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Black Velvet Vahines

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Check out my attempts at Leeteg-style black velvet painting:


These are all oil paint on black velvet. If some of the images look familiar, I used Sylvain photos as subject matter for a few of the works. I have already done most of these when the Juxtapoz issue came out with the Leeteg reprint. While I won't lay claim to having discovered Leeteg's secrets, there are a few tricks to working with oil paint on black velvet.

That link sez "This folder is currently empty."...?

It should be fine, now.

Very, very nice. What size are these and are you selling them?

Thanks for diggin' them. Most are 16" x 20" and 16" x 24". The two portraits are 11" x 16". I'm probably going to sell most of them soon.

Those are beautiful! Do you have gallery representation? You really should if you don't. I know it's tough to get in, and the search process is a hassle, but you've got real talent and it's something you need to do.


Please let us know when you will be selling these (must HAVE 'contortion backbend')


I agree, nice job! I like the portraits, let's us know when they are going to be available.

Tiki_Bong wrote:
(must HAVE 'contortion backbend')

My eyes were immediately drawn to that one too. Don't know why....

These are fantastic paintings, and from my un-tutored eye give Leeteg a run for the money. Make sure you don't just swap them for cheap bottles of rum!

Trader Woody

That's funny you all are focusing on the contortion one. I started getting bored of painting wahines so I did that one for kicks. My goal is to find a model - the subjects came from Sylvain photos and nudie mags. I'll probably be checking out Otto's Shrunken Head in NYC Saturday night. Before I think a gallery will pay attention to me, I need to take it to the next level.


Repeat - please let us know when you want to sell any of your work.

Oh yeah, Baxdog wants a nude contortion backward Elvis!

Hey Bong, is that young Elvis or Vegas Elvis(way cooler)?


Nice Work Tony. Good luck getting your artwork out to the unwashed masses. I think you are ready for the next step. And to push Tiki_bong's concept a tad bit further. I will give you my ideas for Baxdogs painting. A contorting Siamese twin with the Young Elvis on one side and the vegas Elvis on the other. You might find a model for that one here in California over at Venice Beach.


I just came back from my trip to Quebec with fire in my eyes and and what I thougt was a semi-original idea to resurrect the painting on black velvet genre... I log into tiki central to catch up on what has happened since I have been gone, only to find out I've been beaten to the punch! And these will beat the pants off any of mine, too!

Ah well.

I know, I'll paint on BROWN velvet!!!!


I don't think I've had my PANTS beat off?

On 2002-10-16 21:33, tony_velvet wrote:
I'll probably be checking out Otto's Shrunken Head in NYC Saturday night. Before I think a gallery will pay attention to me, I need to take it to the next level.

That is how Leeteg started, too, a very good tradititon...when I was at the Tahitian Lanai in Waikiki (RIP), I inquired about a back bar velvet painting and got to visit the artist, David Voss.

You should offer those three new Tiki Bars in New York a painting each as decor and have a pricelist/catalogue available for their interested customers.

Galleries ask up to 50% comission. You could circumvent that by building a good website, going on e-bay, and selling on Tiki Central.
While Tiki carvings and Tiki mugs are being produced again, Black Velvet Wahines are very hard to find and you should do well with that quality of work!
They are an essential element of the traditional Tiki bar, and people will want them to decorate their's, it will just be a question of price. (I myself have only a black velvet nude made in Tijuana, which kinda passes as exotic/Polynesian).

When you are ready, I can recommend you to Doug Nason (Copro/Nason) and Martin MacIntosh (Outre Gallery Melbourne)

Here's some stuff I found online related to Leeteg. The first is an article on the Waldorf in Vancouver - which is to Leeteg as the Hala Kahiki is to Witco - and an article on a Leeteg-related film. If anyone knows where to aquire the film, please let us know.

The Waldorf Hotel: A Time Capsule

The Waldorf Hotel was
built in 1948 by original
owners, Bob and Pat Mills, now
both deceased. In 1970 the
ownership switched over to
Srecko (known as Frank)
Puharich. It is said that the
hotel's decline was partly due
to the Mills' frequent trips
to Tahiti where Bob indulged
in extravagant purchases like
the original Leeteg paintings
(now highly prized) and also
partly due to the fiery
arguments that followed as
debts ensued. In order to keep
the Waldorf alive, the Mills
were forced to bring partners
into the business. Frank was
one of the partners then,
investing his hard earnings
into the hotel and working his
way up from quarter partner to
half partner, to eventually
buying out the owner. These
days Frank Puharich, now in
his eighties and still working
in the kitchen, starts at five
o'clock in the morning and
leaves at ten at night every
day. Ownership
responsibilities have passed
on to two of his three
children, Marko and Vesna, who
together manage the hotel.

By Ed Rampell, Samoa

Samoa's first female director, Sima Urale, fills her latest film with images of bare breasts. The breasts belong to Polynesian maidens in sarongs with flowers tucked behind their ears -- the fantasy of Western men and antithesis of Western feminists.
"People have had a problem with Velvet Dreams having too many breasts," Urale chuckles. "But in actual fact we were very barebreasted back in the old days, and I don't think there's anything wrong with being sexual...I thought I'd play up the sensuality rather than try and pretend they're not sensual."
Only age 30, Urale is emerging as a major new directorial talent. Her 1996 debut film, O Tamaiti (The Children), won eight international awards, including the prestigious Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Velvet Dreams, made for New Zealand television, recently had its U.S. premier at the Hawaii International Film Festival where it was a favorite.
Velvet Dreams opens up and expands the cinematic syntax of nonfiction film form. The film zooms in on the genre of black velvet paintings known for kitschy Elvises and clowns. The film tells the story of a renowned black velvet painter who produces barebreasted "dusky maidens" inhabiting tropical Edenic isles.
Rather than use a straightforward, talking-head narrative format, Urale ingeniously imposes a faux film noir style. The unseen narrator is a Sam Spade-like private eye who serves "as an entertainment device, but also to link the stories and the interviews together," says the director. The "fake, made-up narrator," as Urale calls him, falls in love with a nubile naked native nymph portrayed on velvet. The Humphrey Bogart sound-alike travels from New Zealand to Seattle (for a bizarre velvet painting exhibit) to French Polynesia, and back to New Zealand again on an epic Oceanic odyssey to find the model for his velvet vahine (Tahitian word for woman).
Along the way, in the Tahitian islands, the 47-minute documentary includes an interview with the velveteer Eric Cridland, and Jacqueline Cadousteau, the main model for the father of contemporary black velvet painting, Edgar Leeteg. In the end, the private eye never finds his "dusky maiden," but rather, in a Freudian twist, discovers the painter instead, a robust 90ish New Zealander named Charlie McPhee, who still delights in barhall carousing and wearing red blazers. In a subtle way, Urale insinuates that these velvet fantasies exist mainly in the minds of obsessed white men, yearning to escape from civilization and its discontents, and return to a mythic state of nature.
Urale inventively saves Velvet Dreams from being just another dull, conventional talking header. The director calls her documentary "a send up," or spoof, and makes her nationalistic and feminist points about racism, sexism and colonialism with a great deal of wit. Urale's satirical, dead-on observations are full of humor, rather than anger, making Velvet Dreams more accessible to Western audiences.
"It's about... the cliched image....[those] very sensual paintings." said Urale. "But I think the film goes a bit deeper than that, and it's really about the subjects, those women, and about the white painters who, in a way, colonized the Pacific by painting these women. But at the same time, they really did love the islands and married these island women."
Urale has a love-hate relationship with the velvet Venuses. "Yeah, I think they're beautiful images, but what I guess I'm trying to say in Velvet Dreams is that there are more aspects about the Pacific than just that image....The only thing they convey is ... sensual paradise, all those really cliched things about the Pacific, which are partly true. But then there's all these other amazing things about the Pacific that people don't know about."
Part of that Western ignorance about the Pacific is that there "aren't enough of us interested in filmmaking and writing... I'm still waiting for others to appear around me... I can feel quite lonely at times," she says with a laugh.
Urale's family emigrated to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, from Fagamalu, Savaii when she was six in 1974. Savaii is the larger of the two main islands that compose the independent nation of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa.
Although she loved painting and wanted to attend a school of fine arts, Urale ended up studying drama. She then acted for two years doing both white and Maori plays. One of her early directors was renowned Maori actress Rena Owen, star of Once Were Warriors [See Proud Warrior:Actress Rena Owen WIN 10]. But then she tired of it.
"I think you really get sick of acting because you tend to get typecasted by other people, and you end up... working on other people's ideas," she said. "So, I think acting can be quite uncreative, and I wanted to create my own stories. Because I think we have a hell of a lot of stories to tell."
What really bothered Urale was "the lack of Pacific Island... and Samoan works. And also a lack of stories I was more interested in. I was doing rehashed plans that were very well known...very popular, white plays, but not my kind of plays," Urale confesses.
So, the Samoan emigrated again, this time to Australia, where she studied filmmaking for three years at Melbourne Victorian College of the Arts, Film and Television School. She hoped, "going to film school meant that I was going to, you know, maybe have a bit more control in the directing arena."
After graduation, she returned to New Zealand and made O Tamaitit, a 15-minute black and white film, which is in Samoan with English subtitles. The film tells the story of a young Samoan boy living with his family in New Zealand who struggles with the responsibilities of looking after his younger brothers and sisters.
"It's got to do with integrity. It would not have been believable if I made a Samoan family speak English," she said. "Because this family was... immigrants [in Wellington] Éspeak Samoan."
She added, "It's quite an art-house little piece.... And it's an unconventional storytelling for a Polynesian story or content...It's very stylized, very visual and sound orientated."
What does the film future hold for this islander auteur? Urale says she has a development deal in the works to direct a feature, but wants to take her time.
"I just hope I continue to make really diverse films, because there're all sorts of aspects about me that I can bring out in... film... And there're a lot of issues that I feel really strongly about...I really don't want to be typecast as a particular type of filmmaker," she said. "Actually, I don't even want to be typecast as a Pacific Island filmmaker. You know, I hope to make all sorts of films, because there are so many wonderful stories out there."

I would very much like to buy one. They are excellent. Can you e-mail me with a price?


Don't forget Duke Carter, who has been painting Tikis on black velvet for about 6 years, or more. Some of his early works are in Taboo: The Art of Tiki. I have the original of the Moai painting seen in the book. Looks so much better in person (not that it looks bad in the book!).



Oh, I'm sorry... what were y'all talking about?

I'm still stuck back on the mental image of beating TikiFish's pants off...

[email protected]

[ Edited by: Reever on 2002-11-13 08:37 ]

Mark, stop that!
Ah...Geoff, I have a VHS copy of that "Velvet Dreams" mockumentary, it's really great...
Next time I go have some VHS dubs of my vid made I get you one.

Thanks BigBro. You're tops! I would love to see the movie and promise to show it/share it with others here in Florida.
Also, I guess the following fits here, due to the Leeteg/film thread:
Last June I was lucky enough to get into the Waldorf Hotel's tiki bar in Vancouver, BC -- which is partly reknowned for its Leeteg collection -- and they told me filming had just been completed for a movie called "It's a Guy Thing" (Apparently the film crew also burned up the handpainted ceiling, but that's another story). Anyway, the movie was supposed to be out in September, but it never showed. Turns out it was released in Australia on schedule, but is delayed for US release until January. Here's a short write-up I pulled off the Web:
Everything is going as planned. Paul (Jason Lee) is about step over the threshold of matrimony in one week with Karen (Selma Blair), the perfect girl. The good-natured Paul will be on his best behavior during his bachelor party. So he thinks, until the morning after the party, Paul wakes up with a hangover and no memory of the beautiful naked tiki girl, Becky (Julia Stiles), lying next to him. Only to find out that Becky is the cousin of his fiancée. Paul is desperate to hide what he thinks is the truth, tells his beloved Karen a little lie, which ultimately leads him down a comical whirlwind of adventures and misunderstandings.

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff on 2002-11-13 12:30 ]

In response to the article entitled "The Waldorf Hotel: A Time Capsule", my understanding is that the Waldorf Hotel Leetegs weren't all that expensive when Bob Mills bought them, although he did pay more than the going price at the time($75). He paid "a couple of hundred apiece" for the unframed velvets, but this was shortly before Leeteg died and so they rapidly appreciated in value. What Bob Mills and his wife Patricia did spend a lot of money on was their home, which they built in the early 60s, and travel. Prior to moving into their new home they lived in several customized rooms in the upstairs wing of the hotel facing Hastings Street, which I thought was pretty cool because since they were my grandparents, I got to spend a lot of time there. To my recollection the hotel did not decline at all in the 60s - business was booming and the hotel was maintained immaculately.

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