Haute Living
Artist Spotlight: Tom Everhart
"Rollin With the Homies," a new exhibition by Tom Everhart, a Yale-educated artist whose Peanuts-inspired paintings have shown everywhere from the Louvre in Paris to the L.A. County Museum of Natural History, continues through June 18 at SoHo's AFA gallery. As the only fine artist educated by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz, and the only artist authorized (by the late cartoonist himself) to use Peanuts subject matter in his work, Everhart's paintings include beloved characters like Charlie Brown and Snoopy, yet also stand on their own as totems of pop culture, tributes to the men's friendship, and beautiful works of art. We chat with the artist about the exhibition, Schulz, and more.

Tom Everehart in front of OG Doggy paintingTell us about "Rollin With the Homies."

The show was constructed on the basis of confessions, of intellectual thinking, and where it comes from. I basically designed the show like a novel broken down into several small chapters, and each chapter represents and references different influences: art history references, traditions of painting references, and something that I call social reconstruction, which is things that I think happen in our lives that tend to reconstruct the way we see the world.

Would you say that some people love your paintings because of their love of Peanuts, while others see the paintings as stand alone works?

I'm very comfortable [with] people who just get associated meanings of Peanuts out of it. A lot of people think I have a license to do this work, but the fact is, I don't. What I do have is a legal agreement that Mr. Schulz created for me early in development of the paintings, when he knew they were going to be something serious, that allows me to incorporate his subject matter into my work for, "the term of my life." What it actually is, is a body of work influenced by the teachings of Mr. Schulz; his strategies of process and picture-making.

Do you remember the first time you met Mr. Schulz?

Oh yeah, by the minute… It was unexpected, and very rewarding for me as an artist and as a person because I got a friendship out of it that lasted for the next 20 years. I was living in New York, working as a painter right out of school, and accepting freelance projects. I was working on a creative project for a design group that required me to do several drawings, including Mr. Schulz's. I tried and tried to do the drawings, but I couldn't understand them because I had no cartoon training, my background is in fine arts. Just as I was about to give up, I decided to treat his cartoons as paintings. What I did in my studio was [project] small sketches on this one thirty-foot wall [… ] so I treated a Xerox of one his drawings in the same way, and when I blew it up on the wall […] the only thing left were these beautiful, swinging, elegant, rhythmic black lines that were very familiar to me. I realized that Schulz was referencing painterly, abstract expressionist lines, like those of Franz Kline and [Willem] de Kooning. So, all of a sudden, as an art student, I'm able to understand this.

And when he saw your work?

He took me from the meeting into his drawing studio, and we spent the rest of the day drawing lines with his pen and ink, sets of three identical lines, three identical fat lines, three identical skinny lines, three identical wiggly lines. We did this for hours. Each of the three identical lines was completely different. From that moment on […] each painting had to be a new way of seeing the same thing. He wanted me to see it in a new way, and feel it in a new way.