The Mighty Archive

Buy Overspray here!


Hey this is the blog for Overspray. I'll be posting lots of groovy images from the 70s so have a read and find out what work went into making the book.
Overspray is the comprehensive account of the rise of airbrush art, and of the equally bright and glossy Los Angeles culture in which it flourished during the 1970s. Inspired by surf graphics, psychedelia and Hollywood glitz, a generation of young artists made every lip and palm tree glisten, and every record cover slick as a well‑lubricated sex toy. Fueled by a combination of intense demand, sleepless nights and brutal competition, the four men at the center of LA’s airbrush art market—Dave Willardson, Charles E White III, Peter Palombi, and Peter Lloyd—embarked on careers that produced work for Playboy, Levi’s, the Rolling Stones, American Graffiti and Tron. Overspray tells the unvarnished story of these four artists, through images of their best-known work, and frank, in-depth interviews. Viewed today, their surreal, funny and hyperslick imagery; seems all the more fantastic—which combined technical precision; and wild flights of imagination.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Doug Johnson

doug johnson
Short yet ultrasweet interview with illustration gladiator Doug Johnson is posted over on PictureBox.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peter Lloyd 1944—2009

Sadly, illustrator Peter Lloyd died last month from cancer. I'm thankful I got to know him and spend a full day with him in his Oregon home interviewing him for Overspray.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I first met him. He'd seemed quite mercurial in our telephone dealings – flipping from being quite supportive to dropping from sight without rhyme or reason. But that view was quickly dispelled once he drove into the Eugene airport's passenger pickup lane, after generously volunteering to pick me up and drive me to his home. Purely by happenstance, one of Peter's oldest friends and fellow illustrator Bob Hickson was there, collaborating with Peter on matte paintings for The Spirit. Peter's lovely wife Brenda was there and everyone was as polite and warm as could be. Of course, I found it difficult to join in conversation or respond to questions because I was overwhelmed by the dozens and dozens of Peter's original art hanging on the walls.

All of his greatest pieces were there. It was wonderful to see all those blazing images from my youth in the flesh - The futuristic Ronnie Laws album cover, the deco figures touring through space and the formally objectified nude figures were there in all their glory. It's always fascinating to study the handwork of art you're previously familiar with only from printed reproductions. Peter worked about twice as large as the work would finally appear and his paintings were just beautiful, with colors much stronger than they'd ever been printed.

We sat down and I interviewed him for several hours. He answered every question with the honesty that you only get from someone who's been around the block (several times) without pretense or signs of even microscopic self importance. He obviously still had a great interest and fondness for work and told me that money was no longer a motivator for him, illustrating the point by relating a story of having what he felt was the ultimate perfect day recently, using a neighbor's riding lawnmower and cutting his field for him.

Peter was also deeply involved with hand casting metal and showed me a few prototypes he'd made of a female face reminiscent of a 1930s hood ornament that seemed pulled right from one of his illustrations. He had tired of illustration once it became less about concepting - and moved into film work after concluding his work for Tron, proving himself to be stunningly intelligent about digital technology and repro matters.

We discussed the drug and alcohol crazed 1970s and he was amazingly candid about his foibles, claiming no regrets for his missteps, feeling it was a byproduct of never learning how to deal with his early rapid success.

He was a great interviewee and took pains to ensure I wouldn't include anything in the book that would reflect badly upon anyone.

Peter's work is often lumped in with tacky '70s disco style illustration, but it is actually very clever. I think the formal beauty of his work could sometimes mask the strong conceptual thinking underlying all of his illustrations. He created a unique visual style, quickly copied by others, that would often consist of dark backgrounds, with subtle hints of highlighting and burst of color - preferring to indicate, rather than render, every object in photo realistic detail, even though he was more than capable of doing so.

Peter admitted that during the 70s he felt that he was very lucky to be working in the final heyday of big time professional illustration, getting endless commissions and being compensated extremely well for it, and fully enjoying the wild ride while it lasted. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.

I asked one colleague, Bob Zoell, and one admirer, Roman Coppola, to send me their thoughts on Peter. Those are below.

Bless you Peter.

I have only fond memories of the time I spent with Peter Always kind and smiling and quick to laugh. A gentleman, that I can’t recall ever speaking badly of anyone. His signature style in his illustration work was unique and original; unlike most illustrators of the 70s era, including myself. . . I will miss him.
—Bob Zoell

Peter Lloyd made ART that was:
Had beautiful colors
Was adventurous...funny...outrageous!
He made art which inspires me and makes me feel that there are other people who GET IT.
—Roman Coppola

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Royal Decree of Chasbo

His Majesty Charles White III will be signing copies of the fabulous Overspray Thursday June 18th 7.30 at Village Books 1049 Swarthmore Avenue, Pacific Palisades, California. Bliss!

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Charlie White is having a one-day art sale at his studio in Venice Beach California. 9 Wavecrest Avenue, on June 7th from 3 til 6. Here's a sample of some of the original art that will be for sale.

Modern Painter

Nice review of Overspray by Hrag Vartanian in this months issue of Modern Painter

Friday, May 15, 2009

Little Dave's Stencil Drawing

stencil drawing
After months of archeological excavation, Dave Willardson has uncovered this treasure used for what is perhaps his finest illustration.

If you're in the area - please stop by and say hello at the Overspray book event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn this evening.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New York Launch Party & Book Signing

Head over to Desert Island in Brooklyn on Friday May 15th from 7–9 to meet my beautiful self and cast your eyes upon rare and powerful vintage airbrush art posters from the 60s and 70s. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Overspray Original Art Sale at PictureBox Gallery

peter lloyd star warspeter lloyd
Overspray's publisher PictureBox has just launched PictureBox Gallery in order to sell selected original art by a small stable of their artists, including soul brothers Peter Lloyd and Charles E White III. Get over there and scope it out!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Charlie White's 177 Feet

A student art film made by Robert Merchasin in 1966 that includes the installation of Charlie's notorious big headed self promotion billboard, intercut with scenes of Charlie and Dave Willardson at work creating the construction used for the groovy 1967 album by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band: Volume 2 (Reprise Records), art directed by the legendary Ed Thrasher. Yes, Charlie and Dave thought it would be a fine idea to coat Charlie's bathroom with silver and cast resin objects in it as well, such as a female mannequin sitting in the bathtub. The photograph was taken at the door of the bathroom. At the time Charlie and Dave lived and worked in the so-called White House, Charlie's white-covered abode in L.A. Shown in the film is Dave's room (with Dave deep in it) and the bathroom under construction. Needless to say, Charlie's landlord was less than pleased, but it was the '60s and somehow Chasbone got away. Robert Merchasin, if you're out there, drop us a line!

Charlie White's 177 Feet II

the white house

Sunday, March 22, 2009

From the desk of Peter Palombi

A reference photo used by Peter Palombi to create the final magazine illustration shown below it. A rare peak into how photo reference materials were chopped and rearranged to build a more pleasing final design prior to painting.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Classmates Reunited

The Overspray crew have just returned from their successful world tour (well, a single performance so far). Art Center in Pasadena hosted a rollicking panel discussion and painful 70s movies film fest last Thursday evening. Peter Palombi, David Willardson and Charles White III battled to gain possession of the microphone from Roman Coppola in order to impart their harrowing airbrush war stories. Plans are afoot for an East Coast performance so stay tuned for details...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Charles E. White III: Very Good Hair in a Century of Good Hair.

bill hicockfamily portrait
Herewith a couple of snaps supplied to us by Charlie White. The bottom image depicts Charlie, his wife Linda and their two kids as the ultimate hipster family. Charlie would like it known that "and we weren't hippies man, we were artists!!!" It was taken in New Jersey in 1967. On top is an awe-inspiring photo by the infamous Jean-Paul Goude. It was used as an advertisement for Wrangler Jeans in Sweden in 1975. This is the only evidence of Charlie's all-too-brief modeling career in the 1970s. I think the main thing to note from all these CWIII posts is this: Did any illustrator have more fun in the 1960s and 70s? I think not! Charlie did something with his persona and his work that was perhaps only possible for a West Coast boy to do: lighten up, go Hollywood, and not worry. It's not a NYC-centric attitude (which focused much more on notions of conceptual rigor, seriousness, and societies), and as we view all this history, it makes more and more sense why the Overspray Kings have been so meticulously excised from the NYC-controlled illustration history books: they were too fun, too image oriented. Too LA But we should embrace it! Embrace the LA It is still the future there. It always will be.

Peter Palombi

Here's a very short clip of my interview of Peter Palombi, where we discuss his approach to using the airbrush and how he was influenced by JC Leyendecker.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Paint Making

Here's a slide show from recently unearthed contact sheets of behind-the-scenes shots taken during Charlie's incredible film Paint. Chas-bone doesn't remember who the other peeps are swirling around in the background (it was, after all, 1968!) but dig the groovy production.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Peter Lloyd

Here's a video clip featuring a lot of unpublished Peter Lloyd work, and some pieces that didn't make the book's final edit. Included are concept drawings for a tv commercial and production art from Tron.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Demure? Moi?

One day in 1967 Charlie White III and Dave Willardson were out for a drive and saw a billboard. Dave mentioned that it would be cool to advertise Charlie's studio with such a large scale format. So they went back to "The White House" and called the billboard company. Turned out they couldn't just rent one -- they had to rent five! Black and white was cheapest, so Charlie dug up a b&w promo photo he had from a photo booth, Dave set the type and before they knew it, they had five billboards up around L.A. advertising the man himself. This was very much in the tongue-in-cheek, pop style of the day. Advertise the man/brand ahead of the art! At the time Charlie was going full guns as the premiere West Coast pop-style illustrator. Charlie has since mentioned that it was taken the wrong way by some, who thought it was, um, a tad immodest. But nevertheless these billboards are still remembered by L.A. oldsters as an iconic image around the city. But the idea nicely foreshadow today's strategies (think Shephard Fairey) in its simplicity and persona-driven directness. The billboards begat a whole campaign, including the decal seen at right and the booklet below.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Charles E. White III Rules The World

The clinically shy Charlie White produced this humble self promotion piece in 1967 featuring spectacular photographs by David Willardson. The layout, right down to the typography, was influenced by their L.A. contemporary Ed Ruscha's books from that period. Of course this booklet dovetailed nicely with the Charlie White III billboards that went up around L.A. at the time. More on that later.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


This film of Charlie White was made in 1968 by the Haboush Company. Victor Haboush, whose career has spanned 1950s Disney films to the more recent Iron Giant, produced the film via his own company. From a studio in Santa Monica Haboush produced well over 1000 commercials. Victor remembers Paint as a novelty project, shot just for fun, and Charlie as "an exciting guy and an adventurer in the business." Charlie himself notes that Norman Gollin, who directed the film, was a major West Coast presence as an art director, and that he shot it all in one take. No paint-overs, and no practice. It was pure psychedelic improvisation.

The Original Ruler

This week I'll be uploading a rash of crap recently unearthed at Charles White III's studio in Venice California. Charlie had a colorful career way before he turned into the compressed air king covered in Overspray. This is a photo of Charlie back in the day, sitting under a bedspread (yes, really!) created by his disgustingly talented wife Linda, who's a noted interior designer. So come back soon, there's some good stuff on it's way...

Due to the amount of interest in the wall hanging I phoned Linda White to ask about the TV Dinner, She said it was created for a Bloomingdales Model Room in the 70s for interior designer Robert K Lewis. Bloomingdales was pretty hip at the time and featured contemporary interior designers work within the store. Linda said this room was all done in Brown and white with the TV Dinner bedspread providing the only color. Linda went on from creating textile art and tapestries to designing complete interiors. She heads her own company White Design based in Venice Beach in Los Angeles. She said she still has the bedspread and can see it poking out from her loft storage space from where she sits.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unfinished Business

in progress
While trawling through the extensive archive of Charles White III for the upcoming Overspray exhibition, publisher Dan Nadel uncovered this gem. Gives a glimpse of the painstaking airbrush painting technique.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

70s Shirtage

cwIII fashioncwIII textile art and completed fabric
While trawling through the archives for the upcoming Overspray gallery show, Dan uncovered this treasure designed by Charles White III back in the 70s.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Go for a high speed chase through the entire book.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Blog Love

The gentlemen behind the wheel at Eye Blog are enslaved by the beauty of Overspray so they asked me to provide a rant .

New Year

Ran into this Charles White III cover for New York Magazine yesterday. From 1974.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Soundtracks VII The Finale

Soundtracks VII
Okay we're wrapping up our look at the music behind the sleeves with this song from my mother's favorite duo Ferrante & Teicher from the album Dial 'M' for Music. Cover and lettering by his royal majesty Peter Palombi.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Soundtracks VI

Soundtracks VI
Run for your lives it's a power ballad! Jefferson Starship's Caroline from the Dragonfly album.It's a wonder Peter Lloyd didn't chuck it all in after receiving such a cross-wired schizophrenic brief from the band members.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ones That Got Away II

During the early planning stages of the book, prior to deciding to make Overspray Californiacentric, Philip Castle was an illustrator we'd had on our shortlist. Philip and Robert Grossman are possibly the two earliest illustrators to use the airbrush in the 60s. I'll try and include some further samples of their work here soon.

Overspray Soundtracks V

Soundtrack V
Today it's 1973's Sport from the album Hustler's Convention by Lightnin' Rod. Former member of the mighty Last Poets, backed up by Kool and the Gang featuring a Cineramic gatefold cover illustration by Dave Willardson.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Overspray Soundtracks IV

Soundtracks IV
Today's track is Billy Jack from my favorite Curtis Mayfield album There's No Place Like America Today. I love how Palombi differed his painting technique for the glossily sprayed crackers in the billboard, and the hand painted watercolor used for the poor folks in the breadline.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Overspray Soundtracks III

Soundtrack III
Pour a little Polo for Men into the hot tub and switch on Friends and Strangers by Ronnie Laws. The original painting for this blew my mind when viewing it for the first time hanging on Peter Lloyd's living room wall in Eugene, Oregon. He tells a great story about how the cover concept came about in his interview in Overspray.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Overspray Soundtracks II

Soundtracks II
Slip on your cranberry suede fringed boots and have a listen to Gentle Giant's The Advent of Panurge from their 1972 album Octopus. This epic die-cut cover was painted by Charles White III with lettering by Michael Doret.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Overspray Soundtracks I

soundtrack 1
This is the first post in a series of Overspray Soundtracks. A chance to listen to some of the funky 70s albums whose cover art is featured in Overspray. Today's track is Are You Ready by Pacific Gas and Electric from 1970.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Media Domination

Overspray was reviewed in last weekend's New York Times and also appears in this month's Women's Wear Daily The Reading Room section.

Press Frenzy

As the world rapidly realizes the import of Overspray, the media is tripping over itself to report on the airbrush tsunami. and TurntableLab being the latest victims.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

David Willardson Pin-Ups

Dave discusses the illustration that kicked off his start in painting pin-up girls.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Interview with David Willardson

A short clip of Dave Willardson discussing his work.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Royalty and Plebes

dave willardsoncharlie whiteme speechifying to michael doretmichelle shocked, dave willardson and charlie whitemike salisbury
His Majesty David Willardson

His Royal Highness Charles White III

Charlie signing a copy of Overspray

Me shooting my mouth off to hand lettering legend Michael Doret

Michelle Shocked, David Willardson and Charlie White

Mike Salisbury awed by my command of the English language

LA Book Signing Event

la book launchla book launch
I wasn't prepared for the huge stampede of humanity that showed up for the book launch last week at Family. We wiped out their supply of books then trashed the place.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Book launch in LA this Wednesday

Join the mass exodus to Los Angeles this Wednesday for the Overspray book launch at Family on Fairfax Avenue. I'll be introducing two of the kings: Charles White III and David Willardson who will be answering questions, along with LA art director Mike Salisbury. Family will be showing some extremely rare airbrush art posters from the 70s - plus the dudes and myself will be signing books.

436 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, California
323 782-9221

Monday, October 27, 2008

Image Restoration V

This is the final retouched image. Retouching airbrush art was much harder than I'd anticipated as there are so many rolling gradients everywhere, it's not easy to find a good cloning source. There were other pieces to fix as well: working from a printed piece as opposed to the original art, paint giving off reflections when photographed etc. etc. Give me a shout if you want to hear more about any aspect of the assembly required for the book – technical or editorial.

Image Restoration IV

Once the colors are corrected I went in to do any 'spotting' or cleaning up of blemishes. An unforeseen problem with retouching the work in Overspray, was not being able to use Photoshop's dust and scratches filter, which normally would have been a simple process. But airbrush art is composed of tiny paint speckles which would be mistaken by the filter as dust particles, thus causing over-smoothing, and robbing the illustration of its snap. So all spotting needed to be done by hand.

The before and after images here are easier to study when magnified

About the Author

Norman Hathaway
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Norman Hathaway is a designer and writer whose primary focus is on contemporary, lesser-known design techniques and personalities. Norman's professional experience has spanned many design disciplines, from sign painting to filmmaking. His clients included The Design Museum, The Royal Academy of Arts, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel. He has lectured widely on design at the London College of Printing, The Royal College of Art, Goldsmiths College and other schools. He currently lives in Brooklyn with his daughter Wilma.
© 2008 PictureBox Inc. and Norman Hathaway