SZ Exclusive: SLY Artist, Bill Pruitt Interview!
Bill Pruitt is a talented artist who also happens to be a huge Sylvester Stallone fan. What’s really cool is that Sly is also a fan of Bill‘s art and owns several of his paintings. We’ve profiled Bill before here at the SZ, but felt that it was time to check in with him again now that he’s providing art for Slymagazine.
Craig: Could you briefly give us your background?
Bill: I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and have been always been artistic since I can remember. I studied art all through school and in college and recieved my BFA in illustrationfrom the University of Missouri. After about 5 years of living in Kansas City, I decided to move to Los Angeles in 1991 to pursue my art and have been here ever since.
Craig: How did you get the gig with Sly magazine?
Bill: I got the gig with Sly Magazine Issue 2 because there is a history with my artwork and Sly. He is very familiar with my work. Sly first purchased a painting of mine back in 1987 when I was still in Missouri and has collected several others since then through the years. I was first contacted by Neal Boulton, Editor-in-Chief of Sly Magazine back in December ’04 about doing work for the premier issue but unfortuneately, for what they wanted and the detail style work I do, there simply wasn’t enough time. I let them know I would be available for anything in the future.
Anyway, I paint outside this restaurant Cafe tu tu Tango in Universal City right next to Universal Studios. I paint there on occasion just to get out of the studio and be outside around people. It’s a nice atmosphere.
Well, one Friday night in February of this year, I was there and Sly went walking by with a group of people (one being Sugar Ray Leonard – they were going to the Hard Rock Cafe nearby for this basketball event) and I got his attention and said, “Hi.” Sly was very gracious since we’d met before and he knew me and my work. Sly told me he wanted me to do work for his magazine.
Sure enough, he kept his word and less than a month later, the art director of Sly Magazine called me and asked if I was interested in the job. Of course, I didn’t hesitate in saying yes I am interested and I’m available. Even if I didn’t see Sly that night, I am sure I would’ve have gotten the job anyway since they contacted me
Craig: How closely did they work with you? Did you have to do revisions?
Bill: The art director Willy, worked very closely with me. We communicated by phone or email almost every day till the job was done. He was in New York where the Sly Magazine office is located. The job actually started on March 5 and was completed around March 18. Specifically, my job was to do three illustrations to accompany the section of the Rocky 6 screenplay in the magazine. Since the work had to do directly
with Rocky 6 and Sly‘s vision for it, I spoke to Sly through the art director. They first sent me the script and told me pretty much what they wanted. They asked me to read the script to give them any input. Which I did. On the copy of the script, there were very
rough sketches that Sly did with his ideas for the illustrations.
It was very interesting.
From there, I did some preliminary sketches for the three illustrations and did a few revisions on each one. All the revisions were sent as email attachments after I scanned them so that made things very easy.
Once the drawings were approved, I then got started on the paintings around March 7 and decided to work in acrylics to ensure the paint would be dry in time. I normally work in oils so I had to adjust, plus you are forced to work faster with acrylics since they dry faster.
I might add during this whole creative period, I had to rely on photo references that I found in my vast collection of Sly stuff. I ended up using several different photos and combined them, since of course, there are no photos yet of Rocky 6. I also even used the Rocky DVD’s as references by putting a scene on pause and taking a picture of the screen for a certain expression, etc. I did this a lot for an illustration of Paulie. I even went so far as to take pictures of myself by pushing my face in on one side to somewhat simulate a face being punched and how distorted it would be. So, in a sense, that is my face being punched by Rocky in the painting. As you can see, I am a stickler for detail and accuracy. I did the full page opener (fight scene) first and would send Willy photos (from my digital camera) of my progress so he in turn would show Sly. I would get all kinds of input from Sly for things to change or add. Like for instance, in the opener, Sly wanted more blood and sweat flying with more cuts and bruises on each fighter to make it look like these guys have been through a real battle. The other two illustrations consisted of Rocky and Paulie in one and the young Champ who Rocky fights in another. They are both half page illustrations in the magazine. It was all a very fun process but hard work at the same time because of the time frame and me being a very detail oriented artist. Having good communications with Willy was a plus too.
Craig: Will you be doing future work for Sly Magazine?
Bill: Yes, I will be doing more work for Sly Magazine for issue 3. They just contacted me and we will begin discussing it tomorrow (May 4th) after I receive the script. As of now, I
don’t know any details. I very much look forward to working on it again. I let them know I am available any time should they want my services. This is like a dream job for me. Something I have been working my whole life towards it seems and I am very grateful for the opportunity Sly has given me.
Craig: What else does the future hold for you?
Bill: As far as what my future holds, I will have two paintingspublished in an art book of Marilyn Monroe called Marilyn in Art in November. It is a coffee table book and is the second edition of one already published in England during the 80’s. I want to keep painting of course and have more shows in galleries and also have limited edition prints made of more of my pieces to sell. I want to work out something with Sly so he can sign the prints too and maybe have part of the money go to one of Sly‘s charities. I’ll keep you posted.
I am currently working on a painting from Rocky 6. It is a big 36″x48″ oil and was very much inspired from working on the illustrations for Sly Magazine. I can’t remember being this excited about working on my own project. It is a very original idea with a spiritual edge having to do with important people in Rocky‘s life dying. That being Mickey, Apollo and especially Adrian. They are like angels on Rocky‘s shoulder (referring to a great, very moving scene with Mickey in “Rocky 5”). I’ll keep you posted on this too. It should be a couple more months.
Craig: Are you available for commissions? Prices?
Bill: Yes, I am available for commissions and also sell canvas prints of most of my work from my site. They range in price from $20 – $250 and are exact duplicates of my originals. My commissions for a simple one person head and shoulders portrait start at $1000 for 11″x14″. They can go up to $5000for a 36″x48″ for one person. I add 40% of the original cost for each extra person added. I do commissions of anything else someone may want. The prices will vary depending on the detail and size of the piece.
Craig: Any other info that you want to add, please feel free!
Bill: As I mentioned before I have been artistic since I was very young. That set the foundation for the kind of painting I do today. I believe my artistic skills come from a combination of a natural gift and years and years of JUST doing it to hone my craft kind of like Michael Jordan with basketball.
I studied art all through school and college and received a BFA in illustration but again, I credit most of my ability from JUST doing it all the time. It also helps to have very supportive parents (two people to whom I am forever grateful) who encouraged me in all my artistic endeavors. I also believe I learn something from each painting to become better and better. I also think over the years my eye has become conditioned to see things more accurately. That is evident from my paintings today compared to ones 15 years ago. My sense of lighting, everything is enhanced.
Also, regarding Sly and my relationship with him, it really goes back to 1976 after I saw “Rocky”. To this day, I have never felt better leaving a movie theater as I did with “Rocky”. I was only 12 years old and it had a very strong impact on me. So inspiring. I was so pumped up after seeing “Rocky” that night, I went home and did several one handed pushups. Maybe not as graceful as Sly but I did them. “Rocky” literally got me into working out with weights and is something I still do on a regular basis and will always do. Even to this day, when I watch the training montage and the fight scenes in the 14th and 15th rounds of “Rocky”, I get chills. Plus the music by Bill Conti is incredible. Later on I learned about Sly not selling the script unless he played Rocky which was even more inspiring. I also believe “Rocky” and its sequels are a big reason a lot of my subject matter is patriotic and “American” themed with themes of strength, victory and triumph being a common thread in a lot of my work.
Jumping ahead, in 1986, still living in Missouri, I did some drawings and paintings of Sly and sent pictures of them to the owner of this gym called The Santa Monica Bodybuilding Center. His name was George Pitasik and Sly worked out there at the time. All this information was obtained from an article on Sly in the October 1985 issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine. In a separate letter, I asked the owner to please give the enclosed contents to Sly when he comes in to work out. I didn’t hear anything for about 3 months and frankly didn’t think I ever would.
I then received a letter from Sly‘s office from his personal assistant saying he was not interested in any art at that time but they would keep my photos in their files. Also, they enclosed an autographed photo signed to me from Sly. So from there, I had a direct contact to Sly‘s office.
I then did a nice painting (“Stallone Montage I” on my site) of Sly at the end of 1986-early ’87. I sent a nice big photo of it to Sly’s office as a gift to him not expecting anything. About a week later, the phone rang and I answered it. The woman said she was Sly’s personal assistant calling about the painting. I remember my heart pounding when she told me who she was. She asked me all kinds of questions about the original and if it was for sale and if so, what the price was because Sly was very interested in it. I said yes it is for sale and just quoted some price off the top of my head. She said “is that your firm price?” I said, “yes”. I was totally caught off-guard not thinking anyone would call. She called back the next day and told me “you sold a painting!” I couldn’t believe it. Right out of college I sold a painting to someone who has inspired me so much. He admired my art like I did his. The rest, as they say, is history.
Craig: What a great story! Bill, I want to thank you for taking the time to catch us up on what you’ve been doing. It’s crazy how your admiration for Sly inspired your art and how that has led you back to working for his magazine. Please do keep us posted on your progress on issue three as well as your Rocky 6 “spritual painting.” Thanks again!