Olivia De Berardinis - Artist / Illustrator
San Diego Comic Con International - San Diego, CA - July 1999

Olivia DeBernardis - simply known as Olivia - is a mainstay in American art today, nay, the First Lady of illustration. She is very well known for her beautiful paintings of gorgeous women. She has been featured in Playboy and is handled by Robert Bane studios out of Los Angeles. Olivia has worked with some of the most well-known models such as Julie Strain, Susie Owens, Pamela Anderson and Shannon Tweed, as well as doing portraiture of such legends as Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe. Olivia's style is original and can often be spotted by a glance. She captures the glamour and class of her models while enhancing the paintings with her own soft touches of fantasy. Olivia's work is also amongst the highest regarded works for collectors with sales far exceeding that of many of her contemporaries.

Olivia appeared at the San Diego Comic Con International, signing autographs and greeting people with her usual charm and smile. We had a chance to share a few words and ideas with her during her signing sessions.

K2K: When did you first start or think about doing art?
O: I've been drawing since I was a little girl. I was drawing women since I was a little girl.
K2K: Mostly for the form or any other reasons?
O: Mostly my mom. She was quite a character, always running around naked around the house. So she was the first woman and I just continued to do it through the years.
K2K: Do you ever do men at all?
O: Yes, I do. Nobody wants to buy them.
K2K: What did you first start doing? Sketches, or did you just go right into painting?
O: I've painted and sketched throughout my whole life. But when I started this business, I was 25 and I went to the sex magazines and that's how it really started.
K2K: Did you replace Vargas?
O: No, no. I never replaced Vargas. I've never really had a regular spot in Playboy. It's like I just work for them a lot here and there. Hef still uses me for invitation pieces, invitations for his parties, and I like that. I do the random illustration in Playboy, but I don't really work for those magazines all that much anymore.
K2K: If you had one thing that you would rather do, what would it be, in your artwork?
O: I'm pretty happy the way it's going. I mean, I sit down and get to paint all day long. I get to push paint around and I feel lucky. I'm pretty happy. I just need to push it and I need to learn. So, it's always a work in progress.
K2K: Do ideas come pretty easy for you?
O: You make it come. You work. You have to [force it]. If you don't work and you wait for inspiration, you're screwed. There are times when something just pops out of my head though.
K2K: What are your next major projects that you are working on?
O: Well, I'm working on a show for Robert Bane Galleries. Probably in another four months. I'm working on my next book which will be in another couple of years.
K2K: How do you feel about all the success that you've gotten from all your work?
O: Really happy.
K2K: Has it changed you in any way?
O: I'm really spoiled. (laughs) Yeah, has it changed me? Yeah, I'm spoiled.
K2K: If you weren't doing art, what would you be doing?
O: Well, that's what scares me. When I start thinking about that, I work harder.
K2K: Is this pretty much all that you've ever wanted to do?
O: Well, I don't think I'm very good at many things, so I would have been really hustling out there or something.
K2K: Maybe anything else in a creative field? It seems like if you're tied in to one form of art, then you may be musically inspired or go towards another form of art.
O: Yeah, I have a lot of talents. I guess I could develop them.
K2K: Do you do photography?
O: My husband does the photography. We photograph our models and then he gives me a black and white print to work from. So, we're a team.
K2K: How do you work for the most part? Do you always start with a photograph?
O: I work with a photograph. Then I do a lot of studies until I get a good idea for the final painting. Then, the final painting becomes an image for the calendars and books.
K2K: Do you change a lot from the original photograph?
O: Yeah. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes it's a photograph that's just so seductive in itself that I paint it the way it is. I just want to see it and paint it. A lot of times I add and change things. Yeah.
K2K: Since you mentioned that you work as a team, have you ever worked as the Dean brothers (artists for album covers such as for the rock group Yes) integrating photos and paint?
O: No, but good idea. I like pushing paint around though. You lose 4 or 5 hours someplace and it's a really nice buzz.
K2K: For a final question, since painting is your job, what do you do for fun and relaxation?
O: What do we do for fun? I can't think of a damn thing. Oh, watch Sumo wrestling. We like Sumo. Yeah, yeah. We have satellite dish and we get it every two weeks. In Japan it is [a national competition] and they're trying to get it into the Olympics. I can't think of what we do [for fun]. I'm always working. I can't think of what else I do. OK. I don't do anything. I push paint. That's it. I don't have much of a life. I come here [to the Comic Con] to escape my desk.
Olivia then had to get back to her line of ever-adoring admirers to sign more autographs. It's a wonder that her hands don't need a vacation themselves.
Written by Philip Anderson / Photo © Tara Hauff

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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