A dynamic and prolific artist who is best known for a truly unique distinction, he is the only artist in the world with full creative rights to the beloved ‘Peanuts’ art created by Charles M. Schulz (November 26, 1922 ‘ February 12, 2000).
“This art was created using the methods and presses shown in the Lithography Video”
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Tom Everhart Biography
Tom Everhart is a dynamic and prolific artist who is best known for a truly unique distinction: he is the only artist in the world with full creative rights to the beloved “Peanuts” art created by Charles M. Schulz (November 26, 1922 ” February 12, 2000). It is the story of a long and special friendship, and of an artistic vision that elevated what many saw as just a comic strip to its rightful place as Fine Art.
In 1980, recently graduated from the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University, Tom Everhart’s focus was on teaching Life Drawing and Painting, and on creating large-scale skeleton and nature related paintings that explored subjects on giant size canvases. Although a well known and respected artist in his own right, Everhart had no formal training in cartooning, which suddenly came into play when he got a freelance job that required him to draw renderings of Charles Schulz’s famous “Peanuts” comic strip characters, and present them to the cartoonist himself.
Everhart’s approach was to prepare as he usually did for one of his own works: he blew up images of some of the strips, projecting them onto a 20 x 25 foot wall. But it inadvertently eliminated the perimeter lines of the cartoon box and any recognizable characters, instead, zooming in on the individual marks and pen strokes made by Schulz. The result was a completely unexpected larger-than-life abstract of intricate lines and patterns that stunned Everhart with their complexity. “I never made it past that first blown-up drawing of his strip. I sat in front of it for hours. I don’t even remember leaving it,” he says of the experience. Suddenly, he was seeing the kind of stark, subtle genius in these lines of Schulz’s that he had seen in Chinese ink painting, and in the masterworks of his own heroes like Abstract Expressionists Franz Kline, Willem De Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and others from the 1940’s and 1950’s.
When he finally met Schulz a few months later for the presentation, the cartoonist mentioned that he could always recognize copies of his work, and didn’t really like any of them. Wondering if Schulz might think him just another fan of the “Peanuts” strip, Everhart told the cartoonist of the profound experience he’d had, not with re-drawing the characters, but with the “brilliant architecture” of Schulz’s line work. Everhart believes it was a moment that sparked something magical, when Schulz realized there was more to the young artist than met the eye: indeed it was the firm foundation of a lifelong friendship between the two. Everhart spent hours with Schulz on that first day they met, and the cartoonist let Everhart into his inner creative world that – as Everhart had felt so strongly – was indeed complex, fascinating and with a unique language of its own. Unbeknownst to just about everyone, Schulz was “deeply concerned with a sensitive notion”, as Everhart puts it, that the art world did not recognize his work as Fine Art. It is to that end, Everhart says, that he has spent a lifetime exploring the nuances of a style that is irrefutably Art in the finest sense.
Over the years, the lines between mentor, protege, friend and partner blurred, and after some eight years of experimenting with Schulz’s “Peanuts” characters while also developing his own art, Everhart had an epiphany of sorts, while undergoing a brutal, near-death battle with cancer in 1988. Surrounded by flowers and “Peanuts” comics in his hospital bed, something about the way the sun struck one of the images suddenly opened up a whole new way of looking at Schulz’s art. Upon recovery, and with the cartoonist’s blessing, Everhart began working with “Peanuts” imagery exclusively. His first show was at the famous Louvre Museum in January 1990, and in 1991, Charles Schulz and United Media, (Schulz’s syndication agency), drafted a legal agreement to allow Tom Everhart exclusive rights to use subject matter from Schulz’s “Peanuts” strip in his art for “the term of his life”.
The strip originally ran from October 2, 1950 through February 13, 2000 – the day after Schulz’s death – making true his half-joking statement that the “Peanuts” strip would outlive him. It is the most popular and influential strip in the history of the genre, and ultimately earned Schulz over $1 billion during his lifetime. His decision to tap Everhart as the sole steward of his creation is an honor that the artist has indeed devoted his life to happily, and he continues to grow, expand and breathe new life into the “Peanuts” world, with creative merchandising, numerous international exhibits and lectures that teach new generations of fans and students alike about the legacy of some of America’s most iconic figures.