Actor, director, writer, poet, painter, Paul Michael Glaser does it all.
Paul Michael Glaser is a creator.
Perhaps best known for his portrayal of Dave Starsky in the 1970s television series Starsky and Hutch, Glaser has been a fixture in television and film, in front of and behind the camera, for 40-plus years.
Beginning with the role of Perchik in 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof, Glaser soon began to rack up roles in a number of films and television shows, landing the role of Starsky in 1975.
While working on the series, Glaser branched out to directing and found that he really enjoyed the process. Once the series folded, he spent time both in front of and behind the camera, guest-starring, directing, and producing.
A man who enjoys words and playing with words, he also tried his hand at writing, publishing Chrystallia and the Source of Light in 2011. He also co-wrote a novelization of Kazaam with Nicholas Edwards in 1996.
For the past several years, Glaser’s creative muse has led him to the world of visual art, culminating in his first U.S. exhibition which opened in April at the Cosmo Lofts in West Hollywood.
The works are wide-ranging in both style and technique, many of them listed as “digital painting.”
As Glaser explains it: “Well, what I do is, I sketch, and then when I've sketched something that's of interest to me, then I photograph it to my iPad, and I transfer it to a large screen, called a Cintiq. Cintiq is made by Wacom, and it's a 27 inch screen and you can draw on the screen. So then, I work on that, and either the piece loses interest for me or it retains interest and I finish it. And so I use Photoshop as my palette, if you will.”
Glaser’s pieces are large when printed, some as large as 59”x78.5”, and range from relatively simple shapes to very complex compositions.
Glaser says, “It's a bit of a challenge, because there are a number of pieces that I like to print larger. When you're working in digital, you want to print larger. You have to be really, really specific and bright; your execution has to be very clean.
"The other challenge, of course, with digital is inherently it doesn't have the texture of the depth of field that oils, acrylics, watercolors, have. So, you need to try to affect that as much as possible.”
Digital painting is a relatively new medium, and Glaser has chosen to embrace it. He says, “I chose digital because at the time, when I started working on this stuff, I wanted to get a result sooner than later, and I felt like the learning curve with oils and acrylics, and watercolors would be too steep. Little did I know that you could spend your whole life studying Photoshop and never learn more than one corner of it.”
Glaser has discovered that one art form may lead to another. “Well, I've always been interested in art, because I was surrounded by it, and I guess, it tickled my creative curiosity. I didn't really give myself to it until about six years ago.
"I have this second book that I wrote, (my first book was Chrystallia and the Source of Light), the second book, I was looking for an illustrator to work on it, and my daughter said, ‘Dad, you should illustrate it.’ Me?
"So I was going over to England, the United Kingdom to do a tour of Fiddler on the Roof, [playing the lead role of Tevye this time] and so I took my sketchpad with me, and I started doodling around and working on illustrations, and then when I got tired of working on illustrations, I started sketching other things. And then, I thought, ‘Well, what am I going to do with these?’
“And then I photographed it with MyCam, and I started messing around with an app on my iPad, and when I came back eight months later, I had accumulated a huge body of unfinished work, along with these 29 illustrations, but I immediately got into the unfinished paintings and I worked, and I worked, and worked and worked and worked, and finally, about, I guess about five months ago, I finished it, if you will. Do we ever finish?
“So that's how I got into it. I just discovered that I had this affinity, and I've always loved photography, and composition, and color, and so I just let that loose, and see what I could do, and it was still a wonderful thing because in the past, my creativity manifested in my acting and my directing, and those are both endeavors that require a collaborative effort.
"And when you paint, and when you write, the collaboration is with yourself.”
In spite of his very public acting career, Glaser had some trepidation about sharing his art.
“I've had everything from friends who want to encourage me, say, ‘Oh, that's really nice.’ But also other people saying, ‘Wow, that's exciting,’ as they look at my work. So I've had some positive feedback over a period of time. However, I'd never come out as an artist, if you will, and that's different than the acting and directing itself.
“I found myself getting in touch with all kinds of fear, and I have to say that at the show, [at Cosmo Lofts] the thing that struck me that was really, really, nice was that the energy in the room was really good.
“People seemed to be really enjoying themselves and each other, and I think that the paintings, I had to think that they were a part of that, and that they helped create an atmosphere where people felt encouraged to feel good. I've been to art openings where the people weren't reacting as favorably. And they get to be very polite.
“It just seemed to be the opposite, and there was an excitement, and I found that very encouraging. In the extent that I, in my personality, have the inability to let really good news resonate.
“My inclination is to downplay the fact that I was originally willing to go ahead and do a show, and I originally started with friends of mine. A friend was doing this charity thing, one of her many charities in Toronto, when I sent some of my pieces be hung there, in auction. And absolutely, that was easier for me.
"I know how the society and the town tends to pigeon hole you, and they are not going to let you go from one successful pastime to another. There's always that tendency for people to say, ‘Oh, smirk, smirk, that person, he's not, he thinks he's an artist.’
“I didn't want to presume, I hadn't spent my whole life painting, I have not spent my whole life in art school, and anything like that, I hadn't suffered mightily an artist. Only mightily as an actor and a director.
“And that makes me seen. However, I did have, in my visual sensibility and my own particular makeup as a person, I did have images that would come up, that I'd want to communicate, that I enjoyed communicating, and I became very interested in there being a narrative, that when you look at a piece, either it has an incompletion in terms of its narrative, outrageous questions, it leaves something in the imagination, that maybe gets you started with something you can hang your head on.
“Like some part of the images is readable or understandable, but then leads you into that wonderfully imaginative and viable world of the subconscious.”
Finding a way to get those images out was something on which Glaser worked for a while before landing on the idea of digital painting. He says, “So I realized that digital painting, working with Photoshop, was going to allow me to realize my imagery a lot sooner. I discovered that notion, if I wanted to take the pieces and blow them up 20 sizes, I had to really, really, be very specific.
“And so, for example, that painting I did called 'Mike and Lil,' the trumpet, and the saxophone - that painting took over a year and a half to complete. [There is] an earlier version of it, that I've since worked on, so you could almost say it took me two years, and 'Monster,' which is the one about the roller coaster, and that took as long.
"So some pieces take a shorter time, but the degree of specificity requires it to be very time intensive.”
In the end, what matters most to Glaser about his art is that the viewer experience it.
He says,“I hope people enjoy it. I do enjoy it. I like to have my own sense of whimsy, which is the effect that all of my work has been as an actor, director, and writer, and so I enjoy using that in my paintings and I just enjoy the notion of being able to enjoy things from a different angle, and that, because when you do that, it allows you to discover things.
“And of course, the real, interesting question which I find, that, myself, if I'm going to hang a piece of my house, or my office, or whatever, here's something I'm going to want to look at five years from now, 10 years from now. Is this going to have those kinds of legs in terms of the schematics, or whatever's inspired in me, or asked in me, or challenged in me?
"That's the place where a painting really lives. It doesn't live on the canvas, it doesn't live on the paper, but it lives on and lives in the viewer."
To see more of Glaser's art, click here.