." Periodically, I have been inspired to write a book about Dad and the family history and perhaps now is a good time to begin.

1982 Roy Rogers portrait: Lee Carvel originally painted this portrait so that this image could be displayed at every Roy Rogers restaurant in the nation. The Marriott executives in charge at the time of the restaurant chain did buy the original painting, but for one reason or another, the plan to put this in the restaurants didn't materialize. Roy Rogers never saw this artwork until years later when his friend Larry Cisewski (famous knife-thrower) showed him this print. Roy's reaction was "this is the best image I've ever seen of me!" and he was angry that this never got into his restaurants. Much thanks to Larry who called and told me this wonderful story.

1982 Tom Lasorda portrait: It is believed that the original artwork was on display for many years in the Lasorda Tavern near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This tavern was owned by the Lasorda brothers who grew up in this area and one of my friends told me how he used to enjoy having dinner in the room where the painting was located until the tavern closed up. Tom Lasorda would periodically visit the area and come to the tavern for a great meal, and often bring along famous figures from the sports world. It is unclear how the painting got to that location, but most likely Lee Carvel gave or sold it to Tom Lasorda as part of their portrait and prints activities back in 1982.

Famous Monsters and Horror Classics Art:: Lee Carvel had always been fascinated with and a big fan of the famous monsters and horror film classics. Not so much the too violent 'slasher films' but more the genre of classic monsters driven by mythical forces beyond their control, misunderstood, and struggling with internal turmoils. I remember as a small child staying up with him to watch the old monster movies that would come on late at night -- I learned to not fear such things but instead to admire them for their archetype portrayal of the good vs. evil struggle, theatrical artwork, acting and story, sets, special effects, and the myth, legend, and history behind them. Dad had worked as a stage magician soon out of high school and he would blend the mood, drama, and sets of the horror classics with his shows. He was even inspired enough later to built an entire horror monster walk-through show "on wheels" for touring carnivals in the western U.S. He was so good at it that several investors hired him to build several such shows that were so automated that only one person could run it. One summer he even took our family on a tour with the carnivals, which was quite an experience. Later on, he met and worked with many famous personalities in the horror film and comic classics world including Forrest Ackerman, Vincent Price, and Elvira, mask maker Don Post, artist Frank Frazetta, various authors, and many more. In the last years of his life, he had perfected his computer-based and digital art techniques to blend his art into special effects creations to create lower budget horror films that he had written, directed, and began work on.

 

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