High atop a historic Highland Park neighborhood, there once grew a eucalyptus grove, but for the past 55 or so years, the land has been home to one of Los Angeles’ most talented native sons. You may not recognize his name, but if you were a cartoon-loving kid in the ‘60s or ‘70s, you’ll know David Weidman’s work. His graphic sensibilities became the look of an era, preempted by his fanciful background paintings most recognizable in Crescent Studios’ Fractured Fairytales.
“I live on yesterday’s money, most people live on tomorrow’s. That’s where all the trouble comes from,” he says. “I make everything rather than buy it. It’s my character to create and build, partly because I’m cheap!”
Weidman literally built his home from the ground up with recycled materials on a lot acquired at a city auction for $900, and every surface of it is dense with evidence of his creativity. Random nooks, door frames, and windowsills all reflect his penchant for pattern, perhaps necessary for his lifelong career in animation and printmaking.
Now retired at age 87, Weidman reflects on his enormous body of work with the release of a new retrospective book, The Whimsical Works of David Weidman, and Some Serious Ones Too, not to mention, the house, which he claims with a wink, was “just finished this year.” After an art-school education funded by the GI bill, Weidman found the seasonal animation industry a little nervewracking for a man with a house under construction and a growing family to provide for. “I found it difficult and uncomfortable to seek work all the time, so as I was working at Hanna-Barbera during the season, I was making prints. I created a business.”
Starting his printmaking business in the carport with his wife, Dorothy, he built up his body of work, and was quickly in need of more space. This led to a rented workshop in the back of a liquor store on La Cienega, which was then an art gallery destination. This evolved into a front retail space that became Weidman’s Printmakers (and Custom Framing) He used the space to sell some of his work and also nurture a beloved collection of African art. The business is currently owned by his niece, who operates Weidman Gallery, now located on Santa Monica Boulevard.
“I printed for about 18 years. During some of that time I was working at the studios as well as doing freelance illustration. I didn’t do a lot of selling. I was the odd one [on La Cienega] because everybody else was selling ‘real art’ — you know, oil painting. Here I was, a printer.”
Weidman’s inspiration ranges from his children to organic abstracts and memories of places and events. But sometimes it was “just time to make a print,” and let the process speak for itself. “When you work with a medium for a long time, it begins to suggest how to solve a graphic problem — and becomes an integral part of the final image. These are the prints I appreciate the most, the ones most representative of the medium.”
As Weidman grew weary of printmaking, he turned to ceramics to challenge his inventive mind. These are rarely seen except by lucky visitors. He says he “never commercialized” his ceramic work, “so it maintained its interest to me.” When pressed to talk more about his illustration style, he explains, “We all have perspectives that are uniquely ours and that gets transmitted into everything that you or I do in some form. Mine is visible — you get an insight into my psyche by the way I interpret graphics.”
His simple sketches are reminiscent of Warhol’s inkblots done in the relatively same time period but Weidman doesn’t see the similarities. “To me, Andy Warhol wasn’t a graphics person, he was a showman,” says Weidman. “If you ever see him, tell him that he fucked up!”