"I grew up loving the west," fine artist Roy Hampton reflects. "Must've been the one room schoolhouse I started in. Thousand Oaks and Westlake were country back then."
That love and his flavorful style have earned Roy the distinction of being the last artist to paint a commissioned portrait of the legendary John Wayne.
But Roy did not simply paint the star, he painted the man. Wayne had been unhappy with portraits that other artists had done of him, so when Hampton introduced himself, Mr. Wayne was "pretty grouchy."
"As a matter of fact," say Roy, "he told me he'd much rather take a nap." But he adds, "Of course, he called me back and apologized. He'd been writing a friend's eulogy that day, and he didn't feel too well. He said he'd cooperate with me fully."
During the days that Roy spent at Wayne's home, he came to know Wayne as "even bigger in person than he was on the screen. John Wayne was more 'John Wayne' than any movie could portray."
The Duke told Roy that he felt bad because he couldn't do something great for his country before he died. So he decided to donate to his beloved U.S.A. a refining process he'd spent $10 million to develop. He wrote a letter to President Carter but received no reply. Says Roy, "Somebody heard about it and raised cain. The next thing you know, two Washington people came out."
Wayne had chartered a plane to fly them to New Mexico to see the plant, but the reps didn't want to go.
"Before you fellows leave, level with me and tell me really why you're not going to investigate this," John said. They answered that his chemist didn't have a Ph.D. (Note: President Carter visited Mr. Wayne during his final hospital stay.)
Hampton recalls another moment with Wayne that typified his great spirit. Wayne took him into his trophy room one day. There were Cochina dolls he'd collected, his Academy Awards, and various memorabilia from his long career. Roy noticed a cheap brass trophy of a basketball player.
"That's the trophy I'm proudest of," Wayne said.
Roy comments, "He really got a tear in his eye. It seems there was a little boy in a small Mexican town who was burned very badly and needed extensive surgery. Mr. Wayne wanted to do something, but he didn't have quick access to any substantial amount of cash. All his money was tied up in investments. The Shriners told him if he'd memorize and pass stringent tests, they'd make him a 52nd Mason; which is the highest level you can get. So Mr. Wayne studied hard, and he passed. With the help of the Shriners and Masons (the parent organization), Wayne was able to bring the boy for treatment at the Los Angeles Shriner's Hospital."
"So the town sent Mr. Wayne the most valuable thing they had - the brass trophy."
Roy Hampton captured John Wayne's fire, and his empathy in the beautiful oil portrait featured on our cover. He's painted other celebrities, like Clark Gable, Roy Rogers, and Walter Brennan during a career which has brought him over 2 dozen gold medals and listed him in "Who's Who." His work hangs in galleries all over the world, including the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions.
Call your trade broker for information on how you can obtain his work or commission him for a picture that really is worth a thousand words.