Jon Serl had many creative talents that were apparent from an early age, but only came to painting later in his life. He was born in 1894 in Olean, New York, to a theatrical, vaudevillian family. He took up performance as a profession as well, working as a singer, dancer, actor, female impersonator, voice-over artist, and screenwriter.
He worked in the entertainment industry until one day, he suddenly walked off a film set and quit everything. He eventually settled in San Juan Capistrano, and in 1949 at the age of 55, he began to paint out of a kind of necessity. There was a painting that he wanted to buy, and as Serl recounted, “They wanted fifty dollars for it,” Serl said. “I didn’t have fifty cents, so I painted my own.” (1) Serl used a variety of media for his work, including plywood and pigments made from plants and earth. He refused to show or sell his work until the 1970s. By his death in 1993, Serl’s oeuvre surpassed 1200 pieces.
(1) Johnson, Denis. “Red Lips on Jon Serl” in One Man By Himself by Sam Messer (http://hardpress.com/cultureport/artists/messer), accessed July 13, 2001.
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