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Making Faces

Santa Claus on a South Seas vacation? Not such an outrageous guess. It’s artist Preston Hibbard, 67, at his Sunset Beach home. He paints faces on palm fronds, taking raw ones like those below, and turing them into things of beauty and wonderment such as those above and the ones he’s pictured with at left. It started when he picked up a frond and saw a face in it. That’s just one of his several artistic themes. He originated the fad of painting bizzare faces on people, he says, at the first big Easter love-in at Elysian Park in the ‘60s when he was a “hippie.” It was such fun that he is still painting faces today and creating masks for people to wear. And he does serious art. “I’m a surrealist,” he says. “My paintings look as though they were painted by people from outer space.” He was painting long before he received formal training. He served hitches in the merchant marine as a cook and baker, where he also did portraits of his shipmates, and in the Air Force in Japan, where he admits with some chagrin that they had him painting anti-venereal disease posters. Twice divorced, he has two adult sons. As for the Kris Kringle resemblance, he likes to recall when his two grandsons were small. They told their little friends Santa Claus was their grandfather and when he arrived for a visit, the yard was jammed with starry-eyed children: “I loved it.”


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