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Bradbury shows his artistic flourish

October 18, 2009|Geoff Boucher

Meet Ray Bradbury, the illustrating man.

The 89-year-old dreamer is renowned as a lion of literature, of course, but it's his longtime pursuit of the visual arts that will bring him to the Santa Monica gallery Every Picture Tells a Story at 4 p.m. Saturday. Bradbury will unveil a new giclee print of an evocative oil painting he completed in 1948 and has come to refer to as "Dark Carnival."

"Painting has been part of my life since I was a child," Bradbury said. "My Aunt Neva went to the Art Institute of Chicago, and she took courses there and she took me to see the paintings. I began to paint in the 1930s and 1940s, and I did a lot of amateur work over the years. I visited art galleries everywhere I went."

It was restless imagination that put the brush in Bradbury's hand most often, but in the case of the midnight vision shown at right, he reached for canvas with a measure of frustration. It's also no coincidence the moody piece shares the name of the author's first book, published in 1947, when Bradbury was 27.

The collection of 27 short stories (which had a print run of about 3,100) was clearly a proud career moment for the young Illinois native, but he still got a sour feeling whenever he looked at the cover -- he just couldn't stand the one by George Burrows, a composition with primitive masks.

"So I designed my own. I made this painting and hoped that someone would use it as the cover in the future," Bradbury explained. (He eventually got his wish with the 2001 Gauntlet Press special expanded edition of "Dark Carnival.")

Over the years, did he find himself creating stories to go with his paintings, or vice versa?

"My artwork doesn't inspire my writing, it's my writing that inspires my artwork," said the author of "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Martian Chronicles." "All of my stories are combinations of metaphors, visual metaphors and poetry. When I was in my teen years, I tore pictures out of magazines and wrote prose poems about them. And my painting is a prose poem written about itself. My stories don't influence that, they are separate, but other people's pictures and paintings do."

This is the third Bradbury painting the gallery has revived in this fashion. For years, it was in the collection of the author's friend, the late Forrest J. Ackerman, but now it is owned by Bradbury scholar and bibliographer Donn Albright. The edition is limited to 200 prints, each signed by Bradbury and costing $300.

-- Geoff Boucher

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