One Hell of An Eye
The Official Blog of Mike Salisbury
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Of all the things that are part of the sea change our world is in, I watched something that has been close to my life die.

Enemy Mine final poster art

Nik Hafermaas (Graphic Design Chair at the Art Center College of Design) had invited participants in the creation of the book OVERSPRAY, Riding High with the Kings of California Airbrush Art written by Norman Hathaway and published by Dan Nadel of PictureBox, Inc. (, to have a discussion on their work with his students. The speakers included artists Dave Willardson, Charles E. White III, Peter Palombi, Peter Lloyd, and myself as the writer of the opening essay and a contributor of photographic impressions of the era of the “Kings of California Airbrush Art,” as the book is subtitled. (

During a break amongst samples of art on display from the book one of these Kings, Peter Palombi, like Thor throwing a lightening bolt, said to me, “There is no more illustrative art. There are only files.”

“There isn’t tangible proof of anyone’s talent and workmanship that is real anymore,” he concluded.

Jurassic Park logo design sketch

Sometime later, Michael Dooley, a principal of Design + Writing and a respected instructor at UCLA, asked if he could bring a class of his on a studio tour to my place for a visit and discussion.

Guy Fery's Dashiell Hammett

I have tangible art that I’ve had created for every job I have ever done. In these “files” are my thinking by hand, rough concept sketches, tighter pencil drawings refining those concepts; comprehensive art that is a bridge between the idea, the sketch and the finished art based on the original idea.

I had nothing in particular to discuss or show to his design class except, possibly, the Eames era furniture I have around the house, but I did have those physical examples of the many years of work-product I’d created; tangible, physical art that predated the “file era,” otherwise known as “the day that art died.” The students, awed and appreciative, leafed through those pieces as if they were relics pulled from a dig site.

There are still great artists but their work today is a described by quantum mechanics as “wavefunction which is a mathematical function providing information about the probability amplitude of position and momentum of a particle.” You can look that up.

On The Road poster, casting sheet signed by Francis Ford Coppola

Some of my art from that period is being sold at PictureBox, Inc. (, ScreenUsed Production Art (, and Heritage Art Galleries (; 2010 October Signature Illustration Art Auction #5038 on October 15).  You can easily peruse the whole list (with links) at the Art4Sale page here on this blog or you can go to my website ( and go to the “Store” page.

Victor Moscoso, Illustration for Chic Magazine

Until then, here is a partial list of some of my personal favorites:

Logo Design Sketch [Jurassic Park]

Final Poster Art [Enemy Mine]

Casting Sheet Signed by Francis Coppola [On The Road]

Guy Fery

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Same with the hand-shaped surfboard…days gone by.  Tim B.

Mike, I can’t believe the coincidence of this. But, these things happen to me all the time. Two days ago, I was wondering what happened to Peter.  I had heard he had gotten very ill a decade or more back.  I googled him but didn’t find much.  I may have misspelled his name. Very poignant, your posting. Best, robert c

Thanks, Robert. Peter’s  up in big bear. Kept all his templates so he can repaint any thing he did. He is ok. Doesn’t drive but his daughter does for him I believe. MS

That visit to your studio was incredibly amazing, Mike. Definitely one of the major highlights of my most recent “Exploring L.A. Design” course (which I conduct every spring, through UCLA Extension). And your workspace did, indeed, blow the minds of my students. Each week, I take them to two different design-related studios. Earlier that morning, we had gone to a Santa Monica motion graphics office, where there was hardly a scrap of paper in sight. And then… Salisbury’s Venice digs! With not a computer in sight!!!Even better. Mike had set out tons of historical artifacts from his wide-ranging career, dating back a half-century, and including the many preliminary pencils. And, as usual, he entranced us with many fascinating stories of his adventurous career.

Both class visits usually take a total of three hours, but we all hung around Mike’s long afterwards, as he shared even more of his life experiences with us, and signed the posters he had generously given to everyone. In my design history classes, I always talk at length about Mike. But the images I project off my computer onto a screen don’t come anywhere near the incredible experience of witnessing these “legendary” design artworks in person.  Thank you again, Mike. You’re the real deal!  Michael Dooley, UCLA

Mike—Peter Palombi? He was just ahead of me with Pat Nagle winning National Scholarships in Art out of Savanna High (Anaheim, CA) 3 years out of 5…Peter was one of the greats, like Nagle, Charlie White III, Willardson, Peter Lloyd–your astute eye helped form a whole generation of the ‘West Coast’ Airbrush school…this saddens me; indeed. Life is Precious and should never be taken for granted. Each Breath is a Miracle of Endless Mystery! GOD Bless You, Peter–and Pat Nagle–and George James (our HS teacher)….and thank you, my mentor, Mike Salisbury–top Creative Director of All Time– for having the sense, the eye, and the talent to see everything before it even happened.  Terry L.

Illustration is not art. Davey Miller

Tell that to Norman Rockwell. MS

It is sad. I’m not sure computers or the internet have helped anything. Especially art. Movies, music and photography have all fallen victim to it. It’s almost too accessible. Too many programs available to create anything but nothing of true artistic merit. Too much noise and shit out there that it’s harder to see the standout talents. Nelson Q.

I agree. Everyone is an expert in their own minds, too.  MS.

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Colonel Tom Parker had signed the invitation. You are personally invited. Elvis Live at the Las Vegas International.

The moon was full. The highway empty. I was in my 356 with the sunroof open on the way to Vegas to see The King.

Elvis live at the Las Vegas Hilton, 1971

Elvis live at the Las Vegas International, 1971; photo by Mike Salisbury

The last Elvis song I even cared about at that time was recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis. This show in Vegas was the new Elvis in the white jumpsuit and sash under the bare navel.

Mike Salisbury, circa 1971

Mike Salisbury, circa 1971

The flared pants a bit short over the white patent boots.

This was four  years after I participated in Monterey Pop, even more time had passed since I photographed Jim Morrison in the gym of Long Beach State waiting to go onstage with the Doors.

Leaving the new music world of working with Ry Cooder and Sly Stone, I was on another planet. There was nothing in the desert to pass the time into the different zone of “Viva Las Vegas” except for trying to imagine the meaning of the word on the sign for the turn-off to the mystery town of Zyzyx.

You can see time in the desert. You can look down Highway 15 where it gets straight and Vegas is a couple of hours away right there in front of you. The Haole Don Ho was waiting.

1971, Elvis souvenir menu; International Hotel, Las Vegas

1971, Elvis souvenir menu; International Hotel, Las Vegas

The curtain opened. The King made his entrance and blew me away. He had as much energy as an NBA player running up and down the court at a playoff game while singing every song he ever recorded.  He did not take a break; he was never off-key. He threw out the scarves on his neck to standing, screaming, thousands of fans and should have just passed out from exhaustion. Then the lights went down. There was no sound.  In almost a whisper, Elvis began the lyrics to Dixie.  Moments in, the band came up from behind, sliding seamlessly into the Battle Hymn of The Republic, building emphatically  along with Elvis  as he brought his audience to tears and silence.

"Complete Elvis Souvenir Photo Album on Sale at Hotel Entrance and Cafe International."

"Complete Elvis Souvenir Photo Album on Sale at Hotel Entrance and Cafe International."

The curtains closed. I started to go but turned and snatched up my souvenir menu before the hordes of crying, bouffant-headed fans cleaned the tables of anything that couldn’t run away.

Somehow I hooked up with a young lady and since her parents were out, went to their apartment in one of those buildings straight out of “The Hangover” — a stucco cellblock sitting on plantless asphalt next to the freeway.

I was home in Laurel Canyon before dawn in the same night I saw The King.

There was no traffic, no CHP; the Porsche an invisible stealthy grey color. I had not a drink. No drugs were involved, not even coffee.

Next stop for the King and I would be Graceland six years after to visit his grave.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Great story, Mike…thanks!  Katie S.

Great piece, Mike! Really dig it!  Well told. I’m a big Elvis fan and actually just finished cutting a doc on him a couple of weeks ago.  Darren M.

That was hot, Mike. Love the b/w of Andy Warhol in the hotel room. You took the best shot of him by far. You should make a book of these blogs.  It’s very interesting.  Annie F.

Cool blog about the King. Pete B.

He died on my birthday. I was asked to be in his band for this show and turned it down. Great picture. Russ T.

To Deux Magots List. Wander thru Brand Man’s blog…pretty interesting. Would you believe Brand Man was born in Eureka, UT? I also know a talented LA interior designer who was born in Meeteetse, WY. The Bishop…P.S. I’ve been trying to get Brand Man (Venice) and Hotel Man (Marina del Rey) to have coffee at Hotel Man’s LA coffee joint. We must continue to strengthen the bonds of LSDM list members (no need, however, to strengthen LSMD intellectual capacity, already at a level of original Deux Magots denizens, Sartre, Camus, DeBouvoir and Hemingway).  To Brand Man and Hotel Man, be careful of tripping on broken LA sidewalks, not to mention….

Have you seen the new Cirque du Soleil Elvis show in Vegas? The best part of the show (besides the music) is all the film footage of Elvis at various stages of his career. He looked great in the footage of his Vegas shows.  Michael P.

MS: Speaking of Cirque…I was just in Macau working on a Franco Dragone show.

He was the man…John R.

MS: in person–a phenom.

Love your blog on Elvis!!! I also went to one of the 1971 concerts in Las Vegas and remember Dixie and Battle Hymn of the Republic. I was probably one of those crying, bouffant headed babes grabbing menus. I kept my menu for a long time. Just think, we could have met for the first time then.

I just made an interesting discovery. If  you go to, on the search line put books, then your name, your book comes up. A new copy is now selling for $92.99. Then click on “more about author” then “visit Mike Salisbury’s page” and it brings up books you are referenced in. Then you can click on the actual pages and read what it says about you. I don’t know if you were aware of this or not, but I thought I would pass it on. There are 21 books that reference you. It’s interesting to look at some of the pages. You are a genius!! Really hope you write another book!! Jeanie S.

MS: Wow. Thanks, Jeanie. I have the menu but somehow the invite “walked.” (another book would have the racier bits missing in the blogs…).

Felt like I was in Vegas. Thanks for sharing this. Seeing kings is like seeing shooting stars, make sure you don’t miss it. Richard L.

Great as usual! J. Tabler

Sweet, brother. b oom! Tim G.

I love that shot of Elvis. That shot of you is awesome too. You look like the lead singer of a rock band. And you had way too many cool cars. Cheers. Nelson Q.

Another enjoyable read, as always. You’re quite prolific this year.  Judy L.