[Rachel Neverdal, COC Cougar News] – A WWII veteran and father’s dream of becoming an artist was given up in exchange for providing for his family. But it was fulfilled in the life of his son, Santa Clarita resident and accomplished western artist, Morgan Weistling.
Weistling’s journey to success begins with his father, Howard Weistling, who grew up loving comic-strips from the newspaper in the 1930s.
“There were all these serial comic strips that would continue everyday, and the story would be continued throughout the newspaper every Sunday. They were (the) TV of the day,” said Weistling.
Howard always wanted to be a comic strip artist, but his parents were against it. He was in the process of teaching himself when Pearl Harbor was bombed and World War II came. He enlisted immediately and was deployed overseas. On his first mission, his plane was shot down over Germany and bullets flew past him while parachuting down.
Fortunately, he survived the crash but was caught by the Germans three days later and put in a prison camp.
Upon arrival at the camp, he was pressured by POW’s for intelligence that might be valuable to them. They enticed him with a story about an escape tunnel for prisoners who had valuable intelligence about the war. He did not have any information and remained in the camp until the end of the war.
While in the prison camp, Howard began a daily comic strip titled “A Western” that told tales of the Wild West, indians and cowboys. He would draw them on the back of cigarette packages because there was no paper in the camp. He helped keep morale up by passing the strip to POW’s and all around the camp. When he completed it, he made a small booklet out of pounded tin and a nail. He used the nail to etch his name into the tin and bound it all together.
The booklet was lost when the war ended and they were liberated by the Russians.
Upon returning home, Howard enrolled in Woodbury University in Los Angeles where he met his wife. They both fell in love and were soon married. They both loved art, but he was unable to fulfill his dreams of artistry due to his growing family. He became a gardener, but his love of art did not dwindle, and he always wondered what became of the booklet.
Morgan Weistling always wished he could have seen his father’s work that inspired him so much as a child studying art, and finally four years ago he got his wish.
65 years after his father was released from the POW camp, and about seven years after his father passed away, Weistling received an email. It was from a Jewish businessman in New York saying that he believed he had some drawings that might belong to him. One of the partners in their company had embezzled money to buy a truckload of Nazi artifacts. In the truck was everything from Hitler’s watercolors and dinnerware to Dr. Joseph Megala’s suit, the infamous doctor who was responsible for the most horrific human experiments of WWII.
In the email to Weistling, the man said, “It was revolting. We are Jewish. This was horrible what he did so we donated all the items to the Holocaust Museum’s all over the world, but I kept one thing. I kept it for myself, and I always thought it was something that was so interesting. It was this little book of drawings that I knew had been done by a POW in some camp. I used to always show it to my children, and I have had it for twenty years. I am moving now and researched the name. On your website you speak of your father spending time in POW camp so I believe they belong to you.”
To this day, Weistling has no idea how his father’s drawings ended up with Hitler’s watercolors.
Weistling was only 19 months old when his father began teaching him drawing skills. His father would draw something and he would copy it. That is how he began to develop his creative ability.
His father saved all the books he used at the university, and Weistling studied them, as he grew older. When he was older he met a retired illustrator by the name of Fred Fixler. He studied at Fixler’s school, then called the Brandes Art Institute. He went on to become an illustrator in Hollywood working with all the big studios making movie posters. He worked on his first movie poster when he 19 years old and also did book covers and artwork for pinball machines.
After working in the movie industry for 14 years he felt that he needed a break so he turned to painting. His first painting was titled “Two Children” and it was sold immediately for around $2,500.
“That barely paid for the brushes,” said Weistling. “Today, more then ever, it is very difficult to become an artist. Graphic artists have it made!”
His first show featured 26 paintings and were all sold in the opening night. He said that it took 10 years of being a well-known artist before he could even pay his bills.
“I was making enough on just one movie poster to buy a car!” said Weistling. “Even though I had made a name for myself in Hollywood, no one in the fine-art world knew who I was.”
He met his wife, Joanne, while studying art, and is also an artist. They have been together since 1990 and have two daughters who both model for their paintings.
Weistling likes to depict his Christian faith and has done so in many of his paintings. They are all featured in a book titled, “The Image of Christ.”
He is currently working on a large project for the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles. It is known for featuring Western Heritage pieces of early pioneer life, which is Weistling’s specialty. He gets a lot of inspiration for his pieces from the Santa Clarita area, due to its rich history in the Western culture.
You can buy his artwork online at www.morganweistling.com.