For the last 20 years, Santa Clarita artist Randy Watkins has painted portraits of movie and music stars, and gotten the stars to sign the paintings for his personal collection.
Now Watkins, aka “Starpainter,” is one of 67 artists who have contributed a portrait of talk show host Ellen Degeneres to the 2nd Annual Ellen Art Show, organized by South Florida event producer and Degeneres fan Renda Writer.
The artworks will be auctioned off for charity at the Terrell Moore Gallery in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
A portion of the auction’s proceeds will benefit The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing help and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, which Watkins says is a worthy cause.
“One, it stops bullying of people, of kids who have decided to come out of the closet, and two, it also provides resources as in a support group so these people can talk to people who understand what they’re going through,” he said.
Watkins, raised in Van Nuys and an SCV resident since 1985, worked at the Los Angeles Daily News for 30 years until 2009, when the paper shuttered its plant in Valencia. He has been an artist for 33 years, painting portraits of film and music celebrities for his own enjoyment.
About 20 years ago, Watkins started getting the stars he painted to autograph his portraits of them. He takes his paintings to premieres, Hollywood Walk of Fame inductions and other public events where the stars will be.
Among the celebrities who’ve signed Watkins’ portraits are Jay Leno, Jack Nicholson, Eric Clapton, Harrison Ford, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, Ted Nugent, Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, Robert Redford, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise, George Burns, Bob Hope, Rod Stewart, Steven Spielberg and more.
“I’ve seen a lot of people out there collecting autographs, but I’m the only one out there with paintings, so it’s pretty unique,” Watkins said.
More recently, he has also filmed videos of getting signatures and posted the clips on his YouTube channel, starpainter4u. He’s also developing a reality TV show based on what he does.
Saturday’s event is a first for Watkins, who has never displayed his work anywhere except his website, www.randywatkins.com. Once he gets a portrait signed, he locks it up with the others in a vault, where he can see them anytime.
“I normally do all my own paintings for my own collection and don’t put them in a gallery and don’t sell them, so this is all going to be something new,” he said.
Watkins posted a time-lapse “speed-painting” video he shot as he painted the Degeneres portrait on his YouTube channel. “The Ellen Art Show’s organizer, Renda Writer, contacted me after he saw my Ellen video on YouTube, and asked me if I’d be interested in joining in this project,” Watkins said.
The Trevor Project was founded by writer James Lecesne, director/producer Peggy Rajski and producer Randy Stone, creators of the 1994 Academy Award®-winning short film “Trevor,” a comedy/drama about a gay 13-year-old boy who, when rejected by friends because of his sexuality, makes an attempt to take his life. When the filmmakers discovered there was no national support line phone number for LGBT youth, they created The Trevor Lifeline, 866-488-7386, and website, www.thetrevorproject.org.
Saturday’s auction will be held at the Terrell Moore Gallery, 1221 S. Hope Street, Los Angeles 90015. The Gallery’s phone number is 213-744-1999 and its website is www.terrellmoore.net.
Find out more about Saturday’s auction at www.ellenartshow.org, and about Watkins at www.randywatkins.com.