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Wanna make starving artists weep? Tell 'em about Thomas Pomeroy: The Republican millionaire gun collector co-owns the snazzy Biltmore club io; his Phoenix health-insurance brokerage firm Pomeroy & Pomeroy is one of AZ's largest with $300 million in premiums annually; and he's a prolific, self-taught dauber, whose portraits go for as much as $10,000 a pop without gallery backing. Pomeroy's painted three presidents — Ford, Bush #1, and Reagan. And his work is so detailed, you'll swear each is a photo 'til you're close enough to see the brush strokes. Oh, the guy's also a regular winner at Vegas blackjack tables. Downtown artistes — eat your hearts out.

Comical Start
In the late '60s, early '70s, I was an assistant to comic book artist Jack Kirby. Originally, he did The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, and Thor. He created Captain America, did the second issue of Captain Marvel. I was 17. I went to a comic book convention and did a portrait of him. I asked him if I could ink some of his work. Three weeks later, I got a comic book in the mail. I did it in about three and a half days and sent it back to him. Another three weeks go by, and I get a package twice as big with a check for $720. I was hired.

On Photorealism
I get that effect from overpainting. You lay down paint, let it dry, then go over it again. I use various mediums to get the depth. It's hard to walk that line between being finished and unfinished. But I have a good sense of when to stop.

Painting Bush
Bush came about through a connection with the Republican Party. I sat next to him at a dinner, and he said, "Oh, you're the guy who wants to paint me." I took 40 pictures of him to work from. This was in '94. While taking the pictures, I was talking to him about Dana Carvey's impression of him. He was quite taken by that impression. He said, "You know, when something's funny long enough, it starts becoming damaging."

Ronnie Rules
Lincoln is my favorite president. But in my lifetime, Reagan. He's a dramatic president. Incredibly quotable. And he was in the right place at the right time to change history. He literally broke down the Iron Curtain. And he did it on a bluff. Wouldn't have liked to play cards with the guy.

Stogie Love
I smoke two or three to four or five cigars a day. I smoke a lot while I paint. It makes you paint faster. The synapses in your brain actually connect charges from one to the other faster when you have nicotine in your system.

Glad We Asked
Let's say I sell a painting for $4,000. It probably costs me $40,000 to paint it in time lost that I could be making money elsewhere. Along the same lines, I figured out one time it takes Paul McCartney $48,000 to go to the bathroom. If it's number two, $96,000.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons