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ROY LICHTENSTEIN PAINTED POPEYE. NOW Baltimore artist Tom Everhart is rendering the Peanuts gang in oils for major exhibition tentatively planned for Tokyo, Los Angeles and Toronto in 1993.

Tom Everhart in painting studioEverhart met Peanuts creator Charles M Schulz in 1981, when Everhart was a creative director with the Becker Group, a local design firm that wanted to use the characters in the displays, Schulz was impressed with the sketches that Everhart submitted of Snoopy, Linus, and the rest of the kids, and he invited Everhart to join the handful of people authorized to pinch-hit for him on the ancillary projects.

(Schulz, at 68, still does the comic strip himself. Everhart’s drawings have since been graced Metropolitan Life ads, magazine covers and anti-drug posters.

In 1988 Everhart was diagnosed with cancer and began to rethink his approach to painting, “I wanted to take a bolder, more passionate approach, with a sense of fun to it”.

Peanuts certainly qualified as fun. But rather than approach the characters literally, he chose a style closer to expressionism. He plans to paint two dozen works altogether, including – good grief! - views of Snoopy’s doghouse in different light conditions, after Monet’s cathedral paintings.

And what does the famous cartoonist make of all this. “It’s almost embarrassingly flattering that Tom should find the drawings in the strip worth painting”, says Schulz, sounds almost as self-effacing as his best known character, Charlie Brown.