Last week, Charles Fazzino had the honor of joining talk show host Tavis Smiley in his Los Angeles Studio. The two discussed everything from The Super Bowl to Fazzino’s International Collector Base, and his Artistic Process. And at the end, Fazzino surprised Tavis with a unique work of his own.
Charles Fazzino on Tavis Smiley Transcript
Tavis: So honored to welcome Charles Fazzino to this program. He is an internationally renowned artist who is known for his signature 3D technique which he has been using for over 30 years now. He has been licensed to create artwork for events like MLB AllStars game and the Grammy Awards and has been the official artist for the Super Bowl since 2001. His remarkable works are sold and exhibited in hundreds of fine art galleries and museums the world over. Charles Fazzino, I am honored to have you on this program.
Charles: Thank you for having me.
Tavis: When we first met I told you, I fly American (this is not a shout out), but I fly American, most often when I am going to New York City. You land at JFK, you get off the plane and land in the terminal. That piece of artwork, that big jumbo plane, tell me about this piece artwork. I love it every time I see it but tell me about this.
Charles:I was also a frequent flyer on American and I made a connection with somebody there and they asked me for the new terminal, how would you like to put some of your pieces there. And I said, Wow that would be so cool. So I started creating pieces, I think there is twelve all together. There is a huge, huge one that took me about a year to create. It was about 18 feet by 13 feet with mobiles. It is as you go down the escalator to the baggage claim. They were all fun to do and they are in different areas of the terminal. The sculpture was something I was thinking about wanting to do for a while. I create helmets for Super Bowl and other things so I said, I can draw on this plane. They sent me this huge plane to my studio that was 12 or 13 feet long and they said decorate it, make it American. So I did, I create it and it’s all the places American flies to from New York.
Tavis: When you say fun to do, I think I get that. What I am struggling with is trying to juxtapose the notion of fun with the tedious nature, what I presume to be a tedious nature, of what I see in your work.
Charles:It is. My work is extremely time consuming but that is what I like to do. I love researching the subject, I love the tiny details. As a kid I had been doing very detailed artwork and I really get into it. Maybe it has something to do with my psyche or something. I love detail and design and doing a lot of it and it just makes me feel good to do a lot of it.
Tavis: You mention being a kid and doing art as a child. If my research is correct, I read somewhere in a wonderful piece about you that you used to love pop-up art, pop-up books.
Tavis: Is that true.
Tavis: I see your artwork and I am like okay, this guy really loved pop-up art as a kid – is there a connection there.
Charles:There is. I loved pop-up books. My parents were always buying them, they were artists and were always bringing home pop-up books for my brother, sister and I. I just really loved them. And I remember my Father telling me, he was a shoe designer in New York City, if you are going to be an artist, you have to do something that is different and people will remember you for. So when I started doing my paintings and artwork, I always kept that in the back of my mind to do something different. I really tried to create, after going to art school in NY, School of Visual Arts, I wanted to do something different and I tried to create a pop-up book of my own and showed them at a local art show in New York City in 1981 and everybody said how cool this is, this is not just a pop-up book, this is art. So I was the first person to use the style and technique as fine art.
Tavis: I love you and I would have loved your Daddy too if he did shoes. Art and shoes, you talking my language now. So I guess Charles you didn’t have a choice – if your Moms an artist and your Dads an artist, you couldn’t get away from this.
Charles:My brother and sister are very creative also but they didn’t want to be a starving artist so they became a nurse and computer analyst and they are unhappy in their jobs today, sorry.
Tavis: But good none the less at what they do.
Charles:I just always thought I wanted to do what I wanted to do and I liked doing it, it was fun and I am still today having fun and it’s been, wow, over 30 years.
Tavis: This is one of those branding questions which can be annoying for me to ask and for you to answer but I am always curious with people who have risen to the top of their profession and how they make these connections. I mean you have work on display in the American Airlines terminal, Major League Baseball uses you for the AllStars game, NFL used you for the Super Bowl. How did this happen where your art is being, as it is now, embraced by the powers that be.
Charles:I guess first of all that it is different. The artwork seems to, the technique of what I use lend itself to any theme. You ever notice many artist just do one thing. They just paint French street scenes or just boats or something and I like to be challenged to do everything. So many years ago when I first started with sports for instance, I wanted to just do the Yankees. I was born in the Bronx and I wanted to do something…
Tavis: The boogie town.
Charles:So I contacted Major League Baseball and showed them one of my pieces and said I would like to license the logo to do the Yankees. And that kind of how that all started. And one things leads to another in life and bills and you know I did also then the Giants and the Jets and the NFL noticed my work and same thing with Disney, saw my work with what I was doing with that and the theme seems to just, any theme is something that is fun to do is something I want to do.
Tavis: How do you work so quickly? Your work, as we said earlier, tends to take time, its tedious work but beautiful when it is all set and done. But when you get started on those helmets for the Super Bowl, we know on one day who the teams are going to be and that is a pretty quick turnaround.
Charles:What I do when it comes to Super Bowl and the helmets and collection that I show in the stadium and town for the NFL experience I am working months ahead. What I am doing is decorating and hand-painting the Super Bowl helmet that is the designated helmet for that year. Of course I don’t know what teams are going to be in it. Even though I am watching football once in a while as the games get closer to the playoffs, I am really paying attention because I am not painting helmets a month out, then three weeks out of the teams that are getting closer. Sometimes the teams don’t get in the Super Bowl so they end up in my collection.
Tavis: That team is usually mine but we won’t talk about it.
Charles:Which team is that?
Tavis: We are not talking about that Charles, I said we are talking about that this season.
Charles:My team is the favorite, whichever is getting close to the Super Bowl. I get it because it makes a big difference if the Giants or in or a team that I have a big following in that city, I am going to do very well.
Tavis: I am not asking you to diss anybody’s city in particular but I would think there are some cities, say for example New Orleans, I would think if they are in that game, the nature of that city gives you a lot of texture. Am I making sense here?
Charles:Yes, especially when New Orleans is the city the Super Bowl is in or when the Saints are in it. There is so much stuff to draw. You can do the Whodats and the this and the that and the partying and the color.
Tavis: And this year San Francisco, colorful city and it’s the 50th anniversary.
Charles:Yes I have been drawing for months, doing San Francisco things and working with the NFL and showing them the new drawings of the official poster. And I am doing for the first time this year, an official 50 years of Super Bowl, a commemorative piece that will supersede any Super Bowl. You can remember everything that happened.
Tavis: I am told we have got some b-roll here that has your process. I am going to ask Jonathan to show the b-roll so you can tell me how this process works.
Charles:First I start off with an original drawing usually and you see, I start with a pencil drawing which turns into an ink drawing, from the ink drawing then I make an original painting which gets cut out and then sort of layered like a lasagna. That is the easiest way to describe what I do. Each piece is painstakingly cut out with an exacto-knife and layered piece by piece and built-up into sort of a 3-dimensional effect that I try to create.
Tavis: Hold up, hold up. So while Charles was talking a moment ago talking about the b-roll and how that works, I am looking at the monitor and my staff brought this piece up behind me and I am looking at it and I see it is not just a piece.
Charles:I am sort of becoming a pop-up art historian and I love painting popular culture so I said, wow, Tavis is part of this, so I thought, let me do an LA piece that really highlights your career and all your accomplishments. My staff and I had so much fun putting this together. You can see it talks about everything you have done.
Tavis: I see books. I see yeah.
Tavis: Walk of Fame.
Charles:All different things.
Tavis: My leadership program for kids. My foundation.
Charles:My artwork is intimate, when I create something I really want to get into the essence of the subject, whatever it is. So in this piece I really trying to bring in something that creates that sort of emotional bond. And I think that is why people really love the artwork, they get an emotional attachment to my artwork. I think that is why it has been so popular.
Tavis: Well trust me, I am emotionally attached to this now. I even see the PBS logo here. It is so personal. Charles, thank you, I didn’t expect this. Thank you. I am speechless, first time in 13 years. Thank you my friend. I am so honored to have this. I look forward to seeing your work in a couple of months for Super Bowl, just around the corner. We will see what you create with these helmets. You do wonderful work and I am honored to have you on this program. I gotta get out of here to spend some time adoring and delving into what he has provided me with this wonderful gift. That is our show for tonight, thank you for watching and as always, keep the faith.