First Impression Greg Hildebrandt
Greg says he hasn’t nailed a painting yet. We respectfully beg to differ…
What do you consider to be the first pin-up image you created, and why do you think you are drawn to paint women?
The first painting I did in my American Beauties series of 40s -50s pin-ups is called Emerald Evening. Why I paint women is an interesting question and the answer is so simple: they are beautiful and I love to paint beauty.
Which pin-up artist was your first artistic crush on and why?
Gil Elvgren. As a young boy of eight I saw my first Elvgren pin-up calendar in my grandfather’s basement. I had no real clue what I was looking at, but I knew it was amazing.
Do you have a ritual for when you start a painting?
If you are asking me if I have to chant before I paint, the answer is no. If you are asking me my process, that’s a different story. I do multiple rough sketches before I choose a pose. Then I get a model and take my photos of her in costume. Then I do my finished sketch that I’ll transfer to canvas. Then I sit down, mix my paint and begin.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an artist?
I guess I never realised I wanted to be an
I was never satisfied with anything I ever did artistically. That is what kept me going
artist. Art chose me, I did not choose it. My earliest memory of doing art was at three years old. My mother told me years later that my brother and I were colouring in the lines at three. She said she was amazed at the fact we would sit for hours at that age and never get bored of colouring.
Do you remember the first image that made you think you’d nailed it?
Unfortunately, I will be 75 in January, and I’ve not nailed it yet. But I keep trying. As far as pieces I’m really happy with there are a few of my American Beauties that I’m very partial to: Emerald Evening, Hotel Nights, Ledge, Lady in Red, Yellow Rose of Texas, Made in the USA, Hot Rear Ends, American Beauty, Lipstick, Casting Couch, Science Gone Wild, Grease Monkey, Sudden Danger, Mad Science, Saturday Night Special, Double Vision, and Smooth and Sensual.
What was your first pin-up commission?
I started the American Beauties series for myself in 1999. The first pin-up commission I did for a client was in 2009 and it was called Thoughts of Midnight. I painted a girl on the nose of a 1943 P-38 Lightning WWII aeroplane, for a collector of WWII warbirds in Texas.
What was the first bit of praise that you received that spurred you on?
After I finished Emerald Evening my agent contacted Lou Meisel. He wrote the book The Great American Pin-up. He knew my fantasy art. When he saw my first piece he said it was amazing, and the next thing I knew I had a one-man show planned at his SoHo gallery. All I painted for a year was pin-ups for that show.
And your first knock-back?
I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but I really can’t remember one. There were always changes that clients wanted and you made them. That was my job and I did it. If anything, I was never satisfied with anything I ever did artistically. That’s what kept me going all my life.
What advice would you give to artists starting out?
Never quit. Never pay any attention to criticism unless it’s constructive. Learn something new every day of your life. Be passionate about your art and always give 1,000 per cent of your capability to what you’re working on.
Who’s the first artist that you turn to for inspiration?
I could list them but I would take up your magazine. They stretch through time and through genres and through mediums and each one is a gift.
If you could go back to the start of your career, would you change anything?
What was the last pin-up image you painted, and were you happy with it?
The last painting I completed was last week and is called Going My Way. And yes, I am happy with it.
This image is part of Greg’s American Beauties series, and is one of the artist’s favourites.
double vision Luxury cars and glamorous models have long been used in advertising imagery, but Greg’s pin-up artwork takes the concept to the next level.