Monday, April 15, 2013

Remembering Jonathan Winters

"I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it." ~Jonathan Winters

He made us laugh. He was one of a kind. He was Jonathan Winters.

On Thursday, April 11, Jonathan Winters died in his home of natural causes, in the midst of family and friends. There were numerous tributes to the eccentric comedian who made us laugh so hard that it hurt, who's whirling imagination could rake laughs out of porcupines. I'll defer to this one from CNN.

Most of his fans were unaware that the comic had also been an artist. Like Churchill and many others, painting served to bring a form of balance to his world. It was actually through his art that I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Winters. By accident I'd came across some of his original paintings which were being screen printed by Joe Petro, a Kentucky screen print artist. When I discovered that he painted, I acquired his book Hang Ups, and landed an assignment with Screenprinting magazine, to do a story on Petro, which opened the door for my forty minutes with Mr. Winters (and several of his other personalities.)

Of his painting Winters shared, "The bug bit me in show business. My art at the time was so commercial, so commercial it was sad. I would have been good if I was going to do industrial drawing or be a commercial artist, which I wasn’t. I’m not a commercial comedian, so I certainly wasn’t going to be a commercial artist.

"I didn’t find a style until I was well out of school. In the early 70’s I really got down to painting. I was working on the road, in gin mills and night clubs and stuff, but when I’d come home I’d paint. I think I had my first art show in ‘72, here in Southern Cal or LA, and I have been painting ever since."

In 1999 Winters won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a rather late acknowledgement in my opinion. Then again, maybe that's what we do with our old heroes, we acknowledge them and then we remember them.

Thank you, Jon, for everything you gave us.

Jon Winters photo courtesy Bergstrom Photography

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